Monday, 10 June 2019

Did ABC Radio bow to pressure from the Adani Group?

One of the worst kept secrets in Australia is that the multinational Adani mining group, for reasons known only to its company board in India, wants to build a mine in the Galilee Basin but has no intention of building a financially viable mine.

And Adani really dislikes the media mentioning this fact......

ABC, Media Watch, transcript excerpt, 3 June 2019:

But now let’s come back closer to home to Adani, whose controversial Carmichael mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin gets ever closer to construction, despite this scathing piece in The Sydney Morning Herald by Bloomberg columnist David Fickling:

The numbers on Adani simply don't add up
Comparable projects like Glencore's Wandoan have been mothballed for years.
- The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 May, 2019

Fickling’s op-ed 10 days ago argued that the Adani mine may never be built — even if it does get final approval — because it’s currently much cheaper to buy coal than dig it out of a brand-new coal mine.

And over at ABC Radio, Saturday AM thought that was worth a story.

But after being worked on by Isobel Roe, a young award-winning journalist in Brisbane, it never made it to air.

So, why was that? Well, Media Watch can reveal that Adani complained to the ABC in advance. And the story was spiked.

So how did this all unfold?

Bloomberg has confirmed to Media Watch that David Fickling was interviewed by the ABC on the afternoon of Friday, 24th of May.

And just over an hour later, at 4.20pm, Adani say Roe contacted them for comment.

And not long after that, at 5.50pm, the producer of Saturday AM, Thomas Oriti, told ABC staff he was killing the story.

Now, newsrooms at the ABC are open plan and not very private and four witnesses tell Media Watch that Oriti made it clear Adani had complained.

Indeed, one claims he told Roe:

‘Sorry. It’s nothing to do with you, but we’re not going to be able to run this’.
- Phone interview, ABC staffer, 31 May, 2019

While another claims he said:

‘It’s not my decision, it’s come from on high.’
- Phone interview, ABC staffer, 31 May, 2019

The ABC denies this and maintains his decision was taken entirely on editorial merit, because the story didn’t stack up.

So what can we be sure of?

Well, there’s no doubt Adani did complain, both to the reporter when she rang and, shortly after, to her bosses. A company spokesperson told us:

… we raised concerns with ABC management when approached to comment on a story that contained inaccuracies and was potentially biased ...
- Email, Adani spokesperson, 31 May, 2019

Adani says it told the reporter she should talk to an analyst more friendly to the mining sector.

And when she asked them to suggest someone, Adani’s PR team cracked it and went over her head to ABC management:

Adani complained that it was not reasonable that the onus for ensuring that ABC news coverage was fair and balanced should fall back onto the company and not onto the ABC’s well-resourced newsrooms.
- Email, Adani spokesperson, 31 May, 2019

A key feature of Adani’s complaint was that the ABC had not given it enough time to respond.

But in fact by Friday afternoon Fickling’s work had been up for more than 36 hours. 

And Adani was able to send a statement to the ABC almost immediately.

So, who at the ABC dealt with the company’s complaint?

We’re told Adani went straight to the top — ABC News boss Gaven Morris — who we understand is the person they normally contact.

So to clarify what happened, we asked Morris a series of questions, which included:

Did Adani contact you last Friday afternoon to complain about the story?
What was the nature of the complaint, and how did you respond?
Why was the story pulled, given that it had been commissioned for Saturday AM only hours beforehand?
Was the decision to pull the story taken after Adani’s complaint?
Why was this complaint handled personally by you?
- Email, Media Watch to Gaven Morris, 31 May, 2019

We did not get a response from Gaven Morris or answers to most of those questions.

Instead, an ABC spokesperson told us:

There was no complaint.
- Email, ABC spokesperson, 31 May, 2019

Which is remarkable, because Adani says there was…..

Full transcript here.


“The numbers on Adani simply don't add up”, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 May 2019 at

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