Sam Dastyari

Sam Dastyari’s book publishers say they didn’t approach the ABC to promote the Labor Senator but have refused to detail how they were involved in Monday night’s Australian Story episode.

Dastyari’s appearance on Monday night’s Australian Story on the ABC has attracted criticism from all quarters, with politicians as diverse as Cory Bernardi, Zed Seselja and Peter Whish-Wilson criticising the largely positive profile. Dastyari has been on the publicity trail for his book, One Halal of a Story, which came out on Monday.

While both the ABC and publisher Melbourne University Press (MUP) told Crikey the program’s timing was not part of the publicity campaign, MUP emphasised that the book wasn’t mentioned in the program.

An ABC spokeswoman said the Australian Story team came up with the idea during a meeting after the donation scandal involving Dastyari broke out last year, and his office was approached about appearing on the program.

MUP’s chief executive Louise Adler also says Australian Story came up with the idea for the program separately to the book, but she said the interest in Dastyari as a subject was in his self-funded trip back to Iran.

Crikey has previously reported on the social media promotion for the book, and sponsored posts advertising the book were seen on Facebook news feeds at the time Australian Story aired on Monday night.

Adler responded to questions from Crikey on the condition her responses would be run in full:

1. What was MUP’s involvement in coordinating the program?

MUP was inundated with requests to interview Senator Dastyari in the lead up to the publication of One Halal of a StoryAustralian Story independently decided it was interested in the Senator’s self-funded trip, after a 20-year absence, to a family wedding in Iran. The program also closely questioned the Senator’s involvement in political donations.

2. Was the appearance on Australian Story organised as part of the promotion of Sam Dastyari’s book?

No mention whatsoever was made of the publication of a book on Australian Story. If MUP had sought to promote the book in the program, it was a spectacular fail.

3. Did MUP pay for sponsored social media posts advertising the book to coincide with the screening of this week’s Australian Story on ABC?

Like every publisher in the country MUP has a marketing plan for each title. Our task is to assist our authors to sell their books, our task is not to promote the ABC or its wonderful array of programs.

Peter Fray

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