The 2004 Four Corners program on the forestry industry in Tasmania, Lords of the Forest, by Ticky Fullerton is creating award-winning problems.

Last week the Australian Communications and Media Authority found that the ABC breached its own Code of Practice
by
failing to make every reasonable effort to ensure that the report was
impartial. ACMA also found the ABC failed to make every reasonable
effort to ensure that the factual
content of the program was accurate and ruled that the program was
emotive. The
program had already been the subject of negative findings by both the
Australian Broadcasting Authority and the ABC’s own Independent Complaints Review Panel.

Yet it’s also a prize winner. The Lords of
the Forest and two other controversial Four Corners reports by Fullerton on
environmental subjects, Sold Down the River,
and The Waste Club,
won the $10,000 2004 Australian Government Peter Hunt Eureka Prize for
Environmental Journalism.

Should the award stand? The episode is
creating problems for the Eureka Awards backers, the Australian Museum, the backer
of this particular award, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage and the
ABC. The matter is compounded by the fact that
the Lords of the Forest was nominated for the Eureka Awards while the formal complaints
procedure was underway.

Catherine Murphy from the National
Association of Forest Industries told Crikey today “Senator Campbell as the minister responsible should review
whether the award should be withdrawn”.

Timber Communities Australia say that they have had discussions on the matter with Campbell and raised
it with the Australian Museum and the ABC. “The ABC has only really got
one course of action it can take,” TCA’s Barry Chipman told Crikey. “It should
return the award for its own credibility and the credibility of the Eureka
Awards”.

Crikey has contacted the Minister’s office
to ask if Campbell believes the programs should have been entered for the award given
the circumstances, if Campbell believes the award should stand given the findings against Lords of
the Forest and if – as the prize is awarded by the Minister – if Campbell is going
to ask for it back.

No response was received by publication
time.

TCA, however, indicate that the ministers
have been supportive of their arguments.

Declaration:
Christian Kerr undertakes paid commentary for the ABC.

Peter Fray

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