ABC journalists have been warned to make sure “all perspectives are given a fair hearing” when reporting on the same-sex marriage debate.
In an email from news editorial policy manager Mark Maley this morning, staff in the news division were told it was “very important that we are impartial”.
“Please remember that approximately 40% of the population opposes the change and more importantly that the ABC does not have a position on the issue,” Maley wrote.
He said some people would “inevitably be offended” on both sides of the debate. “That cannot be avoided and we should not censor any debate conducted in good faith,” he said.
The email also said staff should be careful with sharing opinions on the issue on social media:
“In this charged environment I would also urge everyone to be circumspect on social media — advocating for one side or the other will make it more difficult for the ABC to be seen as impartial. The more high-profile you are the more important discretion is,” he said.
The ABC said in a statement the email was not prompted by a particular incident or person, but was a regular reminder of the ABC’s editorial policies.
“The ABC will be covering the same sex marriage debate the same way we cover all stories: with accuracy, impartiality and a diversity of perspectives. We are committed to allowing all reasonable voices to have a fair say. If the federal government wants the people of Australia to make a choice, we have a responsibility to allow each respectful point of view to be considered.”
The statement said the social media policy was consistent with other professional and media policies, and “essentially urges staff to be aware of the risks of behaving on social media in ways which might undermine their ABC role”.
Lateline presenter Emma Alberici caused a stir earlier in the week when she interviewed Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, telling him of her daughter’s teenage friend who’d been kicked out of home when he came out as gay to his family.
“Now, whilst you and your colleagues are bickering in your party room, aren’t you concerned about the message you send to young, vulnerable gay and lesbian Australians that they don’t deserve the same treatment as other Australians?” she asked.