ABA Ruling Against ABC-TV Four Corners
Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) — media watchdog
Background: FHA’s Efforts To Redress Four Corners
Numerous appeals were made by the FHA prior to the 1995 publication of the ABC-TV Four Corners program, including a half-page advertisement ‘open letter’ in The Australian to ABC managing director, Brian Johns (19 Apr. 1995); and a letter of complaint from parents of university students interested in the FHA’s ideas (18 Apr. 1995).
Further detailed complaints followed the publications.
A complaint was initially filed with the ABC’s Independent Complaints Review Panel.
On 23 September 1996 the FHA lodged a 900-page submission with the ABA.
Ruling By The ABA (1998)
On 4 February 1998 the ABA found the ABC-TV Four Corners program ‘Prophet of Oz’ ‘inaccurate, unbalanced and partial’.
Following a two-year investigation the ‘ABA concluded that the program was not balanced in its presentation of the experience of parents of Foundation members. The ABA also concluded that the program was inaccurate in its representation of Mr Griffith and inaccurate and lacked balance in its representation of Mr Tim Macartney-Snape’ (ABA News Release, 6 Mar. 1998).
This ruling against the ABC was the strongest ruling the ABA had made to date.
The ABA ruling received publicity in The Australian (6 Mar. 1998) and multi-page feature articles on the FHA appeared in both The Bulletin magazine (21 Apr. 1998) and The Weekend Australian (9 May 1998).
ABC Told ‘Appropriate to Apologise’ (1998)
On 8 July 1998 the ABA took the unprecedented step of recommending to the ABC that it was ‘appropriate for it to apologise’ to the FHA.
The ABC refused to apologise despite not exercising its right to challenge the ruling.
Subsequent Developments (1998-2000)
On 13 November 1998 Professor Birch wrote to the ABA saying, ‘I consider it would be the only right thing for the ABC to admit the bias of the Four Corners program and to apologise for its mistake.’
The ABC remained intransigent and continued to defend the program, and as a result the FHA commenced defamation action against the national broadcaster.