SBS Dateline apologises for false and inaccurate reporting against Ta Ann Holdings

Ta Ann Tasmania has received an official apology from SBS Dateline following a number of incorrect and misrepresentative statements on the show. SBS confirmed that a broadcasted apology would take place on the following programme.  The full letter of apology has been published in full below.

Dear Mr Ashbarry

Re: Dateline, 21/08/2012 – Reference Number: 2012-1224

I write in response to your formal complaint dated 23 August 2012 in relation to the Dateline report

The Last Frontier broadcast on 21 August 2012.

After a review of the program against the provisions of Code 2.2 (Accuracy, Impartiality and Balance) of the SBS Codes of Practice, and considering your complaint, the program was found to have breached the provisions of the code.

The report was found to be inaccurate in two of three areas identified in your complaint.
First, Mr Rolley did not say the words attributed to him about plantation and regrowth timber.
Secondly, as you know, there is a difference between a contract to log, that is go into an area and fell trees, and a contract for the supply logs from trees felled (logged) by others. In this case, Forestry Tasmania supplies Ta Ann Tasmania (a manufacturing company) with already felled timber, which Ta Ann Tasmania processes to produce a range of timber products. It is inaccurate, and in breach of Code 2.2, to say that Ta Ann Tasmania is a logging company.

I find that the report that 50 workers were retrenched was not inaccurate, being an accurate reflection of what was said by Mr Rolley. It is not inaccurate to say that Ta Ann Tasmania “retrenched 50 Tasmanian workers” when Ta Ann Tasmania’s executive director said that “we’ve had to sack 50 people”.

On balance the report breached Code 2.2 with respect to accuracy, balance and impartiality. Put shortly, the program did not include accurate and balancing material that was available and did not include a response from Ta Ann on key questions. It unduly favoured the views critical of Ta Ann (both Ta Ann Tasmania and Ta Ann Holdings Berhad, the Malaysian company) and Hydro Tasmania over both the facts and appropriate balancing views. In addition the relationship between Hydro Tasmania and with Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) was misreported and misrepresented. I consider that the totality of the report was inaccurate and misleading.

On 28 August 2012 The Executive Producer of Dateline, Peter Charley, informed you that a change would be made to the program and transcript in relation to the removal of the words “and regrowth”. However, SBS now considers that in light of this finding that it will broadcast a correction and apology on Dateline 4th September 2012. The wording of the correction is a management matter and not a duty of the SBS Ombudsman.

SBS apologies to Ta Ann Tasmania for this breach of the SBS Codes of Practice. If you consider this response to be inadequate you are entitled to take your concerns to the Australian Communications and Media Authority for external review.

Yours sincerely
Sally Begbie
SBS Ombudsman