Friday, December 3, 2010

520 locals turn out for No Pulp Mill meeting in Northern Tasmania. ABC snubs. ABC Northern Tasmania shuns northern community. Locals furious.

"In Australia government broadcasters, by virtue of being funded from the public purse, and community broadcasters who by virtue of allowing - and at times seeking - a range of public voices lay claim to the title "public broadcasters". However the government broadcaster maintains a world-view that does not challenge the status quo and allows the privileging of certain voices such as those legitimised by previous media exposure or media strategists from special interest groups. Therefore, to provide a full range of views to be aired in the public sphere community media must seek to provide a gateway for those at the margins who are otherwise excluded from access to the media. It is only through the foregrounding of those marginal voices that informed public opinion can develop" (Bob Hope-Hume, Broadcasting and the Public in Australia)

On Wednesday night 520 Launceston and Tamar Valley locals turned out at the Tailrace centre in Riverside to make a statement against the Tamar Valley Pulp Mill.
A small media contingent turned out however the local ABC were notable for their absence.
Inded, the ABC's absence was a hot topic of discussion amongst those who attended this large gathering.

ABC Meeting Snub
The ABC's editorial/journalistic decision to ignore the event  in its lead-up, and then to not send a journalist, let alone a camera crew to the meeting, followed by ABC Northern Tasmania's daily local current affairs programme - Drive (host Roisin McCann) to snub and news or discussion around this significant community outing on was baffling to many.
The ABC's umpteenth snub of a such a large chunk of the community on such an important issue, together with ABC's well established editorial habit of priveleging the voice of the pulp mill proponent over the local community voice illustrates the public broadcasters clear disconnect with an imprtant area of the public sphere in northern tasmanian and one of the most broad based grassroots uprising ever seen in Tasmania.

Many people including some very prominent Northern Tasmanian citizens who attended the meeting were furious that the public broadcaster, particularly its northern arm was so dismissive of a significant public meeting with an unusually large turnout.

The ABC Coverage
ABC local radio news conducted a pre-recorded interview with Friends of the Tamar Valley organiser Anna Pilkington the morning after the event and ran grabs of her comment during morning news bulletins.
However Tim Cox's statewide mornings programme rejected any contact the meeting organisers, despite their approaches or any of the meetings speakers whose ranks included experts like Dr. Warwick Raverty, Launceston City Council Alderman Jeremy Ball, Conservation Lawyer Vanessa Bleyer, Underwater Photographer Norther Tasmanian marine expert John Bryan and much loved Tasmanian legend and gardeing identity Peter Cundall.
Cox only mentioned the meeting and took two random phone calls from people who attended the meeting.

The Voice of the Gunns Priveleged over the public/community stakeholder

Only a week prior on November 26, Tim Cox devoted 30 minutes to an post Gunns AGM interview with Gunns managing director Greg L'Estrange  in what the ABC wesbite described as a "rare" interview (see below). L'Estrange was able to push the case for the Pulp Mill. No representative for Tamar Valley pulp mill opponents was canvassed
............"Normally on Statewide Mornings we cover quite a number of developing news stories within the first half hour. Today Tim was in Launceston and with a change of scenery came a change of pace. For the first half hour of Statewide Mornings, Tim had a prolonged chat to Greg L'Estrange, Gunns Managing Director. They talked about pulp mills, protestors and sawmill closures - a very engaging, topical and rare extended interview"..

On October 20, Only one month prior Cox interviewed L'Estrange about what the Statement of Principles meant for the Gunns Pulp Mill...."It is a pleasure to have the CEO of Gunns on the show once again" said Cox. Cox had an extensive and in depth about the Tamar Valley Pulp Mill with Gunns MD Greg L'Estrange and its relationship with the SOP's. L'Estrange was able to push the case for the Pulp Mill.
No representative for Tamar Valley pulp mill opponents was canvassed.

On Friday October22 ABC Tasmania's Stateline Programme ran an extensive interview with Gunns MDGreg L'Estrange in which a social licence for the pulp mill was canvassed was and L'Estrange was able to push the case for the Pulp Mill. No representative for Tamar Valley pulp mill opponents was canvassed on this edition or subsequent editions of the programme.

