Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Media Watch on Monckton-what "free ride"?

ABC MEDIA WATCH HEADLINE: "Lord of the Airwaves" broadcast ABC TV 8 February 2010

ABC MEDIA WATCH REPORTED: ABC Media Watch claims that prominent climate sceptic Lord Christopher Monckton has been given a "free ride" by the Australian Press, ABC included.

The COMPLAINT: While Media Watch listed a number of appearances by Lord Monckton in various media outlets there is no evidence that Lord Monckton got a "free ride" (Something acquired without the ordinary effort or cost). A list of appearances does not substantiate the claim or constitute evidence that Lord Monckton was given a "free ride". In the case of ABC interviews in particular is MEDIA WATCH suggesting that the ABC gave Lord Monckton a "soft run" and failed to act in accordance with its Editorial Policies? If so I trust Media Watch has issued a formal complaint to ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs. By the same measure does MEDIA WATCH also consider that the media space provided to climate alarmist Al Gore also constitutes a "free ride"?

Unless Media Watch can produce clear evidence that Lord Monckton received a "free ride" rather than the unspecific, unsubstantiated innuendo it broadcast it should immediately provide a correction.

OUTCOME - Turned down-Media Watch allowed to make non-factual statements!
Received 18/2/2010
Thank you for your email regarding Media Watch's story about media coverage of Lord Christopher Monckton's visit to Australia.

I understand you considered presenter Jonathan Holmes' statement that Lord Monckton has "enjoyed a free ride, especially on commercial talkback radio" to be inaccurate.

I note your reference to section 5.2.1 of the ABC's Editorial Policies. I should first explain that Media Watch is categorised as topical and factual content, not news and current affairs content, so it is subject to section 7 rather than section 5 of the Editorial Policies. In light of your concerns, Audience & Consumer Affairs has assessed the statement, in context, against section 7.4.2 of the Editorial Policies, which states, in part, as follows:

"7.4.2 Factual content requires accuracy.
(a) Every reasonable effort must be made to ensure that factual content is accurate and in context."

Media Watch is a program of media analysis and criticism. This story examined the coverage Lord Monckton has received, and criticised the media for failing to challenge his contentious claims. Media Watch contested two such claims, and Mr Holmes concluded as follows:

"The fact is, Monckton is a superb showman, and radio is not the forum for complex scientific argument. So he's enjoyed a free ride, especially on commercial talkback radio. His hosts bleat about how sceptics are excluded from the mainstream. But do you think any champion of the majority scientific view on this crucial issue is given similar access to their listeners? As Alan Jones would say, you are kidding."

On review, having regard to the context in which the "free ride" statement was made, Audience & Consumer Affairs considers that it was an expression of Media Watch's viewpoint about the media coverage of Lord Monckton's visit, and not an assertion of fact. In our view, it represented the program's opinion as to the manner in which the media treated Lord Monckton, an opinion apparently formed on the basis of the examples provided earlier in the story of claims made by Lord Monckton which were not challenged by the media. We do not believe the statement constituted factual content, and accordingly, it was not subject to requirements of accuracy.

Audience & Consumer Affairs is satisfied that the statement was consistent with relevant editorial standards, and your complaint is therefore not upheld. Nonetheless, please be assured that your comments have been noted and conveyed to the producers of Media Watch and ABC Television management.

Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention.

Yours sincerely

ABC Audience & Consumer Affairs

COMMENT: This Media Watch report severely tests ABC's Editorial Policies:

5.2.1 All news and current affairs content will be accurate, impartial and objective, and thereby avoid bias. Staff working on news and current affairs content are required to keep in mind the ABC’s key values: honesty, fairness, independence and respect (see Section 2).

Update 18/2/2010 It turns out that Media Watch is covered under 7.4.2 and can pretty much say what it likes.

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