Sunday, February 21, 2010

Minister's Wrong Figures-a missed opportunity

Updated 24 April, 2010 see post "Update: CRE respond to Minister's Wrong Figures"
Updated 29 March 2010-see outcome below
ABC HEADLINE: "Head of UN Climate Change team call its quits" broadcast on The World Today February 19, 2010.

ABC REPORTED:Shane Mcleod introduced a report by ABC reporter Nance Saxton (Actually Nance Haxton) on the resignation of Yvo de Boer, head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The report included brief interviews with Federal Minister for Climate Change Penny Wong, and  chair of the Coasts and Climate Change Council Professor Tim Flannery. The report transcript includes the following statement from Minister Penny Wong: 

"We've got around 85 per cent of the world's economies signed up to the Copenhagen Accord."

and the following statement from Professor Flannery: 

"I think he's done a pretty good job overall and the Copenhagen Accord shows that.
We've got something like 80 countries now signed up to that."

THE COMPLAINT: The UNFCC indicate that currently 40 Annex I countries and 30 non-Annex I countries have provided targets under the Copenhagen Accord (see UNFCC website HERE). 
In light of this both Minister Wong and Prof Tim Flannery's statements are in-correct. Although Prof Flannery's estimate is acceptable in context. The ABC reporter should have had these facts at hand and questioned Minister Wong on her stated  figures. Instead factual errors were allowed to be reported.

Number of countries in the UN: 192
Number of countries listed by UNFCC as providing emission targets under the Copenhagen Accord: 70: or 36%

Can the ABC append a statement indicating the number of countries that have provided targets under the Copenhagen Accord to this report to clarify Minister Wong's apparently misleading statement.

OUTCOME:  Received 29 March 2010
Thank you for your email regarding The World Today report Head of UN climate change team calls it quits.

Your concerns have been investigated by Audience and Consumer Affairs, a unit which is separate to and independent of program making areas within the ABC.  We have reviewed the broadcast, assessed it against the ABC’s editorial standards and sought and considered material provided by ABC News.

There are no ABC reporters named Nance Saxton.  The ABC reporter who filed this report is named Nance Haxton.

The views of Senator Wong and Tim Flannery are their own, they are not the views of the ABC.  For the purposes of section 5 of the Editorial Policies, the comments of contributors are not considered factual content.

Audience and Consumer Affairs believe the interviews were suitably questioning, on the issue that was the focus of the report; the continuity of negotiations over a global climate treaty following the departure of the top UN official on climate change.

Audience and Consumer Affairs believe the report is in keeping with section 5 of the ABC Editorial Policies, which are available online at;

Nevertheless, you can be assured that your comments have been brought to the attention of ABC News management.
COMMENT:  The ABC reporter should have made a reasonable effort to prepare for the interviews. Knowledge of the number of countries that provided emission targets would have allowed the reporter to pick up errors made by the interviewees.

Editorial policy 5.2.2 
(c) Be accurate.
(i) Every reasonable effort, in the circumstances, must be made to ensure that the factual content of news and current affairs is accurate and in context.
(ii) The ABC will not hesitate to admit and correct a significant error when it is established that one has been made. When a correction is necessary, it will be made in an appropriate manner as soon as reasonably practicable.

(f) Be questioning. Serve the public interest by investigating issues affecting
society and individuals.

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