Citizen Journalism

Archive for the ‘Peter Clarke’ Category

Brandis free speech fudge: @MediaActive reviews the @albericie interview

In ABC, Brandis Remember This Freedom, Freedom of the Press, Journalism, Media Reform, MSM, Peter Clarke on May 11, 2013 at 5:11 PM

ABC Lateline Interview May 7, 2013

By Peter Clarke

May 11, 2013

Media regulation reform was never going to be easy in Australia. As it turned out, the legislation proposed by the Labor government foundered midst roiling misinformation and hyperbolic claims of draconian state intrusion into media freedoms.

It was also not helped by the ham-fisted presentation, timing and advocacy by the minister responsible for its passage through the parliament, Senator Stephen Conroy.

The irony of a news media reporting with dubious accuracy and fairness on the details of both the Finklestein Independent Media Inquiry and The Convergence Review processes and outcomes was lost on most but not all citizens and informed observers.

Professor Matthew Ricketson of Canberra University, who assisted Finklestein during the Inquiry, vented some of his frustration at the overall quality, orientation and accuracy of the media coverage and analysis around the process and ideas for reform explored by the Finklestein inquiry in an address to the Centre for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne.

Ricketson suggested in that speech that the best case study for the need for media reform in Australia was the news media reporting of the Inquiry itself: “What they have done in my view is to under-report a lot of what was presented to the Independent Media Inquiry late last year and to either mis-report the Inquiry’s findings or to ignore large parts of the report altogether”.

Those of us who have followed the Finklestein Inquiry, read the diverse submissions, the final report and the surrounding, often borderline hysterical, media coverage cannot help but have some sympathy for Ricketson’s view even allowing for his immersion in the inquiry process and his detailed contributions to its findings.

Perhaps the overall news media antipathy to the Inquiry itself and its recommendations were encapsulated best by the somewhat arch comments from the CEO of Fairfax, Greg Hywood, appearing in person before the Finklestein Inquiry. He asked in effect, “What’s the problem? Why are we here?”

He was not alone in that view. The coverage and advocacy journalism of the News Limited media was strident and tipping into polemical over-kill especially via its CEO Kim Williams. Sober analysis and balanced coverage were but a pipe dream.

In the UK, the equivalent struggle around the Leveson Inquiry’s findings and recommendations continue. There, the hacking scandals at the News of the World and elsewhere drove the sentiment, rhetoric and forensic character of that inquiry. Here in Australia, Finklestein was oriented more towards the transformations of the digital revolution albeit clearly within the ripple effect of the hacking scandals in the UK and Leveson.

Before Finklestein started his hearings, The Convergence Review was already doing its work and had issued an interim report. Finklestein’s eventual findings and recommendations were effectively folded into their processes as the government (at a snail’s pace) forged its legislation aimed at effecting some media regulation reform across a range of pressing issues including the growing anomaly of regulating the printed news media in one (to many deeply unsatisfactory) way compared to the regulation of analogue and digital broadcasting and online digital media.

Now, in the “phony war” phase of the lead up to a federal election in September 2013, the failure of that legislation and the apparent junking of much of the extensive research and analytical work by Finklestein and The Convergence Review are, of course, inevitably part of a campaign of intense political point scoring. Read the rest of this entry »

How Sales dropped the ball on Abbott

In ABC, Federal Election, Journalism, Peter Clarke on April 25, 2013 at 3:53 PM

By Peter Clarke,

April 25, 2013

Late last year, Leigh Sales interviewed Tony Abbott live on the 730 Report. Sales was sharp and persistent, Abbott poorly prepared and struggling. Sales beat claims of bias and won a coveted Walkley Award for TV interviewing.

Naturally viewers were relishing the prospect of a return bout, and Sales and the program promoted the interview on social media. It now seems that if Abbott agrees to be interviewed on an ABC current affairs program it is a ‘get’. Because of the history and the ongoing tensions between the office of the opposition leader and the ABC, there is an additional expectation from the audience.

Unlike Sales’ interviews with Prime Minister Gillard, there is no history between Sales and Abbott around key policy areas or even how they engage in these set-piece, contested, political interviews. Rather, each interview appears to be built from the ground up, as if it was the first one. Their rarity causes a fundamental problem in the continuity of enquiry.

I first reviewed Sales’ performance in a piece about her interview with Gillard after she stared down Rudd to retain her leadership, in which I was quite critical of both participants. I have long been an admirer of Sales, and cite her as one of the best we have.

Or I used to.

Something happened in that Gillard interview which diminished the natural and hard-won interviewing skills Sales had clearly demonstrated. She gleaned very little useful insight or information for citizens. Last night’s interview with Abbott was calmer and smoother than the Gillard one or Sales’ last interview with Abbott, but, again, very little content of real value emerged. 

In fact, the most troubling aspect of the interview last night was that Sales did not appear to be listening acutely enough to Abbott’s answers. Alongside all the integrated skills and techniques in a top interviewer’s toolkit, LISTENING remains the key attribute. Without it, the ‘hollow dance’ becomes even more superficial.

This Abbott interview was roughly the same duration as the Gillard one – just over thirteen minutes. It was (as was the Gillard interview) pre-recorded. And Abbott was not in the studio with Sales. Here is a brief analysis of the interview transcript. 

In her set-up, Sales frames the interview as an enquiry into the Coalition’s economic plan, stating that “your vote will boil down” to your judgement on how well the Labor government handled the Global Financial Crisis and associated spending. Her opening remarks to Abbott followed that line until she ask the gift (for Abbott) question: Are you asking the public to elect you on blind faith?

In my article on Sales’ Gillard interview, I suggested that the interview never recovered from asking a broad diffuse and opinionated first question. Sales’ opening gambit with Gillard:

After recent events, aren’t Australians well within their rights to conclude that the Gillard Government is a dysfunctional mess that deserves to be consigned to opposition as soon as possible?

Notice the similarity in form and approach? Gillard walked through the giant gap. So did Abbott.

Sales could have chosen, as her set-up promised, a specific, targeted first question around economic policy to stop Abbott being able to rely on the generalised, abstract discourse politicians favour to avoid the question and stay on message. But Sales went for the flourish again, and it let her down, again. Read the rest of this entry »

Morrison’s brick wall on how he’ll stop the boats

In Federal Election, Peter Clarke, Refugees on March 28, 2013 at 8:57 PM
Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison

By Peter Clarke
March 26, 2013

Yesterday, we published a detailed de-construction of an interview between the ABC 730’s Leigh Sales and Prime Minister Julia Gillard. It was a critique of Sales for what we opined were her inadequate interview techniques in that specific context and of Julia Gillard for her blatant refusal to answer questions and her use of media training 101 avoidance techniques to manipulate media interviews. Neither came out of that encounter with much credit, least of all the PM.

Here in the comments section and on Twitter the responses have been vigorous and varied. A very worthwhile discussion is still flowing online.

As always, partisan passions appear to animate many people’s perceptions, judgments and opinions. A very few observers were able to bring a sense of disinterested appraisal to bear that rose above merely backing sides.

This is not about being a cheer squad for one of the political parties over another. That’s way too easy really. This is about effective, ethical journalism. And (look away now if you must) THE TRUTH. I know, I know, THE TRUTH is a highly contested idea and many would argue it barely exists, certainly within journalism as widely practised, but it is still a guiding ideal to aim for in some reasonable form.

Any other suggestions? Post-modernists, come on down!

We celebrate and critique journalistic practitioners using a range of measures and factors, depending on each case we examine. