An outstanding feature of anti-forestry activist campaigns for over 35 years has been their strategy to harness the mass media. In addition to reporting the news, some journalists and editors have manipulated information and interviews to support the activist point of view.
A number of complaints of bias and breach of standards made by forest managers against and other industry bodies against the ABC and other media bodies have been upheld. It is important to understand that the personal bias of journalists can affect news reporting in all forms of media.
Disappointingly, the ABC 4 Corners program has been found wanting on more that one occasion. In addition to the links below, the SETA website will provide more background on some of the biased reports from “award winning” journalists and bring a local perspective to the content and quality of forest industry reporting.
A variety of media outlets seem to have a strong affinity with activist charities, activist academics and anyone else opposed to active management and protection of our native forests from devastation due to high intensity bushfires and management by neglect.
These same media outlets regularly take issue with any organisation that dares put a counter argument to their wilderness mindset.
ANU and Frontier Economics Southern NSW Forestry Report Should be Scrapped
A recently completed review has confirmed the southern NSW forestry report, released by ANU law Professor Andrew Macintosh and Frontier Economics on 30 November 2021 should not be relied on by government decision makers.
A number of flaws in the report were identified by the South East Timber Association and provided to Professor Macintosh on 9 December 2021. Over the following 11 months, Professor Macintosh, Deidre Rose from Frontier Economics and ANU Chancellor Julie Bishop have all refused to respond to repeated requests from SETA to explain why the report was released.
The review has found among other things that “Revised estimates that resolve some of the methodological errors and inconsistencies of the analysis by Frontier Economics and Macintosh (2021) revealed that transitioning the management of State Forests to strict conservation with mountain bike recreation would generate a net present value of -$252.43 million, indicating that forestry in southern New South Wales has a higher economic value for society.”
Read the full review. Venn review of Frontier Economics and Macintosh_revised 13Dec2022
Freedom of Information (FOI) Request to the ANU
SETA Freedom of Information Request Makes National Headlines.
The Sydney Morning Herald, the Age and other outlets published an article regarding a freedom of information (FOI) request lodged by the South East Timber Association on 28 April 2021. The initial request was for emails and letters between Professor David Lindenmayer and 17 journalists and 4 other parties.
The request was refused, as the ANU identified at least 2,200 documents that appeared to fall within the parameters of the SETA request. The request was refined to include four journalists and three other parties. The request was again refused for practical reasons, as more than 500 documents, with a conservative estimate of 1,600 pages had been identified.
After reducing the request to cover two journalists from the Fairfax print media, being Miki Perkins and Mike Foley, the request was accepted. This matter has not been finalised, as the full content of the 28 emails released under this request had been redacted (blanked out). Consequently, an appeal has been lodged with the Information Commissioner.
It seems Forest and Wood Communities Australia (FWCA) has struck a raw nerve within the activist community. A journalist, Natasha May, from Michael West Media contacted Justin Law at FWCA with a number of questions and opinions about FWCA. She was tight lipped about what triggered her interest, but the information and questions provided made it clear a hatchet job was on the go.
Do Leading ABC News and Current Affairs Programs Exhibit Bias Against Native Forest Managers and Businesses Using Logs Supplied From Native Forest Harvesting Operations?
A review of just three ABC reporting efforts over the past 28 years may help to answer the question.
5 June 2007 - ICRP Response 7.30 Report
On 5 June 2007, the 7.30 Report broadcast a program called “Pulp Mill Could Taint Catch : fishing industry.” The ABC again received complaints, including from Timber Communities Australia. On 6 November 2008, the convenor of the Independent Complaints Review Panel, in closing, recommended:
“While considerable time has elapsed since the broadcast went to air, the Panel believes that ongoing public interest in this development means that continuing reliance on the corrections stated on ABC Online is not, in the circumstances, adequate and that these corrections should be supplemented by an appropriate on-air correction. This correction should refer to the findings of this report and address the matters referred to above. It should be broadcast during a 7.30 Report segment, on an occasion when the program is again dealing with issues relating to the pulp mill development.”
16 February 2004 - Lords of the Forests – ABC Corrections
The Four Corners “Lords of the Forest” broadcast on 16 February 2004 was also subject to a raft of complaints. The ABC was required to make belated corrections to web site content. The Australian Communications and Media Authority found that “the program failed to make every reasonable effort to ensure the program was impartial – citing presentation style including language, tone and footage.”
18 June 1990 - The Wood for the Trees
On 18 June 1990, Four Corners ran a program called Wood for the Trees targeting the then Western Australian Department of Conservation and Land Management. Consequently, there was a raft of complaints alleging bias.
Among issues raised was the fact that the ABC journalists had time for an in depth interview and broadcast of the opinions of an art gallery owner on the failings of forest management, but had insufficient time to interview a forest ecologist to get a scientific perspective. A total of 44 separate instances of factual error, misrepresentation, bias and selective editing were described.
Four Corners presenter Andrew Olle broadcast an apology in which the a number of false assertions and incorrect statements in “The Wood for the Trees” was admitted.
Despite the apology, the Four Corners journalist who anchored the program, Mark Colvin, was subsequently given a series of plum overseas assignments.