Friday, August 27, 2010

ABC of bias

ABC unleashed have a piece by part time journalist, blogger and apparent climate non-sceptic Margaret Simons looking at ABC Bias. The article, titled "Bias allegation rumblings still a constant at your ABC", makes light of our complaint about ABC's "A journey through climate history". We posted a reply on the site but just in case it fails to get up here's a copy...

Thanks for noticing Margaret. Readers might be interested in the full correspondence behind the complaint about ABC's climate time "lie" available at the blog ABC News Watch (
(See list below) The simple aim of ABC NEWS WATCH is to publicise the errors, omissions, and substandard reports produced by the News service of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). In doing so we hope to provide an independent check or audit on ABC news articles and in doing so improve the standard of ABC news reporting. Readers will find a rich collection of posts that demonstrate ABC bias or simple lack of competence in its climate change and other news coverage. What ABC has chosen not to report on in regard to climate science is particularly damning.

Our investigation into ABC’s climate time line "A journey through climate history" included an FOI request, turned down by the ABC (ABC is exempt from FOI for program content), for correspondence, relating to the production of ABC's defective time line. If ABC want to demonstrate there was no bias in the production of its online presentation why not release the emails? On this we encourage ABC employees interested in truthful journalism to leak the documents to the press. Its no climategate but I’m sure it would be revealing of ABC’s internal workings.

Margaret neglected to mention that the ABC’s Independent Complaints Review Panel did in fact find that parts of "A Journey through climate history" were biased. Quoting the panel’s report: “In the Panel’s view, the Complainant’s specific assertions of bias in relation to links to the topics: the Medieval Warm Period, the Great Global Swindle and An Inconvenient Truth, do not require each item of portal information, or its links, to be balanced or impartial. As Section 18.6 (of the Editorial Policies) indicates it is the platform content overall (ABC Online) which must demonstrate that no bias has occurred in its presentation of information and viewpoints. Therefore, individual material and its links can lack impartiality in its presentation.”

Margaret regarded the process as pythonesque and downplayed the implications. Having intimate knowledge of ABC’s complaints process we can truthfully attest it is much more like “Yes Minister”, with ABC Audience and Consumer affairs playing the role of the crafty  Sir Humphrey Appleby, hell bent on denying errors, bias or lack of balance through artful use of ABC’s editorial policies.

The implications of ABC Groupthink on the publics knowledge of Climate science are devastating. In taking a premature position on climate science while the debate continues ABC have shut the door to the contest, thereby denying its audience a full view of the field of play, one in which it is becoming increasingly obvious that organisations like the IPCC have over exaggerated the role CO2 plays in dangerous man made climate change.


  1. Short note: Anonymous Ad Hom attacks will not be posted.

  2. Marc, you really would have more credibility if you stopped making spurious claims and focused your efforts on genuine errors. I've followed your blog for a while now and can't help but notice the standard of your work has plummeted over the past few months. It doesn't surprise me that your upheld complaint counter has stalled at 11.

    You say Margaret Simons failed to mention the Independent Complaints Review Panel found that parts of "A Journey through climate history" were biased. I've read their report, including the bit you quote in support here, and it's clear that you're misreading or have misinterpreted what they said. In the bit you quote they say there's no requirement for each item of information in the timeline, or the links, to be balanced or impartial; that's entirely different from actually saying that the particular ones you've complained about ARE unbalanced or partial or "biased". Point me to any other part of the report that supports your claim that they found bias, and I'll stand corrected.

    I notice you've now quoted the report more extensively; does this suggest that you accept that the shorter quote (as evidenced in your comment on the Unleashed piece) didn't support your claim? And is there any reason you haven't included some kind of editor's note or other form of acknowledgement that this post has been edited since it was first published?

    This comment is not intended as an ad hom attack, and I'm happy to put my name to it.

    Russell Ballard

  3. Thanks for your thoughts Russell, and for putting your name to them. The only change to this post was the correction to the spelling, you indicated, hence we have not thought ot add an editorial comment. It differs from the post on unleashed as posts there are limited to 500 words and I was concerned that it would be truncated, so I provided more here, along with a list of links to climate timeline posts. We also provided a link to the post just in case this happened.

    It seems that you now do agree that the ICRP do indeed find sections of ABC's Timeline to be biased. Unfortunately our complaint was judged against section 7 rather than section 5. This would have made some difference to the outcome.

    At its heart ABC is a bureaucracy and getting a bureaucracy to admit an error (or bias) is particularly difficult. You need to remember they make up the rules, they judge them and they and use their rules to their advantage. Like the IPCC's treatment of errors related to Himalayan glaciers, the ABC is also reticent to be shown to be fallible.
    I hope you stick around.

  4. No, I certainly don't agree that the ICRP found sections of the timeline to be biased. Could you please point me to the parts of their report where they did so, or explain how the parts you quoted in the post support your view that they did so?

    Also, based on everything you've published so far on this blog, I find it quite extraordinary that you say it's difficult to get a bureaucracy like the ABC to admit an error. They seem to have admitted numerous errors in response to your complaints.

    Russell Ballard

  5. Thanks Russell. If you read the report and can't find it in there then there is little else to add. Afraid to agree to disagree on this one.

  6. Sorry, but I'm not willing to 'agree to disagree' on this. I'm sure you'll come to agree with me if you simply reread the report more carefully.

    Do you accept that there's a difference between saying that it's acceptable under the policies for particular parts of the timeline to be biased, and saying that those parts of the timeline ARE biased? It's a fundamental and very straightforward distinction and it worries me that you don't seem able to grasp it.

    You don't have any way of knowing what the Panel might have found had they judged the timeline against section 5 rather than section 7, as they didn't concede that the timeline was biased. Your claims to the contrary are demonstrably false.

    Russell Ballard

  7. Russell, Please take the time to re-read the report. If you still disagree take the time to contact the ABC directly and let us know what they say.
    Comments now closed on this one.