ABC and social media

The ABC is clearly out of control, with the CEO having limited ability to control’s his staff’s activities on social media. In Senate Estimates David Anderson

When somebody has a personal social media account the ABC is not responsible for the material they publish. I am advised that a blanket ban on their social media account is not enforceable. What we do have is requirements for people to behave in a certain way which relates back to the ABC.

And yet the Australian public service and the BBC have very strong guidelines on the use of social media by employees using their private social media accounts. They are not restricting the ‘civil rights’ – it’s just that as an employee you have to behave in a way that doesn’t bring disrepute to the organisation. A public servant is free to be highly critical of government in a private social media account provided they are willing to resign from the public service. So it should be with the ABC. If Sally Neighbour and Louise Milligan want to bag the government out of their political biases so be it, but they shouldn’t be employees of the ABC.

The guidelines of the BBC and the Australian public service are quite clear on restrictions of social media activity. It’s part of the job. Here are the key points of the BBC guidance

  • All BBC activity on social media, whether it is ‘official’ BBC use or the personal use by BBC staff is subject to the Editorial Guidelines and editorial oversight in the same way that our on platform content is.

  • We should take particular care about maintaining our impartiality on social media, both in our professional and personal activities

  • BBC spaces on social media should reflect the same values and audience expectations as their on-platform brands.

  • We have editorial responsibility for all BBC branded channels on social media regardless of the reporting functions or moderation services of the individual platforms

  • Our duty of care, particularly towards children and vulnerable contributors on social media requires careful consideration

  • BBC staff should avoid bringing the BBC into disrepute through their actions on social media

And there are similar thoughts in the APS guidance. For example

This means, for example, that if an employee posts something highly critical of a policy they advise on, it would be reasonable to question their ability to provide impartial advice when they are at work—and, in extreme cases, to wonder if they might deliberately undermine the Government’s policy objectives. And if all employees behaved this way online, it would be reasonable to infer that the APS as a whole could not be trusted to administer the policies of an elected government.

and, importantly, about seniority – which is the reach which a senior person would have – which surely would apply to Neighbour and Milligan?

Generally, the more senior an employee, the greater the risk of their online behaviour affecting public confidence in the APS. This is because:

  • the community is more likely to believe senior employees’ comments are based on specialised inside knowledge
  • the opinions of senior leaders and authority figures are given more weight than those of more junior employees
  • senior employees have a significant degree of responsibility and may be required to lead the implementation of government policies and programs
  • the more senior an employee, the more difficult it can be to differentiate comments they make in a private capacity from those made on behalf of their agency or Minister.

As a leader, you set the tone for the rest of your organisation, and should be relied upon to act as an exemplar to your staff, your organisation, and your broader networks.

So why is Anderson so compliant to his employee’s demands of being able to say what they like on private social media irrespective of whether it brings the ABC into disrepute? Certainly it can’t be that Neighbour and Milligan are irreplaceable. For there are dozens of other people who could do their jobs better than Neighbour and Milligan and be willing to be impartial on social media.

What Anderson needs to do is make heads roll. Sack staff who appear partisan. That will quickly send a message through the legions at the ABC who most of all want to enjoy their high salaries. Give a warning and if the conduct is repeated fire the employee. Management at the ABC need to make it clear that they will not tolerate partisan employees.

About Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

I'm a retired general who occasionally gets called back to save the republic before returning to my plough.
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36 Responses to ABC and social media

  1. MatrixTransform says:

    can’t read you Lucius

    your’e the scorpion in the parable of the scorpion and fox

  2. Ed Case says:

    Read that The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gives money to the BBC.
    I’m wondering if the Gateses or our homegrown Wokester Oligarchs donate to the ABC?

  3. Dot says:

    What Anderson needs to do is make heads roll. Sack staff who appear partisan. That will quickly send a message through the legions at the ABC who most of all want to enjoy their high salaries. Give a warning and if the conduct is repeated fire the employee. Management at the ABC need to make it clear that they will not tolerate partisan employees.

    Sell everything and wind it up. Salt the earth. Give employees “blacklist” references for future job seeking.

  4. Tom says:

    Management at the ABC need to make it clear that they will not tolerate partisan employees.

    Hahaha! You really do live in libertarian cloud cuckoo land.

    Management 101 at the ABC is that management isn’t allowed to run the ABC. It’s an autonomous workers collective, inspired by the Chinese Communist Party’s Belt and Road Marxist ideology.

  5. Dunnybrush says:

    Actually, their social media posts are instructive. ABC employees should be encouraged to share their thoughts about everything. At least that would kill the laughable but oft-deployed fig-leaf assertion of impartiality.

