The ECAJ makes its submission to government inquiry investigating ABC and SBS complaints procedures

November 19, 2021 by Henry Benjamin
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The inquiry instigated by Senator Andrew Bragg will investigate the procedures ABC and SBS use to deal with complaints.

In its preface to the detailed examples, The Executive Council of Australian Jewry stated: “Whilst the ABC must remain independent of political interference, being independent is not the same thing as being a law unto itself.

The ABC has at times been used in various ways by some of its staff to promote their own highly- contentious views, and they have been protected from being fully held to account by an inadequate complaints system. The ABC complaints unit, known as ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs, describes itself as a unit which is separate to and independent of program making areas within the ABC.

Yet its personnel are all ABC employees, and subtle forms of influence through a shared organisational culture and personal interaction are almost inevitable. In practice, as the examples provided in this submission demonstrate, the complaints unit has dismissed or inadequately dealt with an inordinately high proportion of complaints, even when identical or similar concerns have been raised independently by multiple complainants. The terms in which complaints have been dismissed have at times been cavalier, formulaic and capricious, with a failure to engage in the substance of matters raised by complainants or to apply community standards of elementary fairness. The current complaints system has thus demonstrated that it is not fit for its purpose. To be truly independent and at arm’s length , the complaints process must be external to the organisation, as is the case in other sectors of public and corporate life in Australia.”

The ECAJ has lodged formal complaints with the ABC over biased, selective and inaccurate news reports concerning Israel and failed to provide essential context to those reports,

The submission also points out the misrepresentation of Judaism and Jewish beliefs and practices and of the tolerance of egregiously antisemitic comments which have been posted on the ABC’s Facebook pages.

They wrote: “Even when our complaints have been upheld, corrective action by the ABC has been slow to occur, appears to have been half-hearted and has failed to come to grips with the pervasive culture within parts of the ABC which are predisposed against Israel, regardless of the facts of any particular story.”

In May,  Q&A screened a program dealing with the enormous numbers of Hamas rockets launched against Israel from Gaza and the Israeli response.

The panel included two Muslims one of whom, Randa Abdel Fattah who has her own page on the Q&A website according to the ECAJ.

Four out of the five panellists voiced anti-Israel points of view leaving the former Australian ambassador to Israel, Wentworth Liberal MP Dave Sharma to deal with the criticism. The program invited Israel’s ambassador to Australia and co-CEO of the ECAJ to attend the screening but only as members of the audience.

As well as a torrent of complaints from the members of the Jewish community, the ECAJ submitted its own.

The ECAJ wrote in its submission: “The response described Ms Abdel-Fattel’s ‘as a criticism of aspects of Israeli government policy’. That is a gross mischaracterisation. No reasonable person could have interpreted her description of Israel as a “settler apartheid State” as anything other than a rejection of Isreal’s very legitimacy as a State, and hence its right to exist.

The response also asserted that the Q + A panel (that was skewed 4:1 towards one side of the debate) was sufficiently balanced “we are satisfied that a range of principal relevant perspectives was presented on the issue and that no one view was unduly favoured over any other. This response flies in the face of basic standards of equity and fairness.

The response did not address directly the questions of why the Israeli Ambassador was merely offered audience participation without any right of reply, instead of being afforded equal status to Israel’s critics; why a Muslim of Palestinian and Egyptian heritage was given a place on the panel (and a disproportionate share of speaking time without interruption) while no such opportunity was offered to a representative of the Jewish community; and why audience tweets that were critical of the statements of Ms Abdel-Fattah and Ms Robinson were excluded from being displayed on-screen.

In total, the ECAJ tabled seven incidents cause for complaint.

The ECAJ did not submit any complaint addressed to SBS.


2 Responses to “The ECAJ makes its submission to government inquiry investigating ABC and SBS complaints procedures”
  1. Liat Kirby says:

    I am so pleased and proud of the energetic, solid and consistent work ECAJ has done on this Q&A issue. Perhaps now it will bear fruit.

    This particular Q&A programme is the straw that broke the camel’s back. They are well and truly caught out with this one and need to face the consequences.

    • Joseph Symon says:

      It is not a comment, but a question: how long a democraticly elected government could or should tolerate that ?

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