See Picture Essay above.
Why was our local ABC a no show for the second time in 4 months?
Why was this stunning local turnout not deemed as newsworthy by the ABC?
Despite the commercial networks, the Examiner Newspaper and commercial radio covering these large community meetings, the public broadcaster, which likes to describe its local news coverage as "local and in depth" has now failed to send a journo or news crew to either of the two recent pulp mill public meetings in the Tamar Valley.
I want to state from the outset that i do not blame the journos in any way for this.
Indeed, i do believe that if it were left to the journos these meetings would have been covered.
Between the December public meeting and last nights meeting 1200 local people have turned out on a work night. Tasmanians rarely venture out on a week night in such large numbers to discuss or protests public issues.
Each of these large community turnouts on arguably the biggest issue in Tasmanian public life since the Franklin.are highly significant and historic in the Launceston and Tamar Valley area. After the mill saga is done and dusted local people will talk about the large pulp mill rallys and meetings in Launceston and it will be a long time before the region sees the community coming out in numbers like this again.
When the organisers of FTV's December public meeting approached ABC Northern Tasmania's news and currents affairs 'Drive' program (who have now ignore both meetings in their own backyard) they were told by its presenter at the time "oh no its unlikely we will cover the meeting at all unless there is something new". We explained that we were expecting a crowd of 4-500 (we got 520) and that we thought the fact that the Launceston community was turning out in such large numbers warranted some acknowledgement by the local ABC current affairs program. Our pleas fell on deaf ears. You would have thought the fact that ABC Northern Tasmania's local community meeting in such large numbers on the most important local issue ever seen in the region would be reason enough for Aunty to investigate and cover the event. If Gunns had hosted the meeting i guarantee you the ABC would have been there, because for some reason an audience with the powerful and elusive Gunns CEO is a more valuable news commodity to the public broadcaster than an audience with local people.
Around a week ago two of the tailrace meeting organisers who were handing out adverstising leaflets in Launcseton ran into Fiona Reynolds, State Director of ABC and former Ed Examiner. They had a good chat and asked Reynolds if the ABC would be attending the tailrace meeting. Reynolds said she would ensure the ABC were there to cover the Tailrace meeting.
Not only did the ABC not show again, but it was not covered on ABC radio news nor was it covered on the Northern Tasmania's Drive program.
Of all Tasmania's news broadcasters the ABC, our public taxpayer funded broadcaster should be out there covering significant community meetings like the 650 strong meeting we saw last night in Launceston. Even if certain people at the ABC are 'over it' or dont find the issue sexy anymore and even if it means copping backlash from local media peers, local politicians, logging industry executives and lobbyists.