Guest Post: A taxpayer – How the ABC fobs off serious complaints

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  Although he did withdrawn his original comments – he did not apologise for the offence he caused to the general, and by extension to all members of the armed forces who faithfully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.

Supervising Producer
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? 

This entry was posted in Cultural Issues, Federal Politics, Guest Post, Hypocrisy of progressives. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Guest Post: A taxpayer – How the ABC fobs off serious complaints

  1. Cold-Hands

    Unfortunately, complaints to the ABC inevitably go nowhere. Even in the very rare circumstances when a complaint is upheld (ie Jon Faine being found to have behaved unprofessionally in his interview of Michael Smith), no apology occurred and the finding was weeks (months?) late. The ABC response to criticism is so lacking that Gerard Henderson for one has given up making official complaints. The ABC is past fixing. Time to sell it off and save some money.

  2. Ivan Denisovich

    The ABC is past fixing. Time to sell it off and save some money.

    The ABC is a den of thieves. If Joe Hockey is serious about ending the age of entitlement then this monument to entitlement should be sold. It’s beyond reform.

  3. DaveA

    Kind of thing that would never be picked up by their own bias evaluation probes which employ a piecemeal approach which does not consider the whole; what stories weren’t covered, what facts weren’t reported, what angles weren’t considered.

  4. Squirrel

    I feel certain there have been a number of instances where the ABC has given prominence to a story/issue even when one or more of the key players are not available for interview.

    Ultimately, I think this is about their world view – there are so many instances of it, such as this from today’s online offerings, about the appointment of Mike Nahan as WA Treasurer:

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-16/concern-over-wa27s-new-treasurer-mike-nahan/5323964

    The headline on the ABC News Just In page is “Questions raised over appointment of new WA treasurer ”

    Most of the “questions” were asked by the WA Opposition Treasury spokesman – quelle surprise. There’s also a quote from Tim Treadgold:

    “”Colin Barnett would like to use secateurs and Mike Nahan would like to use shears to take whole chunks of the tree off,” Mr Treadgold said. ” – which is prefaced by “Business commentator Tim Treadgold says he expects Dr Nahan and Mr Barnett to be at loggerheads over some key issues.” It would be interesting to know whether Mr Treadgold used the term “at loggerheads” when he was interviewed, or whether that’s a construction which has been put on his actual comment, or whether it was a case of (ABC interviewer asks) “so the Premier and the new Treasurer could be at loggerheads?” – (Treadgold) “yes, I suppose they could be”.

    Of course, in a parallel universe, had it been a Labor Government appointment of a noted left wing economist as Treasurer, the headline would more likely have been “Distinguished Economist Appointed as State Treasurer”, backed up with adoring puffery, and perhaps an “I make no apologies” quote from the new Treasurer about his/her refusal to make cuts and seek a balanced budget.

    Finally, while not wanting to excuse the ABC, fobbing off is the hallmark of all bureaucracies, public and private – when it’s all said and done, as long as the nice salary goes into the bank account every fortnight, nothing else matters all that much.

  5. Andrew

    By the way, when is the “Grubs Marching Aimlessly” march? The weather in Sydney has been shithouse – anyone know what happened to that, whether anyone turned up?

  6. I am the Walrus, koo koo k'choo

    Um, what did you expect?

    Do what most Australians do. And that is, cease watching it. As your complaint shows, they don’t cover the important stuff anyway, so it’s not like you’ll be missing anything.

  7. Baldrick

    In the words of a man much wiser that myself …

    Shut. It. Down.
    Fire. Them. All.™

  8. Gab

    So who is the Guest Post written by?

  9. Tom

    If it’s any help to our anonymous poster, 7.30′s supervising producer did what I would have done given the strong story lineup on the day in question. You’re simply asking them to swap an anti-LNP bias (which can always be justified as government scrutiny — which is cute when it’s a travelling circus that always supports 1. The Greens; 2. The Liars Party) for an anti-ALP bias. Your case is weak. They were always going to tell you to bugger off. The fact that they have perfected a method of ignoring all complaints is irrelevant in this case.

