National Irrigators’ Council CEO, Steve Whan says a ruling by the ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs unit upholding a complaint about coverage of the Murray Darling Basin plan by ABC’s Background Briefing is welcome and reinforces the need for balance in coverage.

Steve Whan said, “NIC among others made complaints about a Background Briefing story early this year which we felt was inaccurate and failed to provide balance.

“NIC was particularly concerned about the story giving listeners the false impression that there had been no gains for the environment from the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

“Independent assessment has found good early environmental results, very strong progress on water recovery with positive outcomes from more than 750 environmental watering events,” Steve Whan said.

The background briefing story came in two parts and included a video on social media.

ABC’s investigation concluded that neither part one or two of the story or the social media video were in keeping with the ABC’s editorial standards for accuracy and impartiality.

Steve Whan said “the Basin Plan is controversial – and we recognise that people with alternative views have a right to be heard. We aren’t trying to shut down criticism, but we do expect that reporting will be balanced and will acknowledge when a theory, put forward by a couple of people, has significant flaws.

“That was the case with the theory put forward in the program on so called ‘return flows’.

“The ABC has now conducted a very thorough review and upheld complaints we (and others) made. NIC appreciates the serious way the ABC has dealt with this.”

In their email responding to the complaint the ABC says:

ABC News apologises for these editorial lapses and advise that an on-air acknowledgment of this finding will be made on Background Briefing, which will point listeners to the prominent Editor’s Note on the program website (

Audience and Consumer Affairs’ summary of these findings is published here: and the ABC News corrections page summary is published here

The Facebook video has been removed from the ABC website. In addition, we understand these findings have been discussed at length with the program, and in keeping with our usual processes this matter will be reported to the ABC Board.

“It is regrettable that the story went to air in the first place, particularly since NIC had made efforts to seek to have some balance in the story and point out errors.

“Implementing the Basin Plan is by no means easy. But it is made even harder by inaccurate reporting. It is hoped that journalists reporting on the Plan in future make more effort to provide balance and accuracy,” Steve Whan concluded.

Media Contact: Steve Whan 0429 780 883
Thursday 8 November 2018