Recall this story:
ROBYN Williams: NOW what if I told you pedophilia is good for children or that asbestos is an excellent inhalant for those with asthma? Or that smoking crack is a normal part, and a healthy one, of teenage life and to be encouraged? You’d rightly find it outrageous. But there have been similar statements coming out of inexpert mouths again and again in recent times, distorting the science (of climate change).
There have been some extraordinary statements. I’m thinking of a couple of bankers who I have met, who have sat through a learned lecture by one of the most famous scientists in the world, and come out at the other end and said, ‘Well, of course it’s not proven.’ And I don’t know how much more evidence you want. And the former chairman of the ABC, Maurice Newman, who had been head of the stock exchange, came out with some drivel in The Australian newspaper a couple of weeks ago about how climate science is a religion.
Maurice Newman – quite understandably – didn’t take too kindly to that and complained to the ABC. But:
An ABC spokeswoman said the complaint was dismissed because the editorial context of the segment was reasonable, meaning “harm and offence” was justified.
In its direct response to Mr Newman, the ABC maintained it did “not equate climate change sceptics to pedophiles”.
I think The Australian’s headline sums it up:
It’s OK to link climate denial to pedophilia, ABC tells ex-chairman Maurice Newman
Mind you – as a former chairman Maurice Newman had plenty of opportunity to clean up the ABC and failed to do so. Here he is discussing his experience.
In March 2010 as chairman, I addressed an in-house conference of 250 ABC leaders. In a speech titled “Trust is the future of the ABC”, I asked, “how might we ensure in our newsrooms we celebrate those who interrogate every truth?” I lamented the mainstream media’s role as an effective gatekeeper. It was too conformist and had missed the warning signs of financial failure. I blamed group think and used climate change as an example. My mistake was to mention climate change.
While most company chairs would find the tenor of my talk unremarkable, Jonathon Holmes, the presenter of Media Watch, was so angry “he could not concentrate”. He found it an inappropriate forum for such remarks. I was interviewed by PM and teased as to whether I was a “climate change denier or not as obvious as that?” As a further censure, that night Tony Jones read a statement on Lateline saying: “Tonight, ABC management responded to Mr Newman’s speech, saying it stands by the integrity of its journalists and its processes.”
Journalistic integrity? Encouraging the leadership to achieve higher standards is to question its integrity? Surely wanting to improve performance is an elementary objective for any organisation, but rather than take on board the challenges I outlined, management decided to put a distance between us.
So did he fire the managers? Stop their bonuses for the year? Move them to “special projects”? Admonish them? Require them to attend “counselling”? I don’t know. Maybe the ABC Chairman can’t do those things, but if not, why not?
I retain a deep affection for the ABC. But, like the BBC, there are signs that a small but powerful group has captured the corporation, at least on climate change.
It is up to the board and management to rectify this.
Maurice – that was your job.
Anyway, quite rightly, Newman doesn’t believe the ABCs protestations.
Ordinarily it should be unnecessary to object to such appalling commentary. It should have been automatically withdrawn. But no. An ABC response used sophistry to satisfy itself “that the presenter Robyn Williams did not equate climate change sceptics to pedophiles”. Tell that to his listeners.