On Thursday 27th February a complaint was submitted about the 730 TV show’s editorial choices and biases, on Tuesday 4th March it was answered by the show’s Supervising Producer. The complainant was not satisfied with the response and wrote back the same day. No answer from the ABC. Matter closed.
COMPLAINT SUBJECT: 730 Bias and Editorial Decisions
Last night’s 730 (Wed 26 Feb 2014) did not have a political segment covering the extraordinary events in the House of Representatives today, namely:
1) An independent moved a motion to admonish a Shadow Minister. This is a very rare and important event.
2) The Government allowed the motion to be debated and put – another rare and event worthy of analysis
3) The House voted on the motion and passed it. Thus the House admonished a Shadow Minister (and Senator) – perhaps a unique event in living memory.
Obviously these events, in their entirety, were a suitable story for a leading news & current affairs show. The segment could have been presented with comments from both sides of politics, along with comments from the independent moving the motion. The original comments, from the Shadow Minister that gave rise could have been aired, along with the response from offended subject (an army general) along with the comments from the Head of the Defence Force stating the comments were offensive and out of line. Then analysis by an ABC political reporter could have been made on the meaning of these events for (a) The Opposition Leader (b) The Shadow Minister for Defence.
As this segment was not done and aired, all I can conclude is that editorial decisions were made that:
a) prevented the The Opposition (Australian Labor Party) from being shown in a bad light
b) prevented the Opposition Leader from being shown to be cornered/snookered whereby he had to support his Shadow Minister, rather than condemn his comments – judge by all commentators to have “crossed the line”.
c) prevented the Shadow Minister of Defence from being shown in a bad light. Although he did withdrawn his original comments – he did not apologise for the offence he caused to the general, and by extension to all members of the armed forces who faithfully execute policies of the Government (however controversial politically).
The stories covered by 730 on Tue 26 Feb were:
i. What’s behind Qantas’ troubles?
ii. Barnaby Joyce ! says drought support is sign of ‘a caring nation’
iii. Assistant Health Minister refuses to say if she’s offered resignation
iv. Could two retail giants become one beast?
Any of which could have been “bumped” to a later night.
The matter raised in this letter was not a usual he says / she says to and fro of political and policy debate. It was one Senator making his own comments and the fallout that ensued for him, his leader and his party.
By not running any segment on this matter, the 730 has been guilty of “protecting” the Shadow Minister of Defence, the Opposition Leader and the Australian Labor party from adverse publicity, and hence the ABC 730 program is guilty of extreme bias in favour of the Australian Labor Party.
RESPONSE TO COMPLAINT: 730 Bias and Editorial Decisions
Thank you for your feedback regarding the ‘7.30’ program on 26 February, 2014.
I agree with you that Andrew Wilkie’s motion to admonish Stephen Conroy’s comments in the Senate was a big political story on that day, but it was competing with other stories, each of which had important policy ramifications.
We did, however, invite the Chief of the Defence Force David Hurley and Deputy Chief of Army Angus Campbell (to whom the comments were directed) on to the program to respond to the comments, but both declined our invitation. We decided, given 7pm News covered the story, that without any of those people available for interview, we’d just be repeating what news’ coverage was.
In terms of the editorial justification for running the other stories:
The Qantas story had to run on the eve of the Qantas results, and as you will have seen since that story has gone to air and Qantas’ profit announcement last week, it has been the most significant political and policy story. We also felt it was an important opportunity to provide context and explain to our audience how Qantas got into the financial position it’s currently in and the challenges facing the company.
The drought assistance package announced by the government that day was the most significant policy story of the day, and given we have followed the impact of the drought closely, we felt it was important to cover the government’s response to that challenge in our program.
The story on the Assistant Health Minister had to run that night because she had appeared at Senate Estimates that day.
the story on the David Jones and Myer merger is an important business story and had we not run the story including the head of the ACCC Mr Rod Sims’ comments that night, his comments could have dated had the story not run that night.
I hope you’ll continue to watch the program and thanks again for your feedback.
7.30, ABC TV
COMMENTS ON RESPONSE TO COMPLAINT: 730 Bias and Editorial Decisions
Thank you for your prompt response to my complaint. However, I find your arguments/explanations to be deficient for a number of reasons, as outlined below.
1) You say that you invited Generals Hurley and Campbell but they declined. They were not the only players in the game and their declining should/could have been predicted. Did you invite Senator Conroy and Senator Cash the two politicians who were present at the Senate hearing?
2) Were the senior minister (Mr Morrison) and shadow minister (Mr Marles) asked for an interview?
3) Could you not have provided analysis on why Senator Conroy, withdrew his comments, but did not apologise? And why Mr Shorten could not, or did not, ask Senator Conroy to apologise? A discussion of the importance of Senator Conroy’s factional power base and his relationship with, or importance to, Mr Shorten’s leadership power could have informed your viewers. Thus, was Mr Shorten asked for an interview?
I postulated that the other stories could have been bumped for a more detailed analysis of this extraordinary event (I can’t remember an “admonishment” motion happening before – 730 did not even provide that analysis – has it ever been done before? When? To whom?)
a) Context and explanation of QANTAS could have been done after the profit announcement and Alan Joyce’s speech, when more facts could have been injected into the story – rather than conjecture from the day before on what the results may have been.
b) The drought assistance package was a newsworthy item, current and worthy of running – perhaps with an explanation of the ‘exceptional circumstances” declarations now made by the States and how that currently feeds into Federal Government assistance, i.e. why was the package necessary at all? What is wrong with the current severe drought assistance processes?
c) You say “The story on the Assistant Health Minister had to run that night because she had appeared at Senate Estimates that day” (why is that reasoning not applicable to Senator Conroy’s accusation and the admonishment motion?)
d) You say “The story on the David Jones and Myer merger … could have dated had the story not run that night” because of Mr Sims comments that day (why is that reasoning not applicable to Senator Conroy’s accusation and the admonishment motion?) Also there was no outcome in the merger talk – it was all conjecture and thus less susceptible to dating)
An answer to the questions posed above would provide me with a greater understanding of your reasoning, and strengthen your argument that 730 could not have covered the biggest political story of the day, to some extent, in 30 minutes of TV.
I will keep watching 730, but I hope that through analyst you can provide greater insight, rather than just providing a platform for “talking heads”.
No further response from ABC. So how is a citizen to get heard when faced with this stonewall defence?