THE ABC OF OPINION MANAGEMENT: PART 1
|In an ordered world, one might imagine that a state owned broadcasting corporation may uphold a higher level of reporting ethos and journalism with respect to the Schapelle Corby case than some of the other media organizations. Equally, its position within the structural fabric of Australian society might lead one to believe that the corporation would be sensitive to the need to ensure balance and transparency with respect to stories with complex political and social implications.|
However, not only is this demonstrably not the case, but due to its consistent and long term adherence to an extremely controversial government position, it is also at risk of being perceived as an organ of state by increasing numbers. This apparent lack of independence clearly has some potential to embarrass both the ABC and the Australian government internationally. It could also fuel increasing distrust from the general public if and when the detailed pattern of events becomes more widely known.
The main chapters of this part of the story began to unfold when AFP Commissioner Keelty, backed up by the 'Minister for Justice and Customs' Ellison, made a number of public utterances which can only have been damaging to the welfare of Schapelle Corby, and simultaneously music to the ears of an Indonesian regime and judicial system which will no doubt have been delighted to interpret them as a "do as you want with her" signal. Signal is a word of choice here, because indications of position do not require formal, contractual or explicit words. Certainly the President of Law Council of Australia received the signal clearly enough, stating that "It is potentially damaging to the Corby defence, as it will no doubt be transmitted to Bali". Schapelle Corby's lawyer also received it, calling it "an absolute disgrace". The same signal will have been received all too clearly by the Indonesians.
The question of why those parties were actually making such startling and hugely damaging comments regarding Schapelle Corby, one of their own citizens, is outside the scope of this project. The most commonly suggested reason however is that the government was desperate to protect its strategic relationship with Indonesia, and the Corby case was causing significant issues stemming from public opinion. In terms of international politics there is no doubt at all that the relationship with Indonesia was, and is, far more important to them than Schapelle Corby's interests or human rights.
Of course, words expressed through government, or state agencies, also send signals to those within its own national borders. In this case, signals are received by both the population and the media, and in the case of the latter, by everyone from journalists and editors, to proprietors. Note also that with respect to the ABC and the media, a number of private channels of communication are also available.
The script which followed this crude intervention is visible to all. The very existence of this investigative project is a direct result of what occurred in the subsequent months and years. The ABC was as enthusiastically loyal to the message apparently supplied by government as any other mainstream player. Indeed, the ABC was actually responsible for some of the most damaging of the false allegations and proven smears.
EXPOSING THE SCRIPT
Against this political landscape some of the ABC's and Australia's most popular news and documentary productions were pitching high profile broadcasts against Schapelle Corby's interests, and those of her family. The broadcasts were clearly having a major impact upon public perception of the case.
A range of specific examples of these false allegations, proven smears, and patent censorship of positive or supportive Schapelle Corby news will be exposed by our forthcoming series of articles on the ABC, as will details of our research into the activities of particular journalists and employees. Note that similar JournOz initiatives are also underway with respect to the other Australian mainstream media organs involved.
ABC CENSORSHIP: EXAMPLE CASE 1
Because it is topical and timely, our first port of call has to be censorship and the most recent example of this to unfold: the global protest in support of Schapelle Corby.
This was in fact an historical event, from a number of perspectives:
1. It was the first ever global protest in support of an Australian in the entire history of the nation
2. The accompanying video had been described as "ground breaking" and "landmark" by European critics
3. It was the first "cyber-driven" protest to end at the United Nations in the history of the world, as far as we have been able to establish
4. And yes, it was actually delivered to the United Nations in New York by indie-pop singer Tara Hack.
Now, even a schoolboy journalist can see the possibilities here for all sorts of compelling stories. There are simply so many winning cards in play from a journalist's point of view: an historical event both in national and international terms, innovative arts and music, politics, internet/technology, people friendly images and photographs, a household name (Schapelle Corby), a well known location, a singer... it just keeps getting better and better.
The story practically writes itself in a multitude of ways, and would clearly stimulate public interest.
Yet the ABC didn't cover it at all, and nor did any other mainstream organ.
Before we look further at the ABC though, we should view the video which was produced prior to the emergence of the United Nations development:
That was made before the UN news broke. When that news actually broke, therefore, JournOz decided to perform an experiment courtesy of the ABC itself. I had received an email from a leading Schapelle Corby advocate stating that there was about to be a significant development and that it would be censored by the media. I therefore decided to intervene myself, and test the ABC directly and specifically.
The PR for the protest, and the story, were sent to every contact I could find within ABC News, including use of forms provided specifically to notify the corporation of scoops and news tips. They were notified within a couple of hours of the UN press release being posted. They had the news when it was red hot, and they were sent it again on subsequent days. To make it even easier for them, they were even sent photographs and video footage of Tara Hack actually at the UN.
Let's put this into wider context too. Clearly the above is a significant newsworthy story even by instinct. But also take a look at the ABC's major news reports and broadcasts, and as a journalist compare this story with each of those which are actually presented on air or online. It becomes rather obvious very quickly: relatively speaking the Schapelle Corby UN Protest story is far more newsworthy than a great deal of their actual content.
But despite having it on a plate, they didn't use it. In fact they didn't even refer to it at all. ABC viewers and website visitors have no idea that any of this ever happened.
Now also cast your mind back to previous Schapelle Corby stories which have been broadcast by the ABC: to the tenuous links to any form of real news, to the allegations made in them, and even to the ABC having to apologize on air for presenting baseless allegations as fact! But here we have an actual and real story of substance, and it is buried: it is not even referenced as a footnote. Not by ABC and not by any of the other mainstream news organizations.
I find it increasingly difficult to disagree with Mr Rumpole, don't you?
CLICK HERE FOR PART 2