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Jon Faine’s not sorry: ABC standards slap sparks internal debate

Melbourne ABC radio host Jon Faine is in hot water for a “lapse of standards” in two interviews. Should the ABC have stood by him — or reprimanded him?

The Age’s editor-at-large Mark Baker says ABC broadcaster Jon Faine doesn’t owe him an apology for a feisty interview that the ABC’s complaints department has found to be biased and overly argumentative.

The ABC 774 Mornings host is ropeable the ABC has reprimanded him for back-to-back interviews conducted with Baker and ex-2UE host Michael Smith last year about the Australian Workers Union slush fund affair. The ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs agency issued an apology on Wednesday and described the interviews (which can be heard here) as a “lapse in standards”.

Faine, who addressed the issue on air this morning, told Crikey: “I’m not happy with the result and I’m asking for it to be taken further.”

Baker, who has led his paper’s coverage of the AWU story, told Crikey: “I don’t have a quarrel with his interview.

I think it’s a storm in a teacup. He was pretty aggressive in the interview with me but I wasn’t fazed by that. It was no big deal.”

Baker added: “I thought he was a bit silly with the way he handled the interview with Michael. He gave the impression he had a closed mind on the subject which surprised me because he’s usually a tough and even-handed interviewer. I don’t believe I need an apology.”

In the interviews, conducted at the height of the AWU slush fund story last November, Faine made clear he believes the 17-year old saga is a non-story. The ex-lawyer’s interview with Smith, who lost his job with 2UE for attempting to pursue the story, was particularly prickly. At one point he told Smith: “You’d better give it your best shot; we’re not going to spend hours on this … This either has to go away or it’s got to stack up and so far it’s a house of cards.”

The ABC Code of Practice instructs: “Gather and present news and information with due impartiality.”

Smith believes Faine overstepped the line and should apologise on air: “He oversimplified the issue by restating his opinion the PM did nothing wrong. He was hectoring. He didn’t have me on to hear what I had to say; he had me on to act as a lightening rod to his own commentary. In certain mediums that’s all grist to the mill but the ABC is taxpayer funded.”

Former ABC Sydney Mornings host Deborah Cameron says Faine’s listeners are familiar with his adversarial approach to interviews.

You can’t have robots on the radio; no one would listen,” Cameron, who was regularly accused of left-wing bias by conservative commentators, told Crikey. “The audience understands the way to spice things up is often to ask a provocative question. Jon’s duty is to have a show that’s lively and interesting. I’m sure his listeners were riveted by the conversation.”

Cameron did not hear the original interview, but said: “Jon’s the most experienced ABC mornings presenter going around. People who listen to him regularly know his style.”

7.30 political editor Chris Uhlmann has described the ABC’s finding as “absurd” and called on Aunty management to defend Faine. Uhlmann posted on Twitter yesterday : “Jon challenged two journalists to defend claims that the Prime Minister acted improperly in her former career as a lawyer.  Jon believes that, based on the publicly available evidence, the Prime Minister did no wrong. To date, the facts support that view.”

The ABC issued an apology to opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison last year after economics reporter Stephen Long accused him of pandering to racist attitudes towards asylum seekers.

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  • 1
    drmick
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Apologising for the truth; it definitely is their abc now. What a disgrace. Since when has national broadcaster been an arm of news ltd? If the abc doesn’t tell the truth there is no one else who will; and face facts, the majority of people who listen to the abc do so to avoid the other 75% of “press” from the same fib factory.

  • 2
    GF50
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    drmick
    Words out of my mouth +++

  • 3
    Will
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    So essentially he said put up or shut up and got censured. Absolutely appalling. But it does put the lie to the bias complaint you hear about the ABC. They have the most robust complaint system imaginable.

    @drmick

    Yep.

    ABC’s jaw was glassified by the ongoing attempt by the conservative movement and News Ltd to work the refs over the past four decades and the infiltration of the organisation by the same forces at a board level.

  • 4
    klewso
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Smith would know where “that line” was to step over?

    He didn’t like being treated the way he reckons he has every Right to treat others - this bloke Faine worked for the “Leftist ABC”.
    Imagine if all our viewsmedia told the same sort of “Limited News troof” - but that seems to be what they’re working on.

  • 5
    Jackon Taylor
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I’ve written to the ABC to complain about the absurd apology. Smith was challenged to provide evidence of his claims and failed to do so. The charges remain unproven.

    To ask journalists to report what every muppet (ie, Smith) says uncritically is absurd. Faine was doing his job well.

  • 6
    philipb20
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    drmick is right on the money. Disgraceful.

  • 7
    Aphra
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Any long term listener to Faine could tell you that he’s equally ‘aggressive’ or expert at playing devil’s advocate irrespective of which side of politics is being questioned. I often disagree with him but to complain that he’s biassed is arrant nonsense. Faine is as good as it gets in Melbourne radio, which on the whole, is pretty ordinary. For starters, he’s not ego-driven.

    I hope that he’s around for the rest of the year,or until after September 14, at least.

  • 8
    paddy
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    It will be interesting to see if this sorry mess gets a guernsey in the first Mediawatch of 2013 on Monday night.

  • 9
    AR
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Just tooooo sickening…

  • 10
    zut alors
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Ditto to DrMick.

    Had the interviewee been Pol Pot I expect Faine would still be in trouble for taking the tough approach. There seems to be increasingly less reason to tune to ABC these days: Mark Scott is gradually watering it down to a tasteless, colourless, eventually pointless offering.

  • 11
    Pedantic, Balwyn
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Jon Faine was doing his job vigorously,competently and fairly.He asked the journalists to put up or shut up, they couldn’t or wouldn’t and he gets an in-house broadside!

