ABC upholds show complaint

By Country News

A recent ruling by the ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs unit has upheld a complaint about coverage of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan by ABC’s Background Briefing, finding it contained issues with accuracy and a lack of impartiality.

Two complainants raised serious concerns regarding specific issues of accuracy and a lack of impartiality in a three-part Background Briefing series on the basin plan, which aired earlier this year, and an associated Facebook video post.

National Irrigators’ Council chief executive officer Steve Whan welcomed the ruling.

He said the story was inaccurate and failed to provide balance, and it was ‘‘regrettable’’ the story went to air.

‘‘NIC was particularly concerned about the story giving listeners the false impression that there had been no gains for the environment from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan,’’ Mr Whan said.

‘‘Independent assessment has found good early environmental results, very strong progress on water recovery with positive outcomes from more than 750 environmental watering events.’’

The Background Briefing story came in two parts and included a video on social media.

The ABC’s investigation concluded that neither part one nor two of the story or the social media video were in keeping with the ABC’s editorial standards for accuracy and impartiality.

‘‘The basin plan is controversial and we recognise that people with alternative views have a right to be heard,’’ Mr Whan said.

‘‘We aren’t trying to shut down criticism, but we do expect that reporting will be balanced and will acknowledge when a theory, put forward by a couple of people, has significant flaws.

‘‘The ABC has now conducted a very thorough review and upheld complaints we (and others) made. NIC appreciates the serious way the ABC has dealt with this.’’

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority released a response to the stories in April, saying some stakeholders had ‘‘misplaced expectations’’ of the basin plan and assertions the basin plan was not working for the environment were ‘‘simply incorrect’’.

‘‘Some stakeholders have a misplaced expectation that water recovery under the basin plan should only be achieved by direct purchase of water rights from irrigators. This was never the intention of the basin plan,’’ MDBA executive director Carl Binning said.

‘‘Rather, governments have been working to manage water resources in more efficient and effective ways for both the environment and to facilitate modernised agricultural practices.’’