The Australian Press Council has dismissed complaints from Peter Bates against the Central Telegraph, Biloela, Queensland. Mr Bates a mayoral candidate in elections for the Banana Shire complained of four matters arising during the election campaign.
In particular, the 7 March edition published the week before local government elections in Queensland contained photographs of mayoral candidates with the caption under Mr Bates’ headshot saying “… did not attend either of the mayoral candidates meetings in Biloela or Moura”.
The issue also carried an article referring to the history of the newspaper that recorded Mr Bates as being manager of the newspaper for two decades.
Mr Bates said nobody had contacted him about meeting in Moura and he could not attend the Biloela meeting because of a previous commitment. He also complained the history article did not make reference to the contribution he had made during his 25 years in managerial positions with the newspaper.
He accused the newspaper of editorial bias in both instances, showing that the newspaper favored another candidate for the mayoral position.
In its response the newspaper said the photographs were published with an article covering a “Meet the Mayoral Candidates” public meeting by the Moura Chamber of Commerce.
Mr Bates did not attend this meeting or a similar meeting in Biloela. Mr Bates does not dispute this.
The newspaper said that the history article had been prepared in advance of publication and was printed in the 7 March edition when space became available. Further material on Mr Bates’ contribution to the newspaper was supplied after the article had been written and prepared for publication.
Reference to Mr Bates contribution followed a segment that mentioned “the people who have passionately worked to ensure the paper makes its way into the homes of the 10,000 people who read it every week”.
In this context the Press Council believes Mr Bates’ contribution has been recognised.
Mr Bates sent two press releases to the newspaper during the election campaign referring to population decline in the shire and complained that neither of the releases was published.
The newspaper said that the figures relating to population decline had been published previously and the material in each of the releases was part of Mr Bates’ election campaigning. The newspaper provided each candidate with equal and fair editorial coverage and made provision for each candidate to run a large introductory article.
The Council believes editors have the right to ensure balance in publishing electoral material and in this case believes the newspaper has not breached Council principles.
Mr Bates also complained that a letter to the editor he had sent containing criticism by the Queensland Ombudsman of the shire council was not published. The newspaper responded that it had a policy not to publish letters from any mayoral candidate during the election campaign.
In the Press Council’s view, such a policy is reasonable but, particularly in a community newspaper, any such policy should be clearly notified by the newspaper.