  10. Rob

    Complaints about ABC behaviour (to the ABC) go nowhere – a total waste of time.
    Unfortunately, not complaining allows the ABC to say that most people are satisfied with its performance.
    A truly independent complaints tribunal would resolve this dilemma and leave “our” ABC open to some serious exposure of its failings.

  11. candy

    I can’t see why the Chief of Defence would have to defend himself on ABC TV program and in any case would it be ethical for him to appear to discuss OSB?

    That’s excuse No. 1 and it seems very lame.

  12. Honesty

    Here is what Malcolm Turnbull told me to do in an email exchange, ACMA

    If you wish to raise your concerns directly with the ABC, and I encourage you to do so, you can lodge a complaint at http://about.abc.net.au/talk-to-the-abc/lodge-a-complaint/. This will ensure that the ABC is directly aware of your concerns and has an opportunity to respond to you. If you are not satisfied with the ABC’s response, you may refer the matter to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) for investigation. Information about making a complaint to the ACMA can be found on the ACMA’s website: http://www.acma.gov.au/Citizen/Take-action/Complaints/Broadcast-complaints/complaints-about-the-abc-or-sbs.

    Yours sincerely

    Malcolm Turnbull

  13. Honesty

    You could also try this blog for info and complaints ABC newswatch

  14. thefrollickingmole

    Shut. It. Down.
    Fire. Them. All.™
    SALT THE EARTH
    PYRAMID OF SKULLS

    You lot are too soft.

  15. Ed

    They don’t care. They’re politically invincible. They’re untouchable.

    What reason could they possibly have for taking complaints of bias seriously? It’s not like anyone’s going to do anything about it. Ever.

  16. Ed

    Here is what Malcolm Turnbull told me to do in an email exchange, ACMA

    What else is he going to say?
    He can’t tell you of any personal views or intent to take action because your email exchange would then be news fodder.

  17. Bruce of Newcastle

    No further response from ABC. So how is a citizen to get heard when faced with this stonewall defence?

    Once I complained to the ABC about biased reporting – it happened to be over the Tampa and children overboard affairs where the ABC was not reporting all the facts which refuted their own arguments. I got an equivalently po-faced non-response.

    So now I carefully note their bias and lack of adherence to their own Charter and I advocate that taxpayer support be withdrawn. I don’t care whether the ABC becomes advertisement supported, be subscription supported, sold to their staff for a dollar or converted to molten radioactive slag (after the people have been moved out humanely).

    If they fail to meet their Charter they should not be paid by taxpayers, and I as a taxpayer do not want to be involuntarily forced to fund these one eyed ideologues any more.

  18. Ivan Denisovich

    I as a taxpayer do not want to be involuntarily forced to fund these one eyed ideologues any more.

    Ethically, the ABC collective is no better than Michael Williamson. Both have felt free to disregard their obligations and do with others’ money as they please. The culture of entitlement that was turbo-charged with the emphasis on rights over responsibility has infected all corners of society but especially the left, as I think will become more evident to the general public once the R.C. gets going.

  19. Johno

    What else is he going to say?

    He may not he able to say much more in that circumstance, but he as sure as he’ll could be doing a lot more about this issue than he is.

    An utter disgrace. May ad we’ll be in the Liar’s Party for all that he is doing yo the government.

  20. Mike of Marion

    Nobody at the Cat has been able to answer this.

    Is there any requirement in Law that the Government must allocate funds to the ABC?

    (In the Budget, I suggest the Treasurer does NOT provide an allocation of Forward Funding for the ABC)

  21. johanna

    Thanks, Guest, for this excellent and well-researched post.

    It is great to see their lame excuses in black and white.

    They admit that they regard speculation as more important and newsworthy than anything that actually happened on the day. They submit that the refusal of senior Defence personnel to comment on political issues is an excuse for not covering them.

    Out of their own mouths … there’s no need to do a hatchet job on the ABC. As with their defence of the disgraceful Mark Kenny incident, they do it all by themselves.

  22. johanna

    Mike of Marion – nope. The Budget could theoretically allocate the ABC nothing. But they can’t do that in practice, as there are ongoing liabilities such as salaries, rent, utility bills and so on, which are legally required to be paid.