  6. mundi says:

    The reason ABC don’t care what their own staff says, even if it brings disreupte, is that you can’t disrepute the ABC. Their only job is to get their $1b cheque, and spend it. That’s it. Their buisness cannot be hurt or impacted in any way by anyone saying anything. The only thing that will ever hurt them is a change to the $1b outlay in the budget.

  7. Herodotus says:

    But having Numbers here is ok.

  8. Shy Ted says:

    ABC job description. Be a lefty and never deviate from the script. Also applies to management and BOD.

  9. JC says:

    Herod

    You’ve been complaining about this is or that presence since you began to post here. If Numbers shouldn’t post here than neither should a lot of imbeciles. The Bobsey Twins and Aboriginal whisperers, Rones and Twitchy the garden gnome, Driller and several other imbeciles. None of these morons should be either.

  10. W Hogg says:

    Management at the ABC need to make it clear that they will not tolerate partisan employees.

    And if they bring in this rule that will result in de facto abolition of TheirABC. They may still have a non partisan or conservative Vietnamese cleaner or two but that won’t be a enough to staff the whole thing.

  11. Ian says:

    Sack a couple and the message will get through….
    And if they strike, sack a few 😎

  12. Truth—in-Footnotes says:

    I’m willing to be corrected if mistaken, but didn’t certain “journalists” at the ABC hound a certain, deeply Christian rugby player out of his job, for comments made on his personal social media account(s)?

    Pot. Kettle. Black?

  13. Lee says:

    Somebody claimed that Neighbour and 7-Nillagain used the Four Corners logo on their tweets where they didn’t resile from the allegations against Porter, despite the ABC’s settling with him.
    If true, how can it not be violating the terms of the settlement?

  14. Mick Gold Coast QLD says:

    This same discussion has been running for the whole of the time I have been at Catallaxy, a decade or so I think.

    The only solution is as Dot says at 6:00 pm:

    “Sell everything and wind it up. Salt the earth. Give employees “blacklist” references for future job seeking.”

    Debate, the mythical “national conversation”, prayers to the rainbow serpent, parliamentary enquiries, having the Governor General use his royal powers to act – “to do something!”, a pistol duel at dawn – all pointless.

  15. Farmer Gez says:

    Let them tweet away.
    I’d rather know their clear personal bias and enjoy the spectacle of declaring they deliver balance and objectivity to their work.
    Silence only serves secrets.

  16. Des Deskperson says:

    The ABC has a policy on the use of social media by staff and it can be found here:

    https://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/1303_abcsmp.pdf

    The policy sets four standards:

    1. Do not mix the professional and the personal in ways likely to bring the ABC into disrepute.
    2. Do not undermine your effectiveness at work.
    3. Do not imply ABC endorsement of your personal views.
    4. Do not disclose confidential information obtained through work.

    Standard #1 would already seem to cover any well known and easily identifiable ABC ‘star’ who whose comments on social media undermine the public’s faith in the ABC’s statuary responsibility to be unbiased and apolitical. Surely such comments ‘bring the ABC into disrepute’.

    So why aren’t standards and powers that already exist being used?

  17. Entropy says:

    Truth—in-Footnotes says:
    June 7, 2021 at 7:11 pm
    I’m willing to be corrected if mistaken, but didn’t certain “journalists” at the ABC hound a certain, deeply Christian rugby player out of his job, for comments made on his personal social media account(s)?

    Pot. Kettle. Black?

    Well, yes indeed. And furthermore, on the very same day that Anderson was making those comments to the very worthy senators, one English cricketer by the name of Ollie Robinson was told to pack his bags and go home over tweets he made as a teenager back in 2012!

    It’s different when they do it.

  18. Entropy says:

    Personally though, I reckon they should tweet away as soon as a thought enters their heads. It is the best way I know to bring about the end of TheirABC as soon as possible.

  19. Old Lefty says:

    While other media outlets have copped fines for breaching the suppression orders in the Pell case, the Twitter account of a certain ABC ‘journalist’ and Siad journalist’s publishers at a certain ‘university’ press were allowed to get away with blue murder in breaching the ordinary rules of sub judice contempt. I wonder why?

  20. Entropy says:

    Why?it’s different when they do it.

  21. Cassie of Sydney says:

    The ABC has never issued a public apology to Cardinal Pell.

  22. candy says:

    Seems to me Louise Milligan rules the ABC.

    They seem to love her and the ABC supporters do too. She goes after the people they hate – white, male, Christian, LNP types, a mixture of those characteristics at any rate.