On the 19-20th October ABC Northern Tasmania's Drive Programme the Forestry statement of principles. There was plenty of discussion about the what the SOP's meant for Gunns Tamar Valley Pulp Mill. No representative for Tamar Valley pulp mill opponents was sought to respond.

On September 17 2010 the ABC's National Interest ran a programme entitled "New-look Gunns ready for Forest Wars truce" in which Gunns MD Greg L'Estrange took centre stage and pushed the case for his pulp mill. No representative for Tamar Valley pulp mill opponents was canvassed.

On May 20 2010 ABC's statewide mornings programme ran a "forestry forum" which included an interview with Gunns MD Greg L'Estrange in which L'Estrange was able to push the case for the Pulp Mill

The pulp mill issue is the only issue in Tasmania, let alone in a small city like Launceston that can pull 500 concerned citizens on a weeknight. Wednesday's meeting was the first large dedicated "anti-pulp mill meeting/rally" in the area in around two years. The meeting was organised as a local community response to the PR campaign by Gunns and their friends in the Tasmanian Liberal party to claim a "social licence" for the pulp mill as a result of the recently signed "Statement of Principles" forestry peace deal.

That 520 local key stakeholders who vote, pay taxes and the wages of the ABC turn out in such large numbers to respond to Gunns on the biggest public issue ever to be visited on our region was not deemed newsworthy by the northern arm of the public broadcaster was bewildering to many who attended the meeting and observed the media coverage that followed.

"We are not that interested because there will be nothing new",  we were told yesterday by one Northern Tasmanian ABC presenter.
Oh really?
How could you know if you werent there Aunty?

Since Greg L'Estrange took the reigns from the media disaster that was John Gay, the Tasmanian media, most notably the ABC have fallen over themselves to give L'Estrange all the air time he wants. L'Estrange and Gunns only need mention the pulp mill, despite the fact that nothing new has happened on that front for years and the ABC will put it to air. Nothing new came out of the Gunns AGM but that didnt stop Aunty from giving the big logging company a 1/2 hr of prime radio time.

Every journalist in Tasmania wants the scalp of the Gunns CEO.
It is a coupe for any young journo to take footage and an interview with L'Estrange back to the news editor. Its a coupe for the journo and a coupe for media outlet.
Even the older hard nosed journos are falling over themselves to get an interview with Greg L'Estrange.
The Newspapers and TV want him as they have not had access to a Gunns CEO for years whilst Gay was in charge.

It should be very obvious to observers of the public broadcaster's minimal coverage of the Tailrace meeting that the voice of the public/community stakeholder ranks well below the voice of the corporate stakeholder in terms of newsworthiness. However, for paticipatory democracy to work, a range of voices on given issues need to be canvassed in the public domain. Particularly in the media and even more so through the public broadcaster

1 comment:

  1. Anne Layton-BennettDecember 3, 2010 at 10:06 PM

    Disappointing indeed that - with the exception of WIN TV - Tasmania's media chose to ignore this meeting. Had they got off their collective backsides they would actually have learned rather a lot. They would have discovered that far from being an outdated issue of little interest to a community that has 'moved on', concerns about unassessed risks from Gunns' proposed pulp mill are as strong as ever. As well as reminding members of the audience of the many significant milestones in six years of the campaign opposing the mill, some of those five speakers also awakened our senses to the underwater wonders of the Tamar River that will be lost forever should mill effluent ever be allowed to pollute and poison both it and Bass Strait. Those 500+ audience members were also given renewed hope in their long fight, from the knowledge there are a number of legal avenues available to challenge the Gunns' proposal.
    Certainly the three Gunns' representatives in the audience went home with plenty to think about, and from his body language, Greg L'Estrange was clearly unhappy with what he was hearing. He left with the very loud voices of 500+ very determined members of the community, ringing in his ears. And he'd better get used to it, because he ain't seen - or heard - nothing yet.