Sunday, November 22, 2009

Why should asking the ABC a simple question be like pulling teeth?

ABC TV's News Bulletins appear to be relying more on Fox Sports

Here's the ABC's latest response to our recent queries:

Thank you for your emails, which have been referred to me for response.

I understand your core question to be this: "Are there any guidelines, or other relevant considerations, governing the appearance of persons employed by commercial media organisations (specifically Rupert Murdoch's) as interviewees on ABC outlets?"

The short answer is no, at least not in the specific terms that you use in your question. All ABC content is covered by the ABC Editorial Policies, which are available in their entirety here - The policies cover the use of specialist commentators in section 5.7 which states (in part): "It is ABC policy to provide a range of views on significant issues over time, ensuring the broadcast and publication online of a diversity of perspectives. To achieve this staff should use a number of different commentators and analysts." Many of the examples you cite in your email are instances of ABC programs using commentators or analysts to help bring a diversity of perspectives to their audiences.

ABC Radio has provided the following information in response to your email:

Regarding interviews with Noel Mengal:

Sitting In is a segment covering new musical releases and the commentator is Noel Mengel is the Chief Music Writer for the Courier Mail.

The segment has proven to work well with the Coast audience and positive feedback has been attributed to Noel's expertise, knowledge and experience in the music field. Noel Mengel has proven to be a credible and unbiased commentator and has provided a consistently balanced and entertaining viewpoint and his employment by News Ltd hasn't proven to influence the segment or compromise editorial independence.

Regarding interview with Richie Yorke:

Ritchie Yorke was a close friend of John Lennon's and he was also the first breakfast announcer on Coast FM, and thus was believed to be an appropriate commentator to discuss the reissue of the Beatles back catalogue with him. Ritchie Yorke is a freelance writer and hasn't been employed by News Limited for approximately two years; he has proven to be a credible and unbiased commentator and is arguably the most experienced commentator in his field.

Regarding interview with Steve Waterson:

Steve Waterson (Editor, Weekend Australian) was interviewed because the magazine was about to publish revelations about the Beatles' split, courtesy of a piece written by British journalist Ray Connelly. Ray Connelly was unavailable for comment.

Regarding interview with Stuart Honeyset:

Freelance journalist Stuart Honeyset was interviewed to detail the account of an interview with Bart Cummings prior to the Melbourne Cup. Bart was not giving any other interviews and Stuart was one of a very select few journalists who had contact with Bart.

It’s unsurprising that The Book Show would occasionally speak to literary critics. This daily program covers an enormous range and quantity of literature and speaks to many authors and other commentators in the course of this coverage. The October program listing shows some of the diversity of topics presented and voices featured -

It’s also unsurprising that News Ltd journalists will appear on Insiders since each episode of this program includes a panel of journalists from various Australian media organisations. The program’s website explains: “Each week the program brings together the experience and insights of leading political commentators and other contributors representing a wide range of opinions.” The program’s regular commentators are listed on its website here -

For more information about ABC editorial standards and how these apply in practice, I encourage you to visit the link provided above -

Yours sincerely,

Head, Audience and Consumer Affairs

So, to summarize. The response to the question: "Why do so many Murdoch properties appear on the ABC?" is:

"because they just do, OK?".

Why not ask them yourself? You might do better than we did!

Please let us know how you go.

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