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TV & Radio

Aug 10, 2017

ABC staff warned to be 'impartial' in marriage equality debate

The ABC has issued a directive to its news division to remain impartial in the marriage equality debate and give both sides an equal hearing.

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.

Alberici has retweeted a handful of tweets of support for the boy she mentioned in the interview, and from people who shared similar stories.

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16 comments

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16 thoughts on “ABC staff warned to be ‘impartial’ in marriage equality debate

  1. DanBIllin

    I get confused over the term “reasonable” when one side of the argument is advocating for the denial of the basic rights of others. Doesn’t sound too goddamn “reasonable” to me, so maybe we shouldn’t hear from that side at all.

  2. shea mcduff

    Who decides “impartial”?

  3. Charlie Chaplin

    Oh dear. Down the rabbit hole of false balance goes Aunty, yet again. It’s a well known fact the majority of the Australian voting public support same sex marriage and have for quite a few years now, the ABC is the public broadcaster, but it mustn’t report this fact. It’s the NBN, all over again. Poor, cowardly, old Aunty.

    1. Stephen

      The NBN? The other day I saw Virginia Trioli shut down someone who wanted to discuss why Turnbull committed to redundant FTTN technology. As if blowing $75 billion of our taxes, not to mention the billions more it will cost to fix this mess, was something ABC journalists should never discuss.

  4. Marjorie Carless

    I understand the need to act impartial whilst at work but to carry that over into their personal lives then that is censorship, a blow to freedom of speech and this is just the beginning, it will get worse for everybody, the viciousness and nastiness will become clear. Turnbull has opened Pandora’s box and who knows what will fly out of it.

  5. Stephen

    So if ABC staff must be ‘impartial’ on matters of homophobia, does that mean that they must also be impartial on matters of racism and sexism?

  6. Barbara Haan

    Pathetic Mark Maley. What hole did you crawl out of. Talk about political correctness gone mad.

  7. zut alors

    During the few forays I’ve made to commercial TV stations, the hosts appear obviously biased toward marriage equality & opposed to a plebiscite/survey.

    This is the same foolhardy rule which applies to the anti-global warming debate ie: the ABC is supposed to give equal time to deniers despite the fact that over 96% of scientists state it is happening.

    1. 124C4U

      Holey sox!
      Suppose Auntie gives someone from the Muslim Lobby equal time.
      That would almost guarantee that the NO vote would not get up.
      The Libs would be ecstatic and the ABC might get some funding restored.
      Could be method in the madness.

      1. Richard Laslett

        Actually the Moslems are in favour of the yes campaign

        1. 124C4U

          Are you sure? The Koran is as much against any form of homosexuality as the bible.
          I don’t know for sure but I had the impression that homosexuality was anathema to Muslims.

  8. Bill Hilliger

    ABC staff warned to be ‘impartial’ in marriage equality debate. Hmm… waiting to see a similar warning on Rupert Murdoch NewsCrap Sky Noose. Somehow I don’t think so. The haters will be writ large.

  9. AR

    This is the eternal problem with the public broadcaster (BBC cops it too) because often the only sides of a contentious issue are those flat out lying and those trying make true points.
    NBN, AGW, WMD, GFC, and that is just the alphabet soup topics that spring to mind which demonstrate that there is often no good opposing argument and to give equal time/exposure is ludicrous.

  10. Wallywonga

    It is interesting that despite all the ABC bashing by commentators like Bolt, Latham and Co, it is holding its own, with the most credible news and current affairs shows like Insiders, Four Corners have ratings that they would die for. Please ABC stop being apologists to the fake news fraternity; surely Maley, provided you have the evidence to back any story, then that is what you should go with? Thats called news!

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