You could easily be forgiven for thinking that the ABC is turning commercial by becoming tabloid after comments about cyclist dooring made by Michael Rowland and Karina Carvalho, presenters of ABC Breakfast News on May 7, 2012. In a segment in the program on car dooring incidents and legislation to increase penalties, Bicycle Network Victoria spokesman Gary Brennan was interviewed by reporter Simon Lauder and asked (2:40) whether harsher penalties would send a message that it is always the motorists fault.
Brennan responded “Well, it is always the motorists fault. The law makes no allowances for drivers in this case. So, if you open a door into the path of a rider it’s always your fault.”
The show presenters Michael Rowland and Karina Carvalho questioned this (3:30), sending a message to a national audience in which they present their own opinions that suggest a cyclist may share some responsibility in a dooring incident.
Michael: Thank you Simon. Now just to even the ledger up a tiny, weensy bit, did I hear him say it’s always the motorist’s fault or is my hearing failing?
Karina: We both heard that and I would say you probably need to take that comment with a little bit of caution.
Michael: A sackload of salt, not just a grain….and without pillorying cyclists at all – we love you cyclists, we love you motorists, we love everyone who watches us on ABC News Breakfast – but I have seen and we all have seen our fair share of reckless cyclists as well so I think it’s very unfair to purely blame motorists 100% of the time for that sort of thing.
Karina: More education and more awareness on both sides is what’s needed.
Michael: Good. We’re in agreement.
It is highly likely that the presenters were not paying attention and missed the details covered in the report, reacting instead to motorists ‘fault’ in any accident rather than the motorists fault in a dooring accident. The message however was irresponsible and careless. The ABC has reacted to date with only a small ‘clarification’ on their website:
On May 7, the program interviewed Garry Brennan from Bicycle Network Victoria about a campaign to increase fines for motorists who open their car doors into the path of cyclists. After the interview we suggested that cyclists should share some of the blame for ‘dooring’ incidents. The law states that this is incorrect. In every ‘dooring’ incident it is the fault of the person opening the door for not exercising due care.
There has been a cylists backlash, but worse, this has reignited the car verses cyclist debate where the key issue, car dooring, is forgotten.
sources: Crikey Blog: What’s the TV news cycle doing to cycling?
sources: Australian Cycling Forum: Been doored recently ? It might be your fault.
EDIT / UPDATE 22 May 2012
Dear Mr Jones
Thank you for your email about a segment on ABC News Breakfast on 7 May.
In accordance with the ABC’s complaint handling procedures, your correspondence has been considered by 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.
We understand you are concerned that, following an interview with Garry Brennan from Bicycle Network Victoria, hosts Michael Rowland and Karina Carvalho suggested that cyclists should share the blame for ‘dooring’ incidents. This was incorrect.
Accordingly, ABC News broadcast the following correction on the News Breakfast program on 10 May at 7.45am:
Now we just need to make a clarification about a story we brought you earlier this week.
On Monday, our reporter Simon Lauder interviewed Garry Brennan from Bicycle Network Victoria about a campaign to increase fines for motorists who open their car doors into the path of cyclists.
After the interview, we suggested that cyclists should share some of the blame for ‘dooring’ incidents. The law states that this is incorrect.
In every ‘dooring’ incident it is the fault of the person opening the door for not exercising due care.
We were, however, trying to make the general point that both motorists and cyclists need more education about road safety.
The incorrect information was removed from the online video and an Editor’s Note added to explain the amendment; in addition, a correction was also posted on the News Corrections and Clarifications webpage at:
In view of the steps taken by ABC News to correct the error, Audience & Consumer Affairs consider this matter to be resolved.
Thank you for bringing this to our attention, and please be assured your comments have been brought to the attention of ABC News Management. For your reference, the ABC Code of Practice is available here: http://www.abc.net.au/corp/pubs/documents/codeofpractice2011.pdf. Should you be dissatisfied with this response, you may be able to pursue your complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (http://www.acma.gov.au).
ABC Audience & Consumer Affairs