ABA Criticised over ABC ‘Bias’ Draft Report

The ABA is under fire over a leaked preliminary report of its investigation into former Communications Minister, Richard Alston’s complaints about Gulf War coverage by the ABC’s flagship radio current affairs program, ‘AM’.

The draft report, dated August 2004, runs to 136 pages and has been described by ‘Media Watch’ host, David Marr, as ”…probably the silliest so far”.

Last year, Alston made 68 complaints of bias to the ABC, which the Corporation’s own Complaints’ Review Executive dismissed on all but two counts. Subsequently, the ABC’s Independent Complaints’ Review Panel examined the claims. While it upheld 15 more of his complaints, it cleared AM of the key charge of ‘systemic anti-American or anti-Coalition partisan broadcasting’.

The former Minister then went to the ABA and, almost 12 months later, the Authority has again absolved AM of systemic bias, but – in the draft report – is considering upholding another seven complaints.

”In each case, the ABA has found that the style of presentation and language used by the presenter displayed prejudgement of the issues concerned and/or lack of consideration to alternative viewpoints.”

Media Watch has reacted to this section of the preliminary report by stating: “But there are problems with the latest hits. Not for the first time in our experience, the ABA has shown it doesn’t really know how journalism works”, accusing the Authority of getting the simplest details wrong and of being ‘slovenly and dishonest’.

“Richard Alston’s complaints are a perhaps the most sustained assault ever made on ABC reporting. They should be judged independently by a fearless panel that owes nothing to the ABC or the government – and knows how journalism works.

“This mob doesn’t – but it’s only a draft report, thank God. You’d like to think the ABA might try to get it right before their final report comes out.”

The ABA has reacted strongly to the Media Watch report. See radioinfo’s separate story: ‘ABA Responds’.

To read the full transcript of the Media Watch report, click on the link below.