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Pages tagged "General Media Issues"

It's time to kill the myth of balance

During the referendum campaign, and since the overwhelming No vote, a chorus of respected journalists and media academics have declared that the Australian mass media, very much including the ABC, failed in their duty to the Australian public by slavishly adhering to the concept of ‘balance’, and by not calling out misinformation as and when they reported it. This is not the usual claim of bias by the Murdoch media or the No campaign: most of these critics clearly supported Yes. Among them, Mark Kenny, of the Canberra Times and the ANU’s Australian Studies Institute; Chris Warren, former Secretary of the Media Alliance, now at Crikey; Denis Muller of the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Advancing Journalism, in The Conversation; Nikki Savva in a recent column in the Nine newspapers; and the ABC’s staff-elected Board director, and 7.30’s chief political correspondent, Laura Tingle. [Some links may be paywalled]

ABC Alumni does not agree that the ABC’s journalists made a bad job of an all-but impossible task: reporting fairly on both sides of the Referendum debate, while simultaneously distinguishing between information, genuine opinion and outright misinformation. And the Share of Voice count, which the ABC has used for decades in elections, is a useful tool for assessing, and if necessary demonstrating, that the ABC’s coverage has been fair.

But as ABC Alumni Board director and former ABC Editorial Director ALAN SUNDERLAND points out in this article, Voice Tracker is a tool, and ‘balance’ is a concept, that can be misused, misunderstood, or simply abused.

A version of this article first appeared in the Nine Newspapers on Friday October 30.

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No Easy Victory

by Jonathan Holmes

Nine Entertainment, Chris Masters, Nick McKenzie and David Wroe won a famous victory [appeal pending, see below] in the ‘defamation trial of the century’ against Ben Roberts-Smith, VC. Now Masters and McKenzie have each written books about the Flawed Hero who Crossed the Line between lawful and unlawful killing in war.   

ABC ALUMNI chair Jonathan Holmes reviews the books, and reflects on the lessons they have to teach us about investigative journalism, truth-telling, and the cost of a crucial victory.

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Media Regulation: It's a Mess and We Have to Fix It

The controversial ACMA finding on the Four Corners two-part program, ‘Fox and the Big Lie’, has again highlighted the shortcomings of the media standards regulation processes in Australia. But what to do about it? Alumni director Alan Sunderland has spent several years considering this issue. Here’s his view.

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ACMA wrong on Four Corners' Fox program

The recent ACMA ruling on ABC Four Corners’ two-part program ‘Fox and the Big Lie’ sets a dangerous precedent, says ABC Alumni chair Jonathan Holmes. In a letter to ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin, Mr Holmes strongly argues that, in view of the judgments it has made in investigating the program, the ACMA cannot be taken seriously as an arbiter of journalistic practice. You can read the Alumni letter here. 

Muzzling Mulligan

Last week, the ACT’s Director of Public Prosecutions announced that there would be no retrial of Bruce Lehrmann, because it would pose a “significant and unacceptable risk to the life of the complainant”, Brittany Higgins.

It’s a classic example of the dilemma that confronts our courts in the trial of alleged sexual offenders. The accused is entitled to the presumption of innocence, until proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt. He or she is also entitled to decline to give evidence – the “right to silence”. However, to plant a reasonable doubt in the minds of a jury, defence counsel will inevitably attempt to discredit the evidence of the complainant, who is usually the only other witness to the alleged offence. The result is too often a gruelling cross-examination that can retraumatise already vulnerable people, whether or not they avail themselves of the right to remain anonymous.

That is the issue with which Louise Milligan grapples in her 2020 book, Witness. It was the issue about which she was invited to speak to the Women Lawyers Association of the ACT at their gala dinner on 21 October this year. It is a matter of obvious public interest. But Milligan has now found herself under attack, not only in The Australian and on Sky News, but in the Commonwealth parliament, for things she did not say and does not believe.

This is News Corporation’s version of “cancel culture”, argues Jonathan Holmes – a phenomenon it has so often condemned.

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The Ten Rules of Reporting

Few people are as well qualified to give practical advice about journalistic practice as former ABC Editorial Director, and now Alumni Board member, Alan Sunderland. We asked author and Professor of Communications Matthew Ricketson to review Alan’s new book The Ten Rules of Reporting: Journalism for the Community (Simon & Schuster, 2022).

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Pressing for Freedom

More than three years ago, on 5 June 2019, the federal police raided the Canberra home of News Corp reporter Annika Smethurst, and the following day, the head office of the ABC in Ultimo, Sydney. There followed an outcry about press freedom in Australia. Newspapers blacked their pages. Two separate parliamentary inquiries were constituted. And since then, absolutely nothing has changed. Australia may still be, in the words of The New York Times, ‘the world’s most secretive democracy’.

Will the new government, and especially Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC, have the political will to push through the changes that Labor and the Greens, and many coalition backbenchers too, have already agreed are needed?

Already, he has discontinued the prosecution of lawyer Bernard Collaery. But as ABC Alumni Chair Jonathan Holmes writes in an open letter to Mark Dreyfus, there is much, much more to be done.

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Is the ABC abusing our privacy through tracking?

In recent weeks, controversy has ramped up over the ABC’s new iview policy requiring audiences to register compulsory log-in accounts. Critics say that this will allow audience data to be shared without consent to third parties such as Facebook and Google, and to others you may never have heard of. The Alumni’s technical expert Peter Marks shares some but not all of the critics’ concerns. Here he explains the issues.

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Your ABC vs Their IPA

For almost 90 years the ABC has been at the centre of Australian cultural life, providing a range of much-loved programming and services. It’s our country’s most trusted news source (across all platforms – radio, television and online) and where we turn in times of crisis like bushfires, floods and the current pandemic.

But the ABC is under threat. Budget cuts and massive staff redundancies over the last eight years are well known.

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The Secret State Survives

Almost exactly two years ago, the Australian Federal Police executed a search warrant at the ABC’s headquarters in Ultimo, Sydney. That raid, and the search the day before of News Corp reporter Annika Smethurst’s home, produced an outcry. But what has happened since? Two inquiries, two reports, and precious little else, reports ABC Alumni’s press freedom spokesperson Jonathan Holmes. Australia still suffers from ‘excessive and unnecessary secrecy’.

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