Feb 28, 2018

The ABC didn’t always treat its reporters like this

Not so long ago, the ABC would defend controversial reportage by its reporters.

Charlie Lewis — Journalist

Charlie Lewis


Then ABC general manager Russell Balding fronts senate estimates in 2002.

The fall out from ABC economics correspondent Emma Alberici’s piece on the logic of tax cuts for big business — removed from the ABC website after complaints from Coalition politicians, subject to attack pieces in The Australian and the Australian Financial Review and eventually returned to public view in an amputated form — has certainly let ABC journos know where they stand.

During a train wreck performance at Senate Estimates last night, Managing Director Michelle Guthrie — who denied Alberici had been “hung out to dry” — was asked whether Alberici still had her full confidence, and Guthrie’s spoke volumes: “Emma Alberici will remain our chief economics correspondent”. 

Of course, this isn’t the first time the ABC has come under attack along partisan lines — AM‘s reporting of the Iraq war in 2003 attracted an amazing 68 complaints from then Communications Minister Richard Alston (some of which were a touch, how shall we put this, pernickity?) and resulted in the network being threatened with the imposition of an “independent censor”.

The response? Then director of news and current affairs at the ABC Max Uechtritz wrote an op ed in Fairfax defending the ABC’s work and the role of sceptical journalism in a time of war, while then managing director Russell Balding, while acknowledging “coverage of a war by a high profile current affairs program such as AM, in a contested and difficult environment, is not a simple matter”, stood “vigorously” by his journalists and how they reported the war. Then ABC chair Donald McDonald, who was initially criticised as too close to John Howard after the latter appointed him to the role, also stood by the broadcaster and refused to allow it to be bullied, costing him some conservative friendships. What Alberici would have given for similar support.


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6 thoughts on “The ABC didn’t always treat its reporters like this

  1. Jack Robertson

    Boy does ABC journalism need Max now…

  2. klewso

    Imagine the ABC breaking “Jethrodip”?

  3. graybul

    The ABC is all but lost . . . and Australian democracy adrift! From Howard forward, a relentless erosion can now be measured to where even senior bureaucrats no longer see a need for pretence. They simply ‘refuse to account’ to parliament and Australian people.

    But worst of all . . . we the people, university students, unions, tradespeople and small business men and women barely motivated to even observe the drift; much less engage, defend . . . .

    1. leon knight

      Have some faith that Labor will repair this damage to our ABC in particular, and our democracy in general, soon enough.
      Hopefully the current anti-democratic rabble will not get another go for decades.

      1. AR

        I lurve the thought of “standing vigorously” and am trying to picture this posture – would that be supine, prone or a foetal ball with hands protecting vitals (assuming that any are possessed)?

        1. Itsarort

          Bill Lawry’s famous malapropism, “calm as a cucumber” comes to mind.

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