Transcript: Part of 'Media Watch' - ABC TV - 9.15 pm, 3 March 1997

Media Watch Transcript

Media Watch is headed by the prominent Sydney barrister, Stuart Littlemore QC. The researchers for the programme investigated the claims in the 'Please Explain' media release of 19 February 1997. The following transcript was taken from the video tape recording of the programme.

Stuart Littlemore (SL)......but wait there's more. On ABC radio, to which the same anti-commercial policies apply, or do they? For instance Radio National's "Science Show", presided over by Robyn Williams, a man close to canonisation. He's just completed a presentation of a four part series on why people should keep dogs and cats. Oh! they didn't admit that was the subject, but it was. Written and narrated by a publicist for something called 'the Pet Care Information and Advisory Service', which it seems fair to say, is nothing more than a front for the multi-national pet food manufacturer Mars, through its Australian subsidiary Uncle Bens.

Voice Over (VO)..."Funding is provided by Uncle Bens of Australia".

SL...Uncle Bens makes Pal, Meaty Bites, Whiskas, Dine, My Dog, Goodo, Kitty Kat and Chum amongst others. They've cornered 65% of the prepared pet food market in this country and through their Petcare Information and Advisory Service front, they pay the wages of a vet called Jonica Newby. Here she is doing a 'sub-rosa' TV commercial for Uncle Bens.

Jonica Newby (JN)..."No matter what type of person you are or what type of lifestyle you have, there's a dog that's perfect for you. And remember a dog is a friend for life."

SL...And here she is in Women's Weekly writing about pet care. On the page opposite an advert for an Uncle Bens product. And again, and again. And here's her intro from Robyn Williams.

Robyn Williams (RW)..."Today is the start of a four part 'Science Show' series, written and presented by Dr Jonica Newby, who's a vet from Melbourne".

SL...What he should have said is that she works in the pet food promotion business. No I'm wrong. She shouldn't have been on the ABC at all. It's a crudely subtle pitch. Jonica Newby didn't tell us to buy Pal in so many words, but to keep pets. Well we have to buy food for them don't we?

JN... "Being a multi-cultural society means being multi-species as well"

SL...Oh, and more such arrant tosh, highly insulting to her audience's intelligence. Urban planners feel Uncle Bens lash for not encouraging greater consumption of Meaty Bites. Again the whistle was blown by listeners, vets who don't share Jonica Newby's loyalty.

VO.. "Why were the listeners not told that the author and presenter of the programmes works for the Pet Care Information and Advisory Service, a division of the Mars group of companies?"

SL...The science show's executive producer, Amanda Armstrong, replied that they knew all along.

VO..."Dr Newby is..... a consultant to the Petcare Information and Advisory Service"

SL..but that....

VO..."the series has nothing to do with Dr Newby's consultancy to Petcare"

SL...and anyway...

VO..."listeners are told in programme 4 that Dr Newby works as a consultant to Petcare"

SL... but not told until the whistle was blown, not told the correct name, not told what PIAS is, and not told who funds it.

RW..." 'Animal friends' was written and presented by Dr Jonica Newby who's a vet, consultant to Petcare Advisory Services..."

SL...So... and I'm sorry to say there are further problems with commerce and ABC radio but I've run out of time. That perhaps and false by lines will have to wait until next week, good night to you.