Recent controversies have enhanced the independence of the ABC: Gaven Morris

The ABC’s Director of News, Analysis & Investigations, Gaven Morris this week spoke with Peter Fray on 2SER’s Fourth Estate program.
He discussed the ABC’s independence, the future of journalism and how the national broadcaster has come through last year’s controversies over the former Chairman’s alleged political interference.
On Justin Milne
“When you look across the span of last year it started with editorial controversies then it spiralled into overlapping issues and concerns, from funding cuts to personnel issues…
“I thought, if I can protect the people in our newsrooms and let them get on with their jobs… those distractions will not reach them. I hope I was successful in that.”
Peter Fray: Did last year shake the independence of the ABC?
“Actually it enhanced the independence of the ABC. In the end what we ended up with was commentary and discussion about why it is important to have an independent ABC. In the long term this will have been a good reminder about why the independence of the ABC is important to Australians.
“The ABC is still the most trusted news brand in the country. We have a responsibility to cover a wide range of valid perspectives.”
Left wing bias
“I don’t think we always get that right but we don’t have a Labor/Liberal bias. Our journalists do a brilliant job to try and include all voices and perspectives. We do have to work hard to make sure that in the stories we choose we have the broadest range of perspectives represented in the community. I ask our teams, are we choosing stories each day that broadly reflect the community and the broad Australian perspective?”
Gaven Morris says the national broadcaster did a study about gender balance recently. “It wasn’t very flattering, 75% of the people we featured were men. We can”t be reflecting Australia without getting that right… To change that, we put a call out to women to redress that balance and within a couple of weeks we had 2000 new women in our contact books who are interested in providing informed comment on issues.”
Peter Fray: Should ABC funding be an election issue?
“If it is simply a funding debate I don’t think it asks the right questions.
“It should be a debate about what role Australians want the ABC to play… What has troubled me about the discussion is that nobody wants to cut anything, they want more from the ABC for less money.
“I think the new chair will help in this debate. She comes from a place of wisdom and is tuned into contemporary developments. Having someone like that with vast experience is great for the ABC and for a mature conversation about the national broadcaster…
“You have to look at the medium term production cycle and make strategic choices about how to invest public money… If you’ve mapped out a strategy over 5 to 10 years you can make much more strategic decisions.”



ABC Online
Peter Fray: Are the ABC’s online services an impediment to other news media being able to sell subscriptions? Should the ABC get out of online?
“If we only want to serve people over 60 years of age, we could get out of online, but if we want to serve contemporary audiences we have to be on media services that people currently use… We have an obligation to universally serve the Australian public.”
Peter Fray: Would you tell your kids to be a journalist?
“I would if they had that inclination, yes. People will still want stories told and to be informed, no matter how the platforms and technology change. I am not pessimistic about the future of journalism…
“Journalism in the future will be more personalised and more on-demand. The big thing we are facing is that linear scheduling is not the future… content will be fully personalised and fully on demand, that’s more difficult than it sounds. The ABC has already done most of the work on creating multiplatform content with diminishing resources.”
He gave the example of listening to ABC Radio’s PM program of the future in an autonomous car, where your car will play PM form the beginning of the show and arrange the stories in order of your interest and the duration of the journey.


Summing up the core of his work, Gaven Morris said: “My job is to ensure we have good people with enough freedom to create great stories and do good investigative journalism.”
Listen to the full 2SER program below.


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