    The right-wing at the ABC (News)hate anyone that fails to support their cause however misguided or however factually inaccurate it may be. They have won again.

    But the rest of us know that Faine hands it out to the left or right equally when or where appropriate. Keep up the good work Jon.

  • 12
    Microseris
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    I’m with the Doc. I heard the interviews and Smith is an absolute loony. The conservatives have already got the ABC jumping at shadows to the possible perception of bias and I wonder what will be left if rabbot wins the election.

  • 13
    CML
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    I live in Adelaide, but visit my daughter and family in Melbourne regularly. One of the joys of those visits is listening to the BEST morning radio presenter in this country. HANDS OFF JON FAINE, ABC!
    And as for the ABC News department - they could try getting it right occasionally, instead of pandering to Tony the rAbbott and his mates. The ABC coverage of the Craig Thomson affair yesterday was appalling. Long after his lawyer had told ABC News24 that Thomson WAS NOT asked to present himself in Melbourne on the 21st of December last, to be “arrested”, but only invited to be questioned, both ABC radio and TV where parrotting the first option. Disgraceful.

  • 14
    Electric Lardyland
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Oh groan. The ABC sees fit to issue an apology, because Jon Faine wasn’t convinced, by the conspiracy theories of a far right ex-shock jock. As far as I know, there’s no journalistic rule, that states that you have to treat idiotic ramblings with respect. In fact, I think the point of good journalism, is to challenge people like Michael Smith.
    And before issuing gormless apologies, maybe the responsible people at the ABC, should tune in to, say, 2GB and listen to how their ranting shock jocks, treat the occasional rational person, who tries to get an alternative point across.
    It seems that the ABC is still suffering from the Howard government’s board stacking.

  • 15
    fiona
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    This is outrageous on the part of the ABC.

    Jon Faine is a fine and fearless interviewer of people of all stripes. I miss him dreadfully when I’m away from Melbourne.

  • 16
    Serenatopia
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Jon Faine — -I would not accept the reprimand — -I would challenge it and there are ways you can do this…Ask me…I am the ATO Whistleblower…

    While, I don’t agree with some your views and I find you irritating as hell, I will stand up for your right to run your show the way you like…You are a renowned journalist of many years standing and it is appalling that the ABC has issued you a reprimand…Has the ABC followed the appropriate Code of Conduct standards in arriving at their decision to reprimand?

    We all have bias and if yours is Labor bias so be it…the rest of us have to have enough balls, brains or bluff to call you out!

    Take them on mate…and give me a call if you want some help!

  • 17
    Mike Flanagan
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    To me this is further evidence of the incompetence of Mark Scott as manager of the ABC.
    Mark Scott is a left over of the Howrd Government’s attempt to strangle free speech and objective analysis of currnet affairs that the ABC have been the sole providers of for the past umpteen years.
    Mark Scott has established a management regimew of dictatorial dimensions that survives on fear of repercussions at the editorial desks.
    He, in retrospect, can only be considered a failure at his previous task at the Fairfax group and is still able to continues his destructive campaign at OUR ABC.
    While I applaud the recent appointment of Jim Spigelman as Chairmand of the board the entrenched dichotomy between mangement and the board facilitates Mark Scott’s meglamanic destruction of one the finest news outlets and public services in the english speaking world.
    Hands of John Faine and the getting rid of Mark Scctt might engender the respect and love that most of the nation had for our ABC.

  • 18
    Aphra
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    That’s why Faine’s so good, Serenatopia. You say that he has a Labor bias, yet my neighbour won’t tune in to 774 because ‘Faine’s blatantly anti-Labor.’

  • 19
    dazza
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Is it true, ABC has been taken over by IPA?

  • 20
    Patriot
    Posted Friday, 1 February 2013 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    If Faine can’t accept the standards of his employer he should do the honourable thing and seek employment elsewhere.

  • 21
    Woody
    Posted Saturday, 2 February 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Send Faine to Adelaide! “Local” ABC radio is a shambles here with two Morning hosts who write for News Ltd on the side! One is constantly making clangers and couldn’t interview someone to save his life whilst the other even went as far as to write his weekly column on air with the help of listeners’ calls. Nice use of ABC airtime, composing a News Ltd column……

  • 22
    Spike
    Posted Monday, 4 February 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Jn Faine: a socialist, lefty ‘pinko’! Able to orchestrate, interrupt, talkover/down to his heart’s content. He’s ensconced in a safe job; employed by the largest, most politically correct socialist media behemoth in Australia :ABC. Ever listen to him interviewing a Liberal Party politician? Compare then to his pandering, brownnosing, leading into the ‘right’ answer for plaudits, modusoperandi: interviewing Labour lights…..

  • 23
    okramesh
    Posted Monday, 4 February 2013 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    hey spike ! would you be mrs. patriot by any chance ? if not, you should be.

  • 24
    klewso
    Posted Tuesday, 5 February 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    When’s “Sandstone” going to be “called” like Faine, for her overt politics.

  • 25
    Cuppa
    Posted Thursday, 7 February 2013 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Their ABC news has been given a $10 million boost by the federal government.

    Which will translate into $9 million worth of more pro-Liberal spin.

  • 26
    Spike
    Posted Thursday, 7 February 2013 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    okramesh: What the?..Disagree? That’s fine. Is this the best you can offer?..C’mon bloke/shiela! ..Extend that cerebral cortex!.. At least TRY offering a formulated, debate construct!…Are you Mrs Non Event? If not, should Be!..,C’mon, have a bloody crack!.. What are ya?…

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