Citizen Journalism

Email & SMS correspondence between Peter Clarke and Michael Millett

In ABC, John Faine Affair, MSM, Peter Clarke on February 8, 2013 at 8:22 AM

Peter Clarke
6 Feb (8 days ago)
to Mike Millett

Good morning, Michael,

I am sure you are aware there is considerable controversy swirling around the Faine findings.

At one level, detailed analysis of those findings in company with the actual broadcast interviews set against the relevant sections of the public Editorial Guidelines and the detailed reasons for the negative findings awaits.

One crucial element in that mosaic is missing. The detailed reasoning underpinning the findings. So far we have only the bald statement of findings. That statement raises more questions than it clarifies.

I remain confident the committee documented their process comprehensively as they applied the guidelines to the actual interviews (presumably using the transcript AND the audio). However, so far their detailed reasons have not been made available as clearly they should be for clarity around the “judgement” and the integrity of that process within the publicly funded broadcaster.

I have read your reply to Media Watch offering some insight into the “criteria”.

I now seek your advice on exactly when the full and detailed reasons from the committee’s proceedings will be released for public analysis and comment?

In this election year, this would appear to be crucial for clear understanding all round especially regarding the finding’s reference to “argumentative”.

For your information, here is the link to what has been published so far: 

https://australiansforhonestpolitics.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/who-is-wearing-the-kafka-mask-at-the-abc/

Thanks, Michael for your assistance in clarifying this matter.

Sincerely,

Peter


Peter Clarke
8 Feb (6 days ago)
to Mike Millett

Dear Mick,

Thank you for taking my call. I realise the period in Canberra was both busy and crucial.

I am attaching a number of questions relating to the release of a statement by the ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs department stating their findings against Jon Faine following complaints about his interviews with Mark Baker and Michael Smith on 23 November 2012.

So far, our coverage has been focussed upon the complete lack of public follow-up from the ABC in regard to that statement.

The key issue is where is the statement of detailed reasons to give flesh to the bones of the statement of findings?

To our mind, this statement is akin to a “judgment” with the force of “precedent” that shapes internal ABC practices – in this case around actual interviewing.

“Argumentative” is one key term that needs much fuller explanation in any expected detailed statement of reasons.

It also appears to us to be a significant lack of consistency in the application of those guidelines and criteria when programs such as Late Night Live, Counterpoint (especially in its earlier incarnation) and many other programs including arts outputs where pervasive promotional content now seems the norm, are placed in the mix.

Thank you for answering or arranging answers to these questions, Mick.

Two stories have been published so far on this issue and more will follow.

Regards,

Peter

ATTACHMENT

QUESTIONS REGARDING JON FAINE AND NEGATIVE FINDINGS BY ABC AUDIENCE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS

 

CONTEXT

 

These questions are in the context of:

(a)                ABC EDITORIAL GUIDELINES

(b)               The statement of findings by ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs http://about.abc.net.au/complaints/mornings-17/

(c)                Reply to Media Watch  by Director of Corporate Affairs, Michael Millett, in relation to the scope and applicability of the relevant criteria:

 Response is as follows:

  1. The premise of your question is wrong. The 2009 Editorial Polices clearly stated and intended that the impartiality test applied to news and current affairs content across all platforms and programming. As the relevant section states: while much of this content is produced by the News and Current Affairs Division, other divisions also provide news and current affairs content and, when they do, this section applies to that content.
  2. 2. No. The 2011 Editorial Policies require news and information to be presented with due impartiality (4.1). Accompanying principles provide further guidance on assessing the impartiality due in given circumstances:
  3. Assessing the impartiality due in given circumstances requires consideration in context
  4. of all relevant factors including:
  5. • the type, subject and nature of the content;
  6. • the circumstances in which the content is made and presented;
  7. • the likely audience expectations of the content;
  8. • the degree to which the matter to which the content relates is contentious;
  9. • the range of principal relevant perspectives on the matter of contention; and
  10. • the timeframe within which it would be appropriate for the ABC to provide
  11. opportunities for the principal relevant perspectives to be expressed, having
  12. regard to the public importance of the matter of contention and the extent to which it is the subject of current debate.

