‘Human Error’: Public Broadcaster Apologises for Incorrect Fact Check

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The ABC RMIT Fact Check has issued a correction for saying entrepreneur Dick Smith was against renewables.

Australian businessman Dick Smith has received an apology from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) after it incorrectly claimed he did not support the use of renewable energy.

Mr. Smith is known for founding the Dick Smith Electronics brand and his strong advocacy on various social and environmental issues.

On Sydney radio station 2GB last week, Smith voiced his opinion that Australia should invest in nuclear power saying a country cannot function entirely on renewables.

He questioned the narrative put forward by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) that solar and wind will generate enough energy to power all the country’s grids.

“This claim by the CSIRO that you can run a whole country on solar and wind is simply a lie. It is not true, they are telling lies,” said Mr. Smith on March 25.

“No country has ever been able to run entirely on renewables, that’s impossible, and so we should be making a decision to go nuclear now, ”said Smith.

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The CSIRO denied making public announcements “of that nature,” but did say solar and wind complement traditional energy sources.

“Renewables are a critical part, but not the only part, of the energy mix as Australia moves towards the government-legislated target of net zero emissions by 2050,” the agency said.

This prompted ABC to fact-check the claims by Mr. Smith via their partnership with RMIT University, to which they published a retort using Nepal as an example of where countries could rely 100 percent on renewable output.

Information from the International Energy Agency however contradicts the claims made by the CSIRO regarding Nepal.

Its website states that most of Nepal’s energy supply is from “biofuels and waste, as 21 million people still rely on traditional biomass for cooking. ”

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation worked in conjunction with RMIT University to fact check claims made by Dick Smith. (Courtesy of Margery Dunn)
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation worked in conjunction with RMIT University to fact check claims made by Dick Smith. (Courtesy of Margery Dunn)

With his integrity being questioned, Mr. Smith threatened to sue the ABC should the Fact Check not be corrected, saying the broadcaster was “damaging my name” in claiming he was opposed to the use of renewable energy.

He told Sky News the public broadcaster was being antagonistic.

“So they’ve brought out this pack of lies, which they said they’re not going to correct,” he said.

“They said (my statement’s) not correct and then have used all this disinformation because they’re trying to prove something which is unprovable. To say that I don’t support renewables—when I do, I’m a strong supporter of renewables—that’s a lie,” Mr. Smith said.

ABC Apologises and Blames Human Error

On March 27 evening, ABC published an apology to the entrepreneur and amended the fact-checking error on its website.

There was an acknowledgement that Mr. Smith was not contacted to clarify his views before the fact check.

The ABC explained that the mistake was made after the first version of the article “was based on the inference that in Mr Smith’s interview he was only referring to electricity grids,” when he had been referring to the “full energy mix.”

“The article has been updated to reflect that and to add information on the full energy mixes of four countries whose grids are 100 percent renewable. The article also previously incorrectly stated that Mr. Smith had rejected renewable-led electricity generation.”

“The article also previously incorrectly stated that Mr Smith had rejected renewable-led electricity generation; this has been amended. The ABC apologises to Mr Smith for the error,” read the statement.

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