Q&A: questions for the ABC

June 23, 2021 by Vic Alhadeff
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The ABC’s coverage of Israel – in particular, its highly controversial Q + A program which focused on the recent Israel-Hamas war – was the subject of a high-level meeting between the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and the ABC leadership at ABC headquarters in Sydney on Monday.

It was attended by ABC managing director David Anderson and his chief of staff Michael Rippon, and ECAJ president Jillian Segal, co-CEO Peter Wertheim and newly-appointed ECAJ consultant Vic Alhadeff. ABC chair Ita Buttrose was also scheduled to attend, but had suffered an injury and sent an apology.

The meeting had been sought by the ECAJ in a detailed letter of complaint delivered to the ABC Chairman and Managing Director shortly after the program went to air.

The ECAJ letter complained of “a pervasive culture of bias, if not antipathy, towards Israel and the mainstream Australian Jewish community, within the unit responsible for organising and producing the Q + A program”.

It said that the program had “featured an outpouring of undiluted and uncontested falsehoods and vitriol from two panellists (one of whom seems to have her own page on the Q + A section of the ABC’s website, which describes her as ‘a Muslim of Palestinian and Egyptian heritage’), with passive support from two other panellists and only one lone voice, not from the Jewish community, swimming against the tide and trying to put the other side of the argument despite repeated interruptions. The selection of questions from the audience and of tweets that were screened was similarly skewed.”

Pointing to a pattern of conduct over many years, the ECAJ stated that the Q + A program “was merely the latest unfortunate example of a long history of exclusion of an authentic Jewish community viewpoint on Q + A and elsewhere by the ABC on matters of vital concern to our community, including gross misrepresentation or exclusion of the mainstream Jewish community’s perspective on matters related to Israel. We emphasise that the culture of bias and exclusion against our community is not limited to the Q + A program. The ABC’s overall news and current affairs coverage of the armed conflict between Israel and Hamas on this occasion, and in the past, is part of the same pattern.”

The letter added that “the urgency of our request for a meeting is due to the dramatic upsurge in antisemitic incidents which have negatively impacted on the safety, security and wellbeing of Jewish communities around the world, including Australia.”

During the course of a wide-ranging discussion, David Anderson readily acknowledged that the Q + A program and the ABC’s news and current affairs coverage of the conflict had contained “many errors” for which he apologised.  He also acknowledged the validity of the ECAJ’s earlier detailed critique of an “Explainer” document that had been published on the ABC website at the start of hostilities, before being corrected. That matter is still under investigation by the ABC complaints unit.

“The meeting was held in a very positive spirit and Mr Anderson was keen to explore specific constructive steps to prevent a recurrence of the problems we raised and improve the quality of the ABC’s news coverage,” ECAJ President Jillian Segal said after the meeting. “Despite the obvious difficulties, we have secured a commitment for follow-up meetings and engagement with both key ABC staff and leadership, and have reason to hope for a productive outcome.”


9 Responses to “Q&A: questions for the ABC”
  1. Adrian Jackson says:

    An Australian Financial Review (AFR) survey on media trustworthiness published on 25 Jun 21 saw the ABC with 70% and SBS with 69% as the most trustworthy media in Australia The AFR was close behind as the most trustworthy newspaper. Sydney based Daily Telegraph was last in trustworthiness. No surprise there with that appalling Murdoch rag.

  2. Liat Kirby says:

    Well done, ECAJ, to get a meeting together with ABC senior people, as you have, and to voice succinctly the problems and bias existing. That Q&A programme was the last straw, the one that broke the camel’s back. It was so obviously unfair, in its structure and its intent. The questions from the audience allowed on the subject were minimal, one of them being offensive in its banality, creating the opportunity for laughter and dismissal of the idea that Israelis could be suffering at all from the Hamas rockets.

    I, too, as an individual have sent a formal letter of complaint through the ABC’s official site for receiving complaints, and due to their charter, they must examine and respond.

    Let’s see what comes of it all. The problem, of course, is the kind of ideologues the ABC employs to put this kind of programming together. The ABC is heading in the direction of becoming as bad as the BBC in regard to Israel.

  3. Marika Biber says:

    The ABC should make a public acknowledgment of the bias and open hostility by numerous ABC reporters and guests in the way in which Israel and the Palestinians topic is presented. From Sophie McNeil, to Tony Jones, Philip Adams, Eric Tlozek, Jennifer Robinson, Randa Abdel-Fattah and too many to list. Until this is done and their whole ‘programme’ is re-structured, hatred towards Jews and Israel will continue. There were many young impressionist minds in the audience and all they heard was how poorly/cruelly the Palestinians are being treated. ABC should be ashamed of its involvement in enticing to continued hatred and division.

  4. victor berger says:

    Dear all,

    An utter waste of time. there is no indication of time line for detailed response.
    the point always missed that the damage is done, anyhow, and likely any retraction will be guarded and equivocal.
    The audience the Australian (I include all cultures) is out of the loop afetr the damage has been done.
    Our public leaders persistently and consistently tell us how greatly connected they are. I do not see, and have never seen, much proof of that.
    We must tackle falsehoods, loudly and publicly, expeditiously and then, if any discussion with detractors that must equally be reported expeditiously loudly and publicly. Our eyes must be on the public perceptions and making offenders publicly accountable.
    With great respect absence of Ita Buttrose is a severe impediment and not least a personal attendance must be arranged without delay. Otherwise whatever benefit is derived from the heralded meeting is trivialised.

