Saturday, March 15, 2014

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

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

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,

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  Although he did withdrawn his original comments – he did not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

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

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

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? 

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