    They truly love her for that.

  23. Aussieute says:

    If @ABCAustralia staff and Victorian Bureaucrats want to be an opinionated columnist, or a partisan political campaigner or political troll on social media then that is a perfectly valid choice they can make, but they should not be working at the @ABCAustralia or as a public servant.

    Standards in both areas are in the sewer, and NO ONE will hold them to account.
    “Drain the swamp” comes to mind

  24. Primer says:

    Well, there is the Israel Folau standard applied by a howling ABC to its enemies.
    Real power is being able to decide who and who not to ‘prosecute’ for the same crime.

  25. Damon says:

    When I grew up, the ABC was the gold standard for English. Now, they don’t even speak (write) it properly. Get rid of it.

  26. Des Deskperson says:

    I would also add that ABC employees, and in particular ‘stars’, who parade their political biases on social media would also be, prima facie, in breach of Standard 2:

    Do not undermine your effectiveness at work.

    since their effectiveness is clearly depended on perceptions that their gathering and presentation of news and information is ‘accurate and impartial’ (section 8 (1)(c) of the ABC Act 1983).

    Anderson has all the powers he needs to pull them into line.

  27. Dunnybrush says:

    Nice to see mediawatch backing up ABC. FMD. I really should stick to my promise of not watching the ABC.

  28. gowest says:

    Lets face it the ABC will never change and the govt is powerless to do anything about it. The only way to resolve the situation is for the govt to create competition.. How about funding Sky NEWS, kids etc etc – TV, radio, podcasts, kids programs and everything else the ABC does, but focused on common sense, pro Australia… Take all the money they use to write useless ads and use it effectively on free to air.

  29. Rayvic says:

    It is sad to see the once-respectable ABC sink into gutter broadcasting!

  30. Entropy says:

    Gowest, that is just looting the taxpayer for even more money for in the end, little effect.
    Nah, redirect the money currently on the ABC for Some Worthy Cause, and stop funding them. At all.
    I don’t know, disabled children. A major hospital or school every year. Puppies. Or Koalas. Whatever it is has to seem more noble than these lowlife journalists see themselves.

  31. Texas Jack says:

    These laughable suggestions of how to reform the ABC are about as viable as chocolate teapots.

    Short of lobotomising the staff and implanting impartiality chips there is no active control that management can impose that has a snowflakes chance of suppressing political bias, and the staff know it. The charter, the management layers, they’ve all failed, and they’re going to keep failing. The imposition of “guidelines” would be gamed the moment they’re imposed and we should expect them to be gamed. The staff will simply flaunt more useless measures, adding them to the existing props used to imply trustworthiness.

    The bottom line? The only reform worth talking about is defunding.

  32. Clam Chowdah says:

    I agree with Texas Jack. If the PM defunded the ABC by 20%, under any pretext but where everyone knew it was payback, it would eventually lead to reforms. Show some steel you soft cocks.

  33. cuckoo says:

    Management at the ABC need to make it clear that they will not tolerate partisan employees.

    Gonna be pretty empty at the ABC staff canteen.

  34. Andre Lewis says:

    The public service does indeed act on employees making public utterances they disapprove of. Some years ago working for a Commonwealth funded independent agency I wrote a letter to the editor of a professional periodical critiquing the views of an academic who earlier wrote an article directly attacking the policy work my team was involved in. It was robust but not defamatory and under my name not position or agency. Once published the CEO was on the phone and I was within a whisker of clearing my desk. I still continued to use the letter pages but cleared my thoughts with the CEO first. I cannot see the difference to ABC ‘journalists’ getting a “please explain” from the boss when misusing social media.

  35. John A says:

    When somebody has a personal social media account the ABC is not responsible for the material they publish.

    As others have already commented, this actually means the rules used against their enemies don’t apply to them.

  36. Mango Man says:

    The internal politics of the ABC are now as they have ever been: Byzantine. However the banality of the current powerbrokers is by far their most obvious feature. There are the union reps (notably the literally monikered ‘bicycle thief’) and there are the star talents (Sales, Milligan, Tingle etc) and then there are the bureaucrats. Editorially, Morris is the boss and he inevitably is sandwiched on issues like the supposed QAnon yarn. The giveaway in that case was the finger prints of Mark Maley, whose talents like in dinner party posturing, and John Lyons – a man who rose without trace to senior jobs at Fairfax and News and the ABC. My guess is that Maley and Lyons both contributed to making what was an unremarkable decision by Anderson into the notional political intervention. It is the banality that will kill the ABC in the end.

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