Misha Ketchell writes:

If you need proof that current affairs radio is a cut-throat game, look no further than the brouhaha that’s erupted over an ill-judged remark by ABC Radio’s AM presenter Tony Eastley. In an interview with Amanda Vanstone yesterday morning Eastley, a veteran of 25 years in broadcasting, made a flippant remark about Vivian Alvarez Solon, the Australian citizen who had been wrongly deported.

We’d like to be able to quote the remark but we can’t – it has been removed from the ABC’s transcript of the interview. According to Fleur Leyden in The Agethis morning, “while attempting to establish how the seriously injured Ms Alvarez Solon, an Australian citizen, came to be deported to the Philippines, Eastley came out with the throwaway line that Government officials dropped her off in the country – perhaps from a moving car.” Senator Vanstone took umbrage at this remark, describing his comments as “extraordinary” and “indicative of an attitude” at the ABC. Eastley apologised at the end of the program and later in the day his boss, Greg Wilesmith, removed the remarks from the ABC website’s transcript of the interview – to correct what he described as “an error of fact” introduced by Eastley.

Yesterday afternoon Wilesmith told Virginia Trioli’s on Victorian ABC radio that Eastley was “mortified” by his comment and the correction had been necessary to set the record straight. But, asked Trioli, why it was necessary to remove the original comment rather than just putting a note at the end of the transcript acknowledging, and correcting the error?

Tony Eastley told Crikey today: “I do a lot of live work and this was the first slip up I’ve made in 25 years at the ABC. I recognise that it was an inappropriate comment. I have got nothing to say about removing the interview from the AM transcript. What goes out on the net is the best possible version of that morning’s AM. Just like a newspaper updates its early editions, so does AM.”

CRIKEY: Trioli makes a very valid point. After all, when politicians make mistakes during radio or TV interviews they’re not afforded a similar opportunity to rewrite history – in fact, the words of politicians are regurgitated over and over again with relish.

A media organisation with a commitment to the truth works hard to correct errors – but that’s very different from erasing the transcript of a live radio comment from the record.

And by erasing the comments from the transcript, the ABC has opened itself even further to its critics in the government and elsewhere who point to its bias on every available opportunity.