Second ABC complaint upheld: Meryl Dorey “distorted and selectively presented information” on pertussis vaccination

Unfortunately, she (Meryl Dorey) added little and took the opportunity to promote a case against the use of the pertussis vaccine based on distorted and selectively presented information.

♦ ABC Audience & Consumer Affairs, December 19th, 2011 ♦

Readers of musings and mumblings here may remember a look at one Meryl Wynn Dorey’s “ABC of immunisation lies“, following Nicola Roxon’s Immunisation Incentive announcement.

Ms. Dorey kicked off deceiving Terri Begley’s audience on Mornings, November 15th on ABC 612. As covered by reasonablehank in ABC Complaint upheld – Meryl Dorey “disingenuous” and “added little” with “unsubstantiated claims”, a complaint was lodged and upheld by ABC Corporate Affairs.

In the afternoon Dorey popped up again on ABC 666 Drive speaking with Louise Maher. Again she seized the opportunity to launch into rapid fire fiction on pertussis infection and vaccine efficacy. This trick has been picked apart a few times here. So, I shot of a long complaint with references, tables and tactics laid out. To my delight the dedicated folk at ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs waded through it and the complaint was upheld. With their permission I’ve copied the response below.

The only other point (related to media correspondence) I’d like to cover is that I also sent a synopsis of Dorey’s pertussis and autism tricks to Tiga Bayles prior to her appearance on his Let’s Talk show. It had my name, phone number and email address. He didn’t raise any of the points as Dorey recited exactly what I’d warned him she would, choosing to feign surprise and smooth her path. He did however mention “the haters” and “sad small-minded people” who “hide behind anonymity too”.

Dorey agreed that her opponents were “cowards”, members of a “hate group” and guilty of a range of lousy transgressions, primarily around suppressing free speech. Without sounding too small minded, I did feel this was most unhelpful on Tiga’s part. Others also wrote openly to him and still more had articles published on widely read publications, such as The Drum and Mamamia. Meryl Dorey’s critics are not anonymous.

With that out of the way, we can enjoy knowing that both of Dorey’s appearances on ABC on November 15th have resulted in upheld complaints.

Reprinted with permission of ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs.

Dear Mr. Gallagher,

Thank you for your email of November 27 concerning the interview of Meryl Dorey conducted by Louise Maher on radio 666.

As your correspondence raised concerns of misleading and inaccurate content, your email was referred to Audience and Consumer Affairs for consideration and response. The unit is separate and independent from ABC program areas and is responsible for investigating complaints alleging a broadcast or publication was in contravention of the ABC’s editorial standards. In light of your concerns, we have reviewed the broadcast and assessed it against the ABC’s editorial requirements for accuracy, as outlined in section 2 of the ABC’s Editorial Policies: http://www.abc.net.au/corp/pubs/edpols.htm. In the interests of procedural fairness, we have also sought and considered material from ABC radio.

On Thursday November 24 Louise Maher spoke to the ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Paul Kelly about a measles outbreak at a Steiner school in the ACT.  The following day she looked at the government’s announcement that day that from July 2012 up to $2100 of the family tax benefit per child will be conditional on a child being immunised, and spoke to Dr Julie Leask, from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and senior lecturer at the School of Public Health at Sydney University and Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network.

The program team believed that Ms Dorey would have something to add to the discussion about the Government’s initiative. Unfortunately, she added little and took the opportunity to promote a case against the use of the pertussis vaccine based on distorted and selectively presented information. As this was not anticipated, the presenter was not in a position to effectively challenge Ms Dorey’s assertions. To her credit, Ms Maher recognised this and acted to get expert advice to air from the Chief Medical Officer of the ACT.

That interview was ultimately aired on the following Monday. The effect of that delay was to potentially mislead listeners about the effectiveness of the pertussis vaccine. This was exacerbated by the fact that the introduction to Ms Dorey did not adequately contextualise Ms Dorey’s comments by informing listeners that she is a campaigner against vaccination who has no medical qualifications and her organisation has been the subject of a warning by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission for providing misleading information to the public.

Notwithstanding the team’s efforts to address claims made by Ms Dorey, it is our view that she wasn’t introduced with sufficient context to ensure listeners were not misled by her unsubstantiated claims.

Radio management apologises for this lapse. It advises that it will again communicate to radio staff the importance of providing listeners with all relevant context and information when presenting controversial and potentially dangerous viewpoints – particularly if they propose to interview Ms Dorey again.

Accordingly, Audience and Consumer Affairs conclude the broadcast was not in keeping with the ABC’s editorial standards for accuracy as outlined in section 2.1 of the ABC’s Editorial Polices. Please be assured that your comments and this decision have been conveyed to ABC Radio management and the producers of the program.

Thank you for taking the time to write; your feedback is appreciated.

For your reference, the ABC Editorial Policies are available online at http://www.abc.net.au/corp/pubs/documents/codeofpractice2011.pdf

Should you be dissatisfied with this response to your complaint, you may be able to pursue your complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority, http://www.acma.gov.au.

Yours sincerely

(redacted)

Audience & Consumer Affairs

  • Louise Maher receiving “distorted and selectively presented information” on the use of the pertussis vaccine:

MP3 file for download here.

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One Response to Second ABC complaint upheld: Meryl Dorey “distorted and selectively presented information” on pertussis vaccination

  1. Pingback: Meryl Dorey misinforming Brisbane on 4BC: “a poor choice of talent” | reasonablehank

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