 

QUESTIONS


  1. When will a statement of detailed reasoning behind the findings against Jon Faine be issued and publicly released by the ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs Department?
  2. If there is to be no such release, what specifically is preventing that release?
  3. If there is a refusal to release the detailed reasons based on some “policy”, what are the key principles of that policy” – that is to keep secret the detailed reasons underpinning findings of the complaints committee either positive or negative?
  4. Has Jon Faine himself been provided with the statement of detailed reasons for the negative findings against him beyond the brief statement of the complaints being upheld and the broad reasons stated by Audience and Consumer Affairs? If not, what has prevented Jon Faine from receiving such a statement of detailed reasons?
  5. Have all the complainants been sent a statement of reasons beyond the brief statement of findings issued by Audience and Consumer Affairs.
  6. How many complainants were there and were all complaints couched in identical or near identical form?
  7. If there were clear differences in the thrust of the complaints with a range of specifics, what were those differences?
  8. Does Jon Faine have a right of review under the complaints process protocols?
  9. Has Jon Faine already attempted to seek such a review? What has been the ABC’s response?
  10. If Jon Faine has no right of review, what specifically informs and animates that policy?
  11. How many people sat on the committee assessing the Jon Faine matter?
  12. What were the expertises of the people sitting on the complaints committee? Were journalists and interviewers included?
  13. What process of analysis and understanding of difficult and context-critical concepts such as “impartiality, bias, argumentative, personal opinion etc.” does the committee use to ensure their ultimate judgment (with detailed reasons?)  is accurate and authentic?
  14. Did the committee take clear account of the long lead-up in a wide range of ABC and other media to the complained about interviews and the activist role of Jon Faine’s interviewees in that lead-up?
  15. How specifically did the complaints committee apply the relatively complex inter-related criteria as outlined by Michael Millett in response to the Media Watch enquiries?
  16. Is the ABC concerned that there now exists significant internal confusion, in the absence of a clear, detailed statement of reasons with full explanations for the findings, among both seasoned and less experienced interviewers all subject to the provisions of the Editorial Guidelines?
  17. What active steps have ABC mangers responsible for output taken to clarify the Jon Faine “precedent” for on-air ABC interviewers especially around the notions of “argumentative” and using “personal opinion” as a technique within interviews?
  18. Does the ABC consider there is some lack of consistency across a range of ABC programs in terms of the rigorous application of the Editorial Guidelines including for Late Night Live, Counterpoint and other programs where argument, strong personal opinion and even advocacy (including promotion of arts services and artifacts) are apparently “normalized?

Peter Clarke 8 February 2013

 https://australiansforhonestpolitics.wordpress.com/


Mike Millett
8 Feb (6 days ago)
to Peter Clarke

Just got back from canberra so will chase up.

Not quite sure of the connection with promotional material. I hear  the gripes around promos but when you don’t have much a marketing budget it is the only way to promote content.

Mm


Peter Clarke
8 Feb (6 days ago)
to Mike Millett

Hi Mick,

Thanks.

As you have immediately picked up, that issue is not our main focus only as it might apply to consistency of application of the guidelines.

I have always wondered where the line is in “advertising” large often corporate arts events such as commercial theatre, smaller ones, etc. In earlier days, maybe not so much now, interviewing an author, the RRP and publisher (often huge conglomerates) were regularly broadcast on the ABC. Tricky area.

I do look forward to the answers at your earliest convenience.

Regards,

Peter


Peter Clarke
8 Feb (6 days ago)
to Mike Millett

Michael did you receive yesterday my email of enquiry regarding the Faine ‘impartiality’ findings? I have received no reply from you. I just left a voicemail on your landline number. I would like to email you a set of pertinent questions for your reply on the record. But wanted to ensure you are receiving my emails and are able to reply. We are publishing a series of analytical [pieces re this issue and a clear, authoritative statement/response is clearly appropriate and needed. As I said in my email to you, we have read your ‘criteria’ letter in response to the Media Watch enquiry. That response will be included in our close analysis. Many thanks for your assistance, Michael. Peter Clarke.


