Nov 13, 2012

The Entwistle precedent: just who is responsible at the ABC?

BBC director-general George Entwistle has walked after a story went seriously wrong. Should Mark Scott, "editor-in-chief", do the same if the ABC stuffs up?

Matthew Knott

Former Crikey media reporter

It’s February 2013 and the ABC’s Four Corners is back on air with a story that veritably screeches “gold Walkley”. A prominent federal frontbencher, the program alleges, accepted secret payments from a company competing for a big government contract. The only problem, it turns out, is that the story was based on fraudulent documents concocted by a politically-motivated source.

Should Mark Scott, the ABC’s managing director, resign?

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6 thoughts on “The Entwistle precedent: just who is responsible at the ABC?

  1. mikeb

    The Entwistle example leaves me a bit cold – especially given that he is entitled to a termination payment. How on earth can it be his responsibility to take a fall on a subject he had no input into? Similarly for the ABC (hypothetically). If the MD has to take ultimate responsibility over everything that passes the airwaves (Radio or TV) or internet then that is too much responsibility.

  2. Suzanne Blake

    Lots of people need to go from the ABC, eg Journalists who are spouses or related to State and Federal Politiciacs, compares and panels who are obviously biases.

    The trouble is that leaves around 5% of the on air staff and less backroom staff.

  3. Lwin Sein

    It is totally appropriate that the CEO be accountable for egregious failure of standards in any organisation. And it’s absurd to suggest that journos should set their own standards, independent of management.
    What we need is more accountability from journalists and less, much less, of the interminable pfaff served up from time to time.
    The number of flat, dead pan interviews we see on prime news where very basic factual questions are not asked is truly amazing. It looks very much like the agenda is set by someone’s PR. And speaking of which, how does someone like Sue Cato – a convincingly unpleasant species of PR – get to appear on news commentary like The Drum?

  4. Joel

    Oh look, SB’s got a topic. And with a new analysis from the Department Of Completely Made Up Statistics (DOCMUS)!

  5. Pinklefty

    The way he left, it looked like a principled acceptance of ultimate responsibility for an incident with which he was not directly involved. The Sydney Carton martyrdom exit. Very noble!

    I have to wonder if there may have been something else about to blow up, and in which he may have been unavoidably implicated. A bit like a prominent career politician who suddenly resigns “to spend more time with my family”.

    This warrants some scepticism and further investigation.

  6. Barry Tucker

    Business & advertising managers have been trying to hijack editorial control for decades. In many cases (especially small country newspapers)they have succeeded. Their news value judgement usually is: “If it will hurt advertising revenue we won’t run it.”

    Your article, which is fairly well balanced, does not point out that Mark Scott was Editorial Director of John Fairfax, a background that gives him some qualification for control of news content. He is also a committed Conservative who has been employed as Chief-of-Staff and political adviser for two Education Ministers in NSW LNP State governments.

    In my opinion (46 years broad experience in news & publishing), journalists & senior editors are the best judges of news value.

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