Four Corners breach over impartiality

Four Corners has been found to have breached the ABC’s own Code of Practice for failing to offer adequate impartiality on a July 2019 story, “Cash Splash.”

The program reported on the water infrastructure schemes funded under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

An investigation by the the Australian Communications and Media Authority found that, while it was acceptable for Four Corners to present critical commentary, the program did not present sufficient information from other relevant perspectives to enable viewers to make up their own minds about the schemes.

But there was no breach finding for accuracy.

Four Corners maintains it had two briefings with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority but it said  questions should be directed to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. It had two briefings with DAWR but government officials declined to participate in an on-camera interview. ABC said that no-one from the government would comment for the story.

In a long statement on the interviewees that did appear, it claimed the ABC Code does not require that a balance of perspectives on matters of contention be presented in a single program.

However ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the ABC failed to meet the standards in the Code on this occasion.

“The ABC’s Code of Practice requires producers of ABC programs to present and report on issues in an impartial manner, and this Four Corners report fell short of that,” Ms O’Loughlin said.

“Although the producers of the program explored legitimate criticisms, Four Corners had a responsibility to acknowledge other perspectives on the matter of contention in a meaningful way.”.

The investigation found the program omitted key information about the operation of the schemes which prevented viewers from coming to an informed understanding of the criticisms aired.

“Australian audiences expect the ABC to give proper treatment to differing perspectives when exploring controversial issues. Unfortunately, on this occasion, this did not occur.”

Four Corners breach over impartiality