  5. Charlotte Frajman says:

    Why is ANYONE surprised at the ABC blatant BIAS against Israel?
    In total contravention of its own Charter, ABC appointed John Lyons, who prior to this appointment was a middle-ranking schlepper with News Corp. to one of the most coveted and respected positions in Australian media:
    Executive Editor of ABC News and Head of Investigative Journalism for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation since 2017.
    If one had even a slight doubt about John Lyon’s politics, please refer to his vile, disjointed, inaccurate, biased & Anti-Israel “memoir” Balcony Over Jerusalem, to leave absolutely zero doubt about his personal agenda and politics, which has been reflected clearly in his appointment of M.E. correspondents, with Tom Joyner, the latest in the portrayal of David [Palestine] vs Goliath [Israel & the Jewish Lobby] speaking only in Anti-Semitic and Anti-Zionists tropes and cliches.
    Up till a few years ago, just like in the pre-election interviews, the ABC was required to time the length of each point-of-view to be fair and represent both sides.
    These days, ABC doesn’t even pretend to try to be fair, with 7 minutes given to the Palestinian side and 30 seconds given to either a “Peace Now” spokesperson or alternatively, a so-called, right-wing “Colonizer”, Pro-Israeli.
    Classic example, even ABC show Foreign Correspondent, last week, started off with our favourite M.E. correspondent, Tom Joyner, analyzing the “health” or degradation of the Dead Sea but of course, although it started off as an “environmental” story, it soon became apparent, that the “evil Israel” had diverted the Jordan River, robbed the “traditional owners” being the Palestinians of their water rights and water supplies, to ensure that Israel has luscious, green, fertile agriculture while the Palestinians are forced to pay for water or living in arid, desert-like conditions.
    Anti-Israel air-time vs …well, there wasn’t really a Pro-Israel advocate – only a “Israeli Patriach” who showed off his beautiful orchards and home.
    NO-ONE could be deluded enough to argue that there is “BALANCE” AND FAIRNESS!
    The fish rots from the head and the head is the declared and published, Anti-Israel journalist and I use this term loosely, “Author”: JOHN LYONS!!!

  6. Dr Ilan Buchman says:

    I think that ABC should publically acknowledge its bias and the “many errors” raised by David Anderson’s by bringing it to the attention of its viewers. I agree with Ian Bersten’s comments that nothing will be achieved unless another program is screened in prime time in which David Anderson appears personally and acknowledges the validity of the complaints deals brought against the broadcaster.

  7. Janette Kay says:

    The damage has already been done!

  8. Ian Bersten says:

    The meeting will achieve nothing unless there is another program allowing the flasehoods to be rebutted completely.

    • Michael Markiewicz says:

      Intentions sound genuine with some PR spin. I am not 100% convinced why Ita Buttrose didn’t attend. What specific action will the ABC now take to rectify and repair the damage? As Q and A was part of the problem then another Q and A – with 2 from the Jewish community – should be part of the solution. All 4 should be as moderate as possible to lessen the chance of another lengthy outpouring of inaccurate Jew hating bilge – which Hamish MacDonald did little stop. To include as a minimum:
      *more time – it is complicated and cannot accurately and fairly be covered given – as the ABC says – they are genuinely looking to rectify. 1/2 or 3/4 or all the programme? There are minimum 5-6 areas to be covered.
      *some of this can come from questions but we will need assurance this time that will happen.

      Subjects/questions to include;
      *Palestinian refugees – originally 700,000 – allowed by UNWRA to grow to 5 million. The only refugee group to increase
      In contrast the 850000 Jewish refugees from the Arab world in 1948 taken by Israel and others and then down to zero refugees.. Few know – or care about – this critical fact. Israel was the largest refugee camp in the Middle East!
      *Hamas’ charter is to eradicate Israel and kill/hurt Jews. “From the river to the sea Palestine will be free.” How can Hamas support a 2 state solution? This will be further compounded if Hamas takes over from the PA.
      *Gaza in 2005 – all Jews removed, no border, Gazans free to work in south Israel, Israelis shopped and went to the beach in Gaza. Infrastructure and industry left for them. What has happened to it – and why?
      *Money from Iran – how much used for the benefit of the Gazans? We hear only 15%
      *Cost and purpose of the tunnels?
      *Who was the aggressor? Hamas fired 4000+ rockets into Israel – and indiscriminately at civilians. What right does Israel have to defend itself?
      *Israel ‘took’’ East Jerusalem in 1967. But only when attacked with the intention of destroying Israel.
      *What would have happened to the Jews had they remained in the surrounding Arab countries? They would likely have been tortured and killed. In contrast in Israel all non Jews have equal right to proportionate representation in the Knesset.
      * Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, the only country where Muslims can be openly gay and have freedom of speech.
      *And something about Jews having always been there, Theodor Herzl, the Balfour Declaration, they didn’t just arrive in 1948.
      Much of this can be covered – by both sides – with a combination of the right 4 on the panel, proper preparation and control by Hamish. He needs to understand some of this as part of his preparation

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