Peter Clarke
12 February 2013
to Mike Millett

Hi Mick,

I was wondering whether your answers and the answers you have arranged to my detailed questions around the FAINE findings will be with us in the next 24 hours?

Many thanks,

Peter 

Peter Clarke
MEDIA ACTIVE


 Mike Millett
14 February 2013 
to Peter Clarke

Subject: RE: QUESTIONS RE FAINE FINDINGS

Peter

Just returned from Canberra and an offsite executive. Response attached.

mm

Faine Letter

Peter Clarke
Media ActiveDear PeterIn response to your enquiries, I want to stress that the complaints regarding the 774 interviews were handled in the normal manner by Audience and Consumer Affairs. While there have been insinuations there was some sort of corporate intervention in the process, or that this was elevated to a higher judgment level, Audience and Consumer Affairs conducted a routine independent investigation into the matter. The finding was accepted by radio management and then conveyed to the complainants.

As is customary and for the sake of transparency, the ABC published a summary of the finding and outcome of the upheld complaints at http://about.abc.net.au/talk-to-the-abc/feedback-and-enquiries/upheld-complaints/. The ABC also provides statistical reports that provide an overview of audience contacts received by Audience & Consumer Affairs during each quarter http://about.abc.net.au/talk-to-the-abc/feedback-and-enquiries/reports-and-reviews . Also publically available are the ABC’s editorial standards and principles http://about.abc.net.au/how-the-abc-is-run/what-guides-us/our-editorial-policies , and the complaint handling procedures http://about.abc.net.au/reports-publications/complaint-handling-procedures .

The process of review and the detailed discussions which can occur as a result of complaints investigations are an internal matter for the Corporation.

In the case of the 774 finding the response to complainants, the interviews themselves, the summary finding and relevant editorial standards and the analysis of various parties are freely available.

In terms of an appeal: it is clearly set out in section 5 of the complaint handling procedures the various steps for review of any draft findings http://about.abc.net.au/reports-publications/complaint-handling-procedures

As I stated on Media Watch, The 2011 Editorial Policies require news and information to be presented with due impartiality (4.1). Accompanying principles provide further guidance on assessing the impartiality due in given circumstances:
Assessing the impartiality due in given circumstances requires consideration in context of all relevant factors including:

  • the type, subject and nature of the content;
  • the circumstances in which the content is made and presented;
  • the likely audience expectations of the content;
  • the degree to which the matter to which the content relates is contentious;
  • the range of principal relevant perspectives on the matter of contention; and
  • the timeframe within which it would be appropriate for the ABC to provide

opportunities for the principal relevant perspectives to be expressed, having
regard to the public importance of the matter of contention and the extent to which it is the subject of current debate.

The Principles set out the hallmarks of impartiality as follows:

  • a balance that follows the weight of evidence;
  • fair treatment;
  • open-mindedness; and
  • opportunities over time for principal relevant perspectives on matters of contention to be expressed.

There is no attempt here to create a new precedent or to change ABC interviewing techniques. The finding in the 774 case is simply that all news and information content must comply with the impartiality standards set out in section 4 of the 2011 Editorial Policies. The concept of ‘due impartiality’ ensures that proper regard is given to the circumstances of the particular content.

Regards Michael Millett
Director ABC Corporate Affairs


Additional reading recommended by AFHP:

  • ABC Faine Findings – Email 15th February between Peter and Mick HERE
  • The AFHP Jon Faine Affair archive is HERE.
  • The corporate ABC profile on Michael Millett
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  1. […] to Peter’s questions. You can read all the email and SMS communications between Peter and Mick HERE. To my surprise, and Peter’s, the ABC appears to be using political and bureaucratic techniques […]

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