By Barry Tucker January 29, 2013
The management of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) appears to have lost control of at least some of its staff. How else could you explain this outrageous slur against the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, on the front page of the ABC News Online website?
The above screen shot was Tweeted at around midday today. The Prime Minister’s first name has been deliberately misspelled in the style of a smear campaign that relates to her 2010 remarks about a carbon tax. The misspelling has been highlighted.
After Tweeters began complaining to the ABC, the offending caption was removed and replaced by a mouse over floating note referring to a spelling “error”.
That was replaced later by a corrected caption, as appears below.
The content of the floating note can be read in the last line of the picture above. The fact that this could happen on the public face of ABC News, a taxpayer funded and supposedly independent, fair, balanced and unbiased news service, beggars belief.
So far (1.45 pm today) no explanation has been provided for the original caption and the slur it contains. A spelling “error” simply does not excuse or explain this behaviour. At least one member of the ABC News staff is out of control, irresponsible, lacking in self-discipline and decency.
[The ABC has since posted the following: http://bit.ly/4BUM0p
PM Victoria visit
Posted Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:11pm AEDT
On 29 January in an ABC News Online story, a photo appeared with a misspelling of the Prime Minister’s name in the caption. The mistake was a typographical error and was corrected as soon as it was noticed.View the corrected image.]
You will notice that the ABC note above does not contain an apology to the Prime Minister.
The deliberate misspelling is a reference to a democratically elected Prime Minister. It is perhaps the most startling example of bias that appears to be widespread, rampant and now deep-seated within the ABC.
After this Tweet was brought to my attention I asked some 800+ followers on Twitter to contact these individuals and ask for an explanation:
Please ask ABC MD
@abcmarkscott how ABC News can publish PM slur (Juliar) on ABC News website.
Please ask ABC Chief-of-Staff, Brisbane, Kate Scanlan
@katescanlan how ABC News can publish PM slur (Juliar) on website.
Please ask ABC Director of News, Kate Torney @katetorney how website can publish PM slur (Juliar) on its front page.
I also provided this link to contact details for the Minister responsible for the ABC, Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy: http://www.alp.org.au/federal-government/labor-people/stephen-conroy/
When it comes to dealing with the ABC, the Minister’s hands are pretty much tied. Its affairs are conducted by a management board and complaints are handled internally by the supposedly independent Audience and Consumer Affairs. Viewers/listeners can take their complaint to ACMA (see Regulatory Bodies in menu above) if they are not satisfied, but ACMA does not deal with website content or Tweets. The Commonwealth Ombudsman is the last resort.
As you will see from the ABC menu items for this site, there is quite an amount of material here relating to perceived bias by the ABC and some websites and blogs are entirely devoted to the subject.
If anyone receives a reply, explanation or apology for this latest outrage I will add it to this story. [February 5, 2013. See ABC note in square brackets above.]
UPDATE, January 30, 2013
By 3pm today there had been no formal explanation or apology from the ABC management for yesterday’s slur on the character of the Prime Minister. [A correction was posted at 3.11 pm – see above.]
However, there was this Twitter exchange between @Thefinnigans (one of the first to pick up the slur) and @SteveCannane, presenter of the ABC’s evening current affairs program The Drum:
I apologise for the swear word in the last Tweet. In view of the nature of this story it would not be appropriate to censor, alter or block out certain words.
The photo in the second Tweet is identical to the first screen shot above.
Friday, February 2, 2013
Complaints of ABC News and Current Affairs bias are legion. A catalogue of some of them, and reference to their implications for the health of Australia’s public debate and its democracy, can be found here http://bit.ly/WtdvXC on Australians for Honest Politics.
On Tuesday, February 5, 2013, I lodged the following complaint with the ABC at http://bit.ly/Swcj1z and requested an apology to the Prime Minister:
My complaint refers to the original caption to the picture that accompanied the story of the Prime Minister’s visit to Victoria on January 29. The original caption read: Premier Ted Baillieu and the Prime Minister Juliar Gillard at the Heyfield incident control centre.
The Prime Minister’s first name, Julia, has been misspelled in a manner that is consistent with a long-running slur that relates to her 2010 comments about a carbon tax.
The caption was removed, replaced by a floating note which was later replaced by a caption containing the correct spelling.
The following note was published on the ABC’s Corrections Page on the same day (http://bit.ly/4BUM0p) :
PM Victoria visit
Posted Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:11pm AEDT
On 29 January in an ABC News Online story, a photo appeared with a misspelling of the Prime Minister’s name in the caption. The mistake was a typographical error and was corrected as soon as it was noticed. View the corrected image.
Of course it was a “typographical error”, as is any error appearing in type. However, it is farcical to present this as anything other than a deliberate insult to the Prime Minister.
The note published on the Corrections page does not make any apology for this insult to the Prime Minister.
I therefore request that the ABC publish an apology to the Prime Minister and give the apology a prominence equal to the original insult. I reserve my right to pursue this matter with ACMA in the event that an apology is not made.
I received the reply below by email today, February 6, at 2.41 pm.
Dear Mr Tucker, Thank you for your email of 5 February 2013 regarding the Prime Minister. As the correction explains, the mistake was indeed a typographical error and was corrected as soon as it was noticed. The matter was brought to the attention of News Management and an investigation was conducted. We are satisfied that there was not, as you suggest “a deliberate insult to the Prime Minister by the caption writer”. Our correction stands and again, it was an unintentional mistake.
