Australia: Should Fairfax declare its interest in Earth Hour?
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Australia: Should Fairfax declare its interest in Earth Hour?

Eagle-eyed blogger Boy on a Bike has done some research on Earth Hour – the annual event where we are asked to turn off our electricity to raise awareness about carbon dioxide emissions. BOAB uncovers something most of us were not aware of – because Fairfax newspapers never declare it in their gushing coverage of the event – namely that far from just being a sponsor of the Earth Hour, Fairfax actually owns one third of the event.

This information might have been useful for those of us trying to decode some of the dodgy pictures Fairfax sometimes uses to illustrate the event or explain the uncritical broad coverage that it provides.

What’s not so easy to reconcile is how this sits with Fairfax Code of Ethics, namely:

INDEPENDENCE

Staff will not allow advertising or other commercial considerations to undermine accuracy, fairness or independence, or to influence the nature of the Herald’s coverage. Advertising copy which could be confused for editorial should be marked “special promotion.”

The code reflects the Fairfax group’s corporate values statement and incorporates the code of ethics of the Australian Journalists Association.

On the subject of the AJA Code of Ethics (now known as the MEAA) here is another relevant paragraph:

MEAA members engaged in journalism commit themselves to:

5. Disclose conflicts of interest that affect, or could be seen to affect, the accuracy, fairness or independence of your journalism. Do not improperly use a journalistic position for personal gain.

All of this is particularly relevant during the debates about global warming, where WWF has at times taken partisan and influential positions that the media are bound to report on – such as the since discredited assertions about melting glaciers in the Himalayas.

Other stories involving websites owned by Fairfax, like this, are fully declared – so why won’t they declare their part-ownership of Earth Hour?