How lobbyists confected a Four Corners backlash – weeks before the show went to air | Australia news


The ABC published not one but two lengthy public statements in defence of Monday’s Four Corners program Cash Splash this week amid accusations of bias from lobby groups. ABC communications pumped out no fewer than 1,500 words of rebuttal to complaints from groups including Cotton Australia, National Irrigators’ Council, NSW Farmers, NSW Irrigators and Webster’s Chris Corrigan.

“It is highly disappointing to watch the ABC once again wilfully disregard its own Charter requiring journalistic accuracy, balance and fairness, in order to satisfy its hunger for producing sensationalist television stories,” Cotton Australia said. “We condemn the continued unbalanced reporting from the national broadcaster and call on them to do their job – report balanced, fair and factual pieces of journalism. This is a call we will not back down on.”

The Australian, which published an opinion piece by the National Farmers’ Federation president, Fiona Simson, gleefully reported all the criticism.

But the “backlash” to the program actually began weeks before the story made it to air.

Weekly Beast has seen emails which indicate the industry lobby was denouncing Four Corners well before it saw a single frame of the program, and was also instructing members how to complain about it.

More than a month before Monday night’s broadcast, the chief executive of the National Irrigators’ Council, Steve Whan, wrote to the ABC news chiefs Sally Neighbour, Gaven Morris and John Lyons complaining that he’d heard on the grapevine that the program wasn’t going to be balanced.

Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop
(@seanrubinsztein)

Huge respect for the farmers who spoke to #4Corners, despite enormous industry pressure to keep the extravagant $5.6b water infrastructure scheme afloat #auspol #murraydarling #murraydarlingbasin pic.twitter.com/1UlG5hvZuP


July 8, 2019

Then there was the NSW Irrigators’ Council who wrote to parliamentarians to “provide some balance to the ABC Four Corners’ Show last night” – but sent the email days before the show was aired.

“From the start I would tell you that it was a biased and one sided agenda,” the council said of a show it hadn’t seen. “As elected representatives I know that at various times you have been subjected to unbalanced reporting yourselves and so I ask you to not draw conclusions from what was presented.

“I will try to be concise, but firstly I can tell you that we were not consulted nor interviewed, and more telling, neither were scores of small family business irrigation farmers that have benefitted from these programs.”

Again, before the program was seen, Cotton Australia handed out “tips for being effective advocates” including information to share on social media, hashtags like #ISupportAussieCotton and Facebook pages to comment on.

Plate-throwing falls flat

The Sky News presenter Rowan Dean and his cronies chose to celebrate the election of Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ centre-right New Democracy party in Greece by dancing to Greek music and throwing plates.

But Sky’s production values are so low the attempt at humour fell flat. It was embarrassing television, as the plastic plates bounced in front of the desk and Dean struggled to catch his breath after a few seconds of dancing to introduce the show. Maybe hire a producer and lift your standards above bad community TV, guys.

Sky News Australia
(@SkyNewsAust)

The Outsiders congratulate the election of a conservative government in Greece.@rowandean: The people of Greece have slayed yet another social dragon in Europe.

MORE: https://t.co/gSToagX4UV #Outsiders pic.twitter.com/j3a1fEsQrh


July 9, 2019

Church leader showers PM in love

The Sydney Morning Herald published an opinion piece by a professor, Stephen Fogarty, on Thursday which argued that Scott Morrison’s public acknowledgment of his faith should be welcomed.

Fogarty said he sensed in the prime minister a “personal humility and intense determination to lead the nation well” in an article that could reasonably be described as a puff piece.

“At the Hillsong conference he said that what the country really needed was the love of God, and the best advice he could give was to love each other, and reach out and love those around you,” he wrote.

The SMH said only that Fogarty was the president of Alphacrucis College, the significance of which was surely lost on most readers.

As was pointed out on Twitter, the institution the good professor heads is the national training college of Australian Christian Churches, known as Assemblies of God in Australia – none other than Morrison’s church. It would have been nice to have given readers that context.

💧 Coalition Tea Lady
(@ItsBouquet)

This puff piece written by Professor Stephen Fogarty who is the president of Alphacrucis College – a college was set up the Australasian Pentecostal Heritage Centre,

Thanks SMH 🤔https://t.co/7TUwZPxGPv


July 11, 2019

#MeToo backlash brigade on the attack

The actor John Jarratt’s acquittal on the charge of raping his housemate more than 40 years ago has sparked a backlash against the #MeToo movement in some sections of the media.

The jury found the 66-year-old Wolf Creek star not guilty after he testified he was seduced into having consensual sex with the woman in 1976 at the Sydney house they shared with his wife, Rosa Miano.

In the Australian the columnist Janet Albrechtsen argued that the Jarratt case proved the social media movement had spiralled out of control.

“All along, Jarratt said it was consensual sex,” she said. “It has been reported that the woman was contacted by journalist Tracey Spicer, who has led the #MeToo movement in Australia.

“It was inevitable that this social media movement would spiral out of control. It is premised on one fatal flaw. We were told that women must be believed, a claim that heaves with bogus morality and defies reality.”

On Sunday Jarratt and Miano will appear on Nine’s 60 Minutes, which promises to tell “every shocking detail” and take you “inside the rape trial” that destroyed the actor’s career. “Reading her statement presents like a dark sexual fantasy,” Miano says of the woman who accused Jarratt of rape. The program’s cameras followed Jarratt and his family both before the verdict and as they celebrated the court victory.

60 Minutes Australia
(@60Mins)

EXCLUSIVE | Australia’s #WolfCreek star was accused of being a real-life monster. SUNDAY on #60Mins: Inside @realJohnJarratt’s rape trial hell. Every shocking detail will be revealed. pic.twitter.com/TnRypqBzmg


July 10, 2019

Whelan steps up

The ABC has appointed the former newspaper journalist and editor Judith Whelan to replace the veteran broadcasting manager Michael Mason, who announced his resignation more than nine months ago.

Whelan, who has been acting in the role of director of local and regional, is a former editor of the Sydney Morning Herald who joined the broadcaster three years ago as head of spoken content, which included Radio National and local radio.

Her new responsibilities include eight capital city radio stations, 48 rural and regional teams, regional and local screen content including Gardening Australia, Backroads and Landline, Grandstand sport, live events such as New Year’s Eve, Australia Day and Anzac Day, and emergency broadcasting.

Mason’s was just one of the roles at the top of Aunty to be left vacant in the vacuum that followed the dramatic departures of Michelle Guthrie and Justin Milne. Two key positions remain unfilled: director of entertainment and specialist, which was David Anderson’s role before he was appointed managing director, and chief financial officer.

Mastermind studio pays up

We are pleased to report that the Mastermind writer who was significantly out of pocket – after BBC Studios in Australia terminated the services of a company which recruited writers for the SBS show – has now been paid in full. Despite BBC Studios insisting last week it was not responsible for the outstanding fees, after Weekly Beast highlighted the problem the production studio coughed up.

ABC to screen Attenborough doco

In happier news for the BBC in Australia, the rights to David Attenborough’s landmark documentary Climate Change: The Facts have been secured by the ABC and will be broadcast next month.

It’s been described as TV’s most comprehensive guide to the climate emergency yet, and given that Attenborough just this week highlighted Australia as an “extraordinary” example of a country where people in power remained climate change deniers, we can imagine it may have quite an impact locally.





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