  23. duncanm

    Mike,

    see the Australian Broadcasting Services Act: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/abca1983361/

    A cursory reading says its entirely up to the finance minister (part VI, 67) as to how much.. but there’s a whole bunch of services that are required to be supplied under the act – so de-funding it straight up won’t work. This may explain with the government is currently sitting on the fence: they need the senate to change the act.

    You may have to pay all the board, employees etc while you dismantle their positions, too. Newman style.

  24. Gab

    Is there any requirement in Law that the Government must allocate funds to the ABC?

    Interesting question, so if there is no law then by rights the government could reduce the ABC’s funding over a number of years with zero funding being the endpoint. I like it! But then what would be the point of the ABC Act?

  25. what would be the point of the ABC Act?

    If the ABC were to continue, and it were able to fund itself by, say, producing profitable programmes and products, we’d still need the Act.

  26. Gab

    If the ABC were to continue, and it were able to fund itself by, say, producing profitable programmes and products, we’d still need the Act.

    I don’t understand why the Act would still be needed, Deadman, given in that scenario, the ABC would then be a commercial and private entity same as any of the other commercial networks.

  27. Gab, we’d still need the Act (to the extent of prescribing fairness and the like) for as long as the ABC, though supporting itself (not that this would ever happen), had the imprimatur and protection of the government. If it were a completely commercial and private entity, with its current extent, it would have such power that it would need to be constrained by regulation.

  28. johanna

    Gab, the ABC is a creature of legislation. It has assets (very considerable ones) owned by taxpayers, and a raft of obligations enshrined in law.

    How much or little income it generates is irrelevant.

  29. blogstrop

    March Madness. Blair has a series of Imre’s photos and comments linked from his latest blog post today. It’s a bit like the Zombie Time series Iowahawk has linked to numerous times in the USA, with comedic/ridiculing effect. Example: Sign reading “Not in My Name Abbot”.

    The ABC will probably cover it in glowing terms tonight.

  30. ChrisPer

    thefrollickingmole :

    Shut. It. Down.
    Fire. Them. All.™
    SALT THE EARTH
    PYRAMID OF SKULLS

    You lot are too soft.

    Frollicking, I prefer

    Shut it down
    Fire them all
    Sell the real estate

    Reason being, salting the earth is wasting the one public asset in the mix.

  31. johanna

    ChrisPer – well said.

    I keep harping on this, but people who say that the ABC should be sold for $1 or something are missing the point that we own a huge swag of assets in their name.

    If you tried to sell the ABC minus the assets, you’d be lucky to get $1.

  32. Des Deskperson

    ‘Shut it down
    Fire them all
    Sell the real estate’

    Shoot them on sight and dissolve their bodies in acid, don’t burn them. (H/T to Charles Dexter Ward!!)

  33. ChrisPer

    I cannot approve shooting them on sight. You would lose your firearm license.

  34. ChrisPer

    Plus that would be violence against women and I am totally against that.

  35. calli

    Shut. It. Down.
    Fire. Them. All.™
    SALT THE EARTH
    PYRAMID OF SKULLS

    I want to hear the wailing of their women…please. It’s not a true annihilation without wailing.

  36. Andrew

    The ABC will probably cover it in glowing terms tonight.

    What’s not to like? People wanting to shoot Alan Joyce in the head – wholesome family entertainment.

  37. Andrew of Randwick

    Shut. It. Down.
    Fire. Them. All.™
    SALT THE EARTH
    PYRAMID OF SKULLS
    .
    All = It won’t happen.
    But as I have written before, why not sell off all of ABC Sport first. Private providers would jump at the chance to pick up some commentators and the broadcast rights. And why should the ABC squeeze out competition in an area of broadcasting where the public could be well served by the private sector.
    .
    Yes, a long, long time ago Ashes broadcasts from the ‘Mother Country’ in the dead of night were an important function – but not now.
    .
    Second, what about the Orchestras and the direct arts support. Surely, the “working family’ has had enough of supporting the ‘inner city elites’
    .
    Third, now you guys in Australian Drama, when was the last time you made a show about a working man who was NOT a …

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