Yours sincerely, Adam Doyle ABC News
I am not satisfied with this response and I will now refer the matter to the ACMA for its consideration. For one thing, my complaint was not handled by the “independent” Audience and Consumer Affairs (ACA). Responses from ACA state that they are from the ACA and are signed off by an ACA member.
Monday, February 11, 2013
Look at the two ABC Tweets below. These were transmitted this afternoon:
In the second ABC Tweet (the first one transmitted) the pop star Gotye’s name has been misspelled. In the next Tweet, transmitted 21 minutes later, there’s an apology for a “typo”, an explanation, a correct spelling and an expression of hope for forgiveness.
Twitter is not the same medium as the ABC News Online, but the ABC’s News staff on both mediums is bound by the same Code of Practice, Editorial Policies and the Guidance Note, Corrective Actions, Issued: 12 December 2011.
I will submit the above Tweets as an addendum to a complaint I filed with ACMA over the weekend. The treatment of the “typo” in the Tweet stands in stark contrast to the treatment of the picture caption on the ABC News Online website.
Saturday, 16 February, 2013
I have received a reply from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) re the above matter. I reproduce the reply in full below because it demonstrates the lack of clarity and frustration involved in the process of complaining to and about the ABC:
ACMA file reference: ACMA2013/2-11
Dear Mr Tucker
Thank you for your email to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) regarding your concerns about a caption posted on the ABC Online News.
The ACMA is the Commonwealth body responsible for the regulation of broadcasting, the internet, radiocommunications and telecommunications. In relation to the ABC, however, the ACMA is able to receive complaints only where:
· the complaint is about content broadcast on radio or television;
· the complaint is about a matter covered by the ABC Code of Practice 2011;
· the person has first complained to the ABC; and
· the person has either not received a response from the ABC within 60 days, or has received a response but considers the response inadequate.
A copy of the ABC Code of Practice 2011 is available at the Codes Index on the ACMA’s website:
While online content may be covered by other types of ABC instruments, it is not covered by the ABC Code of Practice 2011. As advised above, the ACMA has jurisdiction only over code complaints about material broadcast on the ABC radio or television. The code provides that the ACMA’s jurisdiction under sections 150-151 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 does not encompass the ABC’s print content or content disseminated by the ABC over the internet or through mobile devices. As such, your complaint about the ABC Online News is not within the ACMA’s jurisdiction and I regret that we are unable to assist you on this occasion.
I would also like to advise that the ACMA has no jurisdiction over the ABC Editorial Policies, referred to in your complaint as, in relation to the ABC; the ACMA can only consider matters covered by the ABC Code of Practice 2011, which applies to material broadcast on radio and television only.
If you do not reach a satisfactory resolution with the ABC, you may wish to raise your concerns with the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The Ombudsman can investigate complaints about the administrative actions and decisions of Commonwealth government agencies, including the ABC. More information about the role of the Ombudsman and how to make a complaint is on the Ombudsman’s website at: http://www.ombudsman.gov.au/ or you can call 1300 362 072.
ABC radio or television
Should you wish to make a complaint about a particular material broadcast on the ABC television or radio, and after reviewing the code, you consider that the material of concern to you is in breach of the code, you may make a complaint about the matter. Your complaint must be made to the ABC in the first instance. Details about how to make a complaint to the ABC about matters covered by the code can be found at the back of the code.
Australian Communications and Media Authority
NOTICE: This email message is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply email and destroy all copies of the original message.
I have chosen to override the above NOTICE in the public interest, in an effort to inform and educate people and in the interest of transparency. I also believe I have the right to do as I choose with my correspondence.
My email seeking to include the Gotye incident as an addendum:
From: barry tucker [email address deleted]
Sent: Monday, 11 February 2013 9:59 PM
Subject: TRIM: ABC TV SMEAR
The Assistant Manager
Dear Assistant Manager,
I filed a complaint with you by email on February 8, 2013, with the same subject as this email, relating to the appearance of the word “Juliar” in a picture caption referring to the Prime Minister on the ABC News Online website.
I am now seeking to include the attached screen shot (Popstar apology.jpg) as an addendum to my submission. It relates to an incident that occurred today.
The reason for seeking its inclusion is that my complaint maintains that the ABC did not follow proper procedure in relation to the picture caption incident, and the addendum illustrates a contrast in the handling of two similar instances of a “typo”.
There are numerous instances of inconsistency in the ABC’s complaints handling procedures, to such an extent that perhaps it is time for a review of the entire process with a view to ensuring consistency. Having said that, the Code of Practice, Editorial Policies and the Guidance Note, Corrective Actions seem to provide sufficient guidance. Perhaps there is bias in the organisation after all.
There is sufficient legislation, code, policy and guidance material to guide and control the matters referred to above. The problem seems to lie in the area of consistency and definitely a lack of control over some staff members (see They’ve done it again! on this site).
I will now write a letter outlining the problem, noting the ABC Board’s relevant responsibilities and calling for action to end the bias and restore impartiality to News and Current Affairs on radio, TV, websites and Twitter feeds. I will send an identical letter to each board member by Registered Post.
The federal government finances the ABC to guarantee its independence AND EXPECTS IMPARTIALITY. This is made clear in legislation, on the ACMA website and throughout relevant ABC documentation.
I will refer the incident in They’ve done it again! (and others on that Twitter feed) to the ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs as a complaint. That matter does not qualify for investigation by ACMA because it occurred on Twitter, regardless of how many breaches of ABC guidelines it incurred.
In the event of an unsatisfactory response, all of the matters referred to above will be covered in a submission I will make to the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
Because the ABC is a corporation, I am not ruling out the possibility of seeking a court ruling related to how members of the board are failing in their duties.