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au to me Dear Ashley Locke
show details 9:10 AM (42 minutes ago)
Thank you for your email regarding the ABC Science story 'Evidence for HPV vaccination questioned', published on 13 October. In accordance with the ABC's complaint handling procedures, your correspondence was referred to Audience & Consumer Affairs, a unit which is separate to and independent of program making areas within the ABC. The role of Audience & Consumer Affairs is to investigate complaints alleging that ABC content has breached the ABC's editorial standards (available here: http://abc.net.au/corp/pubs/edpols.htm). I understand you believe this story was biased and did not provide sufficient context about interviewee Judy Wilyman. In addition, I understand you believe it was inappropriate for the journalist who wrote the piece, Anna Salleh, to have done so as in your view she has a personal relationship with Ms Wilyman. The ABC Editorial Policies do not contain a specific standard requiring disclosure of information about interviewees, journalists or others. However, the manner in which factual content - including information about interviewees - is presented is subject to the accuracy standards set out in section 2 of the Editorial Policies: "2.1 Make reasonable efforts to ensure that material facts are accurate and presented in context. 2.2 Do not present factual content in a way that will materially mislead the audience. In some cases, this may require appropriate labels or other explanatory information." The story was also required to adhere to the following standards in the Editorial Policies relating to impartiality and improper influences on editorial decisions: "1.3 Ensure that editorial decisions are not improperly influenced by political, sectional, commercial or personal interests. ... 4.1 Gather and present news and information with due impartiality. 4.2 Present a diversity of perspectives so that, over time, no significant strand of thought or belief within the community is knowingly excluded or disproportionately represented. ... 4.5 Do not unduly favour one perspective over another." In light of your concerns, Audience & Consumer Affairs has reviewed the story, considered information provided by ABC Innovation (the division responsible for the ABC Science website), and assessed whether these editorial standards were met. The story reported on criticisms of Australia's HPV vaccination program which have been raised by University of Wollongong PhD candidate Judy Wilyman, and the responses of cancer and vaccine experts (Associate Professor Karen Canfell and Professor Peter McIntyre) to these criticisms. It referred to and included links to several relevant sources, including the paper in which Ms Wilyman outlined her views on the vaccine and a Victorian study on the effects of the vaccine. ABC Innovation has advised that the publication of the story was
intended to stimulate discussion regarding the use of the HPV vaccine, and that all of the points raised by the participants are based on their reading of available evidence. Audience & Consumer Affairs has found no evidence that the author of the story, Anna Salleh, is directly affiliated with any of the interviewees whose views she reported on. I understand Ms Salleh's PhD, completed several years ago, was supervised by the same academic who now supervises Ms Wilyman's PhD, Professor Brian Martin, but this does not amount to an affiliation between Ms Salleh and Ms Wilyman. In terms of standard 1.3, ABC Innovation has advised that the idea for the story came from Professor Martin but the pitching of story ideas from academics is not unusual. I am advised that at no point was Professor Martin involved in the writing of the story. There is no evidence to suggest that the decision to write and publish the story was improperly influenced by Ms Salleh's personal interests or her connection to Professor Martin. Audience & Consumer Affairs therefore finds no breach of standard 1.3. Ms Wilyman was described in the story as someone "who is completing a PhD on the Australian government's vaccination policy at the University of Wollongong" and "who has a Master of Science in population health". These descriptions were accurate. I note your view that the story did not make it clear that Ms Wilyman's view is based on the sociology rather than the medicine of vaccination. In addition to pointing out that Ms Wilyman's PhD is on the government's vaccination policy (as opposed to vaccination science or medicine), a direct link was provided to the paper in which she outlined her views; interested readers were therefore able to find out more about her views and the basis of them by following the link. I also note your comments about Ms Wilyman's association with the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN). Audience & Consumer Affairs has found no evidence indicating that Ms Wilyman has particular affiliations which needed to be disclosed in the story in order for readers to make their own judgements about her claims. While we have examined the sites you have provided links to, we have found no evidence indicating that Ms Wilyman is a member of the AVN, and ABC Innovation has advised that Ms Wilyman has denied being a member of or having any affiliation with this group. In our view, readers were provided with sufficient information about Ms Wilyman to form their own conclusions, and the manner in which she was presented was not materially misleading. As outlined above, the story included a range of viewpoints. While Ms Wilyman's perspective was prominent within the story, fulsome responses from relevant experts were also included and the story clearly conveyed the fact that they were not convinced by her arguments. We also note that numerous other expert views on the HPV vaccine have been presented on ABC Online in recent times. On review, Audience & Consumer Affairs considers that the content was presented with due impartiality, no one perspective was unduly favoured, and a diversity of perspectives was and has been presented. We are therefore satisfied that standards 4.1, 4.2 and 4.5 were met. Nonetheless, while we are satisfied that the story adhered to the relevant editorial standards, please be assured that your comments have been noted and conveyed to ABC Innovation management. Thank you for bringing your concerns to the ABC's attention.
Yours sincerely Simon Melkman ABC Audience & Consumer Affairs
To: Audience & Consumer Affairs From: Ashley Locke (email@example.com) Subject: Inadequate and biased reporting Date: 14/10/11 14:53