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Scott v Mitchell: the ABC debate that never happened

ABC boss Mark Scott was happy to debate The Australian’s editor Chris Mitchell, but scheduling conflicts got in the way. Will the epic media bout ever take place?

ABC boss Mark Scott and The Australian’s editorial dictator Chris Mitchell have been battling it out for years — the managing director through his public statements, Mitchell through the paper of which he’s editor-in-chief. But so far, they’ve never publicly slogged it out in the same room.

On Tuesday, Scott gave a keynote speech in Melbourne about the state of Australian media. The Centre for Advancing Journalism’s Margaret Simons had originally envisioned the event as a debate between the two heavyweights, one that Mitchell turned down.

She said as much on the night, and yesterday, the ABC’s head of corporate affairs Michael Millett baited News Corp on the matter, responding to Fairfax journalist Mike Carlton by asking whether Mitchell had ever publicly defended the Oz. “Melbourne Uni asked him to debate Mark [Scott] on Tuesday but he squibbed it,” Millet wrote on Twitter. “Guess he prefers probing interviews from his own reporters.”

Crikey asked Millett if he had anything more to say on the matter. He referred us to Simons, who said the event was conceived as a debate between Scott and his critics at The Australian, moderated by former Age editor (now research fellow at the centre) Michael Gawenda. The centre invited Mitchell, News Corp chief executive Julian Clarke, veteran Oz political writer Paul Kelly and former CEO Kim Williams along. Three declined, and Kelly did not respond.

The centre, under both my leadership and that of Michael Gawenda, has invited Chris Mitchell to appear a number of times, including to give the AN Smith [Lecture],” Simons told Crikey. “He has not agreed to do so.”

Mitchell told Crikey that due to the rollout of the Methode publishing system across The Australian, he wasn’t able to go. He says he made a counter-proposal for a debate in Sydney, which wasn’t good for the University of Melbourne’s Simons.

Mitchell didn’t appreciate Millett’s suggestion that he had “squibbed it”, saying: “I also feel it is presumptuous of a third-rater like Millett to suggest I need to defend the Oz.

The Oz is the only media organisation that belled the cat on Rudd in 2008 … and as should be clear from the speeches by Martin Parkinson and Glenn Stevens this week was one of the few to call correctly the Labor government’s recklessness on its spending blowouts.

The people who should be explaining their coverage include Crikey, the ABC and Fairfax, all of which were blinded by their own ideologies to the two worst PMs we have seen in nearly 40 years. Some still regard Gillard fondly, unlike Labor’s own frontbench, which views the entire six years with horror.”

In 2012, the AN Smith lecture was given by Williams, who was then CEO of News Limited. Simons says it was a good event, and she’s keen to get News Corp executives along to future events at the university.

So can anything bring these two men together? Mitchell isn’t opposed to the idea of a debate. Crikey is happy to host, gentlemen …

10
  • 1
    DiddyWrote
    Posted Friday, 4 April 2014 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for Mitchell to go Mano a Mano with Scott, it ain’t his style.
    He much prefers to attack from the safety of his editorial where there is no chance of anybody returning fire. Even if you did get a letter published in response it would most likely be abridged.
    He can of course rely on his stable of lawyers who will happily send out Letters of Demand to anyone who has the temerity to say something that Mitchell perceives as defamation. Charming behaviour from a so called defender of free speech.
    Finally Mitchell’s favourite target is to attack someone who is safely dead and therefore quite unable to defend their reputation, as he bravely did with Manning Clark.

  • 2
    Popeye
    Posted Friday, 4 April 2014 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    The ‘two worst PMs we have seen in nearly 40 years, according to Mitchell. It sounds like he really believes his own BS.

  • 3
    leon knight
    Posted Friday, 4 April 2014 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Fortunately I have never read any of Mitchell’s work (if I have, it was not of a standard that caused it to stick in my memory), but the excerpts above are more than enough to suffice for the rest of my life.
    How can old man like Rupert have so many orifices of the fundament excreting his crap in so many countries at once?
    If I was Scott I would not give this yokel another chance, and it would have been a waste of his breath in any case.

  • 4
    Electric Lardyland
    Posted Friday, 4 April 2014 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    Some still regard Gillard fondly, unlike Labor’s own frontbench, which views the entire six years with horror.”
    I see, so as well as being one of the many spokesmen for the Murdochs, Chris Mitchell is now also a spokesperson for the entire Labor frontbench!? No wonder he is coming across as increasingly barking.

  • 5
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Friday, 4 April 2014 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Hope the Government cuts the ABC to the bone in the budget, and they rebuild impartially from the ground up. We deserve an unbiased, 100% funded National Broadcaster. Also Land Tax is a STATE tax, not Federal tax

  • 6
    Guy Francis
    Posted Friday, 4 April 2014 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    it’s hard to take seriously a writer who uses the term ‘dictator’ in the article,it smacks of personal bias and surely we have had enough of opinion over basic facts in the last 10yrs,could we please just get back to using sheer fact as an argument without flaming an issue with the usual inflammatory words that we have sadly become all too accustomed in parliamentary speeches lately

  • 7
    Jeremy Williams
    Posted Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Mitchell views Rudd as one of the worst PMs in 40 years yet his paper voted him as Australian of the year ??

  • 8
    Liamj
    Posted Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    A Murdocrat give up their bully pulpit? Never happen, just like Abbott runs from the ABC and the IPA only front up in advertorial monologues or in panels where they can shout over the top.

  • 9
    Will
    Posted Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    The pretence that the Oz is some kind of genuine commercial news operation that gets to critique Fairfax however flabby its coverage is hilarious. It’s a fricken vanity paper for a moribund billionaire tyrant that makes no money and would be even deeper in the hole than it is without decades of APS advertising subsidies. Mitchell is a corpulant sychophantic bully who fancies himself a tough intectual. Give me a break. It is far past the point that media types stopped giving credence to what is a petty and illegitimate propaganda rag.

  • 10
    CML
    Posted Monday, 7 April 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Right on, Will! And I am fed up to the back teeth with ABC programs like The Drum, holding up copies of The Australian’s front page like it was some kind of bible for the masses.
    Nothing could be further from the truth!!!!

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