“Media Watchdog” Gnaws ABC for Ignawing our side on Marriage

Media Watch programme image

Remember this remarkable episode of ABC Media Watch from August 17 - which bookended an incredible week that started with our full page ad in The Australian, saw the Coalition strongly reaffirm their policy on natural marriage, welcomed Katy Faust (who was brilliant on Lateline), and witnessed the deluging of Parliament with flowers as well as the magnificent Bark Petition from the Aboriginal Elders...

If so, please enjoy this recent post from The Australian's "Media Watchdog" (MWD) blog (4/12) by Gerard Henderson, rubbing Mark Scott's nose in the ABC marriage bias:


Shortly after he was appointed managing director and editor-in-chief of the ABC in 2006, Mark Scott requested a platform at The Sydney Institute. The Institute was happy to oblige. In what was an important address, Mark Scott promised to bring about a situation whereby a greater diversity of views would be heard on the ABC during his time as managing director.

As avid MWD readers will be aware, it did not work out this way. After almost a decade as ABC managing director and (so-called) editor-in-chief, Mark Scott prevails over a taxpayer funded public broadcaster which is a Conservative Free Zone. The ABC does not have one conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets. Senior ABC executives who deny this — like Michael Mason (see Issue 298) — should name the names that disprove the claim. So far, no one has attempted to do so.

On Monday, Mark Scott appeared before the Senate Estimates committee. The Hansard transcript is yet to be released but Mr Scott’s appearance was reported in The Australian on 1 December.

Senator Eric Abetz asked Mark Scott what action the ABC has taken in response to the ABC 1 Media Watch program on 17 August 2015 which concluded that both sides of the marriage equality debate did not get equal billing in the media — including the ABC. Media Watch presenter Paul Barry and executive producer Tim Latham found that the ABC favoured gay marriage advocates over opponents of same sex marriage. In response to Senator Abetz’s query, Mark Scott said:

"We appreciate that on this matter, as with other matters, we need to bring a plurality of views and perspectives. I can assure you that on this matter a plurality of views and perspectives have been aired across a range of ABC programs."

So what are the facts? Media Watch is certainly not an ABC program with a social conservative agenda. Paul Barry is on the record as declaring his support for “marriage equality” — or same sex marriage — and the program invariably runs a fashionable leftist line across a range of national and international matters. However on 17 August, Media Watch presenter Paul Barry asked this question — and provided his own answer. Let’s go to the transcript:

Paul Barry:
"... Are opponents of marriage equality getting an equal run in the media? Or at least a fair hearing. We don’t think they are.

"When Canberra Airport lit up in rainbow lights last Sunday to support same sex marriage, it was front page in The Age and The Canberra Times next morning and also big news in the Sydney Morning Herald. And it scored almost fifty mentions on radio and TV. But on Monday, when opponents of gay marriage piled flowers on the lawn at Parliament House it got just 14 mentions on radio and TV, one story on News.com.au and this brief report on page 6 of the Adelaide Advertiser.

"Sure, the airport was a better story. But the overall media coverage of the debate has also been skewed. For example, none of the commercial TV stations covered the launch of the Marriage Alliance campaign. And major one-to-one interviews on radio and TV have also been out of kilter. With two key spokespeople for marriage equality, Rodney Croome and Christine Forster, scoring 31 interviews between them in the first 12 days of August. And by our count, two key speakers against — Sophie York and David van Gend — scoring a grand total of only 12.

"Amazingly, the ABC has not interviewed Sophie York from the Marriage Alliance even once — despite 16 interviews from Forster and Croome.

"As the Australian Marriage Forum’s van Gend told Media Watch: “No one ever rings us. We send endless media releases … I don’t want to pester anyone, but we’re here.” (David van Gend, Australian Marriage Forum, 12 August, 2015)

"We think those figures speak for themselves and we can only agree with the Christian Federation’s Peter Kentley, who told us: “The media has a bias. There’s no question it is pro same-sex marriage. (Peter Kentley, Christian Federation, 12 August, 2015)

"And just before you pile into me on Twitter, if you’re not already doing so. I am a supporter of marriage equality. But, as we’re constantly reminded, this is a conscience issue and an important change that’s being proposed — and surely both sides of the debate have an equal right to be heard."


Here are ABC Media Watch’s figures up to 17 August 2015.

The ABC interviewed same-sex marriage advocates Rodney Croome and Christine Forster on 16 occasions.

The ABC did not interview Marriage Alliances’ Sophie York, who is opposed to same sex marriage, on any occasion.

This is how The Australian reported Mark Scott’s response to the evidence at the Senate Estimates:

Mr Scott said that the ABC was not obliged under its charter to provide equal time to both sides of a “contentious” debate, only to present divergent views.

“There is nothing in the editorial policies that say a stopwatch needs to be out on this matter, or climate change, or a range of contentious issues in the community,” he said, adding that the ABC had “robust” processes to ensure its editorial coverage was balanced.

This response demonstrates the extent of denial that Mark Scott is prepared to exhibit — rather than concede that, on the same sex marriage debate at least, the ABC has not presented a diversity of views.

Mark Scott reckons that it’s quite okay for the ABC to interview Mr Croome and Ms Forster a total of 16 occasions while totally ignoring the views of Ms York and David van Gend. And Mark Scott claims that such evident imbalance is really balance.

Even the leftists who run the ABC Media Watch program understand that there is a lack of diversity — they called it “bias” — here. But Mr Scott reckons everything is okay since balance is not gauged by running a stopwatch. This overlooks the fact that there would be no point in putting a stopwatch on Sophie York since she has never got off the ABC’s starting blocks — due to the fact that she has not been invited to participate in the event.


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