Four Corners reporter Ticky Fullerton has figured in public debate since her Lords of the Forest program on Tasmanian woodchipping went to air in February – but now she may be about to feel the full affect of being a lightening rod.

Lords of the Forest wasn’t the first controversial Fullerton environmental yarn. Three others from last year immediately spring to mind – Sold Down the River, a look “at the winners and losers from a radical experiment in trading precious water rights”; The Waste Club, “How one of the country’s most powerful lobbies, the so-called Waste Club, has ruthlessly repelled moves to solve Australia’s growing waste crisis…” and White Mischief, “Milk… as natural and wholesome as motherhood, packed with proteins, vitamins and minerals, great for you and the kids. That’s the image but just how beneficial is it?

Now there are startling claims that the type of milk most Australians drink should carry a health warning. Filming in Australia, New Zealand and Britain’s Channel Islands and drawing on data from more than a dozen countries, Four Corners tells a story of corporate intrigue, power games and cutting edge research…”.

Then there was last night’s program, A Blind Eye. “Reporter Ticky Fullerton explores the uncomfortably close relationships that the RSPCA is forging with key industry groups – intensive poultry, pork and live exports – and asks whether these bonds have tied it in a knot of conflict,” the Four Corners website reads.

“For generations, the RSPCA has occupied a special place in the hearts of Australians. It has given refuge – and a final resting place – to millions of wretched, abandoned pets. It has prosecuted wanton acts of cruelty. It has lobbied politicians and swayed public opinion on how animals should be treated.

“Funded largely by public donations and bequests, the RSPCA has a privileged status as the inspector and prosecutor of state laws on animal cruelty.

“But now this unique charity stands accused of betraying the public trust it has enjoyed for so long.

“Its critics claim the RSPCA devotes its money and time to the cuddly, PR-friendly flank of animal welfare – usually dogs and cats…

“Four Corners asks if the RSPCA is still “for all creatures great and small”, or if it has now become a creature tamed by the multi-million dollar industries it is meant to police…”

And talking of blind eyes and asking questions, a growing number of People Who Matter are wondering out aloud if Fullerton is nothing but a mouthpiece for radical fringe activists.

Tune into what seems set to become the latest front of the ABC wars. No transcript was available at the time of writing, but a summary of last night’s Four Corners and transcripts of earlier editions are available here.

A subscriber writes: had been the last place where I’d expect to see an attempt to censor and suppress journalism. However your item on Ticky Fullerton was a disgraceful example of trying to encourage self-censorship by making journalists fearful of writing stories about divisive issues or exposing corruption and privilege.

Your item seems to show that you have succumbed to spin. Certainly you are providing succour to those who would rather that journalists keep away from investigation and difficult questions.

I don’t believe that Fullerton is a particularly good journalist, and she is certainly not a radical fringe activist or even an effective spokesperson for them. Forest activists certainly don’t believe that she represented their story or priorities in the Lords of the Forest story. Nonetheless, she raises interesting issues and thought and emotion provoking stories. Crikey should not join in trying to stop journalists from moving away from the media pack mentality.

Crikey seems to want journalists to do more, to go deeper, to go where no one has ventured before. Why join the attack on Fullerton? Do you have any conflicts re the RSPCA? Are you trying to clear the field of other investigators to make yourself look better by comparison?

Shame on you Crikey. A little inconsistency is acceptable, but hypocrisy is not.

Peter Fray

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