The ABC’s Media Watch programme reports that there will be no more Exposed true-crime documentaries by journalist Caro Meldrum-Hannah.
Not giving a reason for the ABC’s decision, Media Watch host Paul Barry said the cancellation of the programme follows widespread attacks and an independent review that found that, while it had been largely excellent, a recent series on Sydney’s 1979 Luna Park ghost train fire that killed six children and an adult had major problems.
At the centre of the criticism are claims made in the series that late former NSW Premier Neville Wran was implicated.
Following a series of high-profile complaints, the ABC News Division commissioned veteran journalist Chris Masters and respected academic Rod Tiffin to conduct a review.
That probe found that while the ghost train series was an important piece of journalism, the claims against Nevill Wran were wanting.
Subsequently, ABC management has come under criticism for the way they handled the release of the report, and for comments senior managers made about it to a senate inquiry.
Respected journalism academic Margaret Simons has written a characteristically expert article on the programmes, the review, and its handling by ABC management.
In it, she said:
In my view, Exposed includes some of the best Australian television journalism of recent times. Yet it is being pilloried for faults in the final twenty minutes of its third episode, where the program details, and in places can be understood to be endorsing, an unsubstantiated allegation of corruption against Neville Wran.
The issues here — the slippery connections between the unscrupulous use of power for political advantage, the importance of ICAC, the enmeshment of media with government and power, and journalists’ roles on both sides of the corruption fight — could hardly be more relevant to our own times.
The ABC’s Media Watch programme made its own criticisms, including Ghost Train’s $2m cost (the story starts two minutes into this video):
It’s another example of how the ABC is more heavily scrutinised than any other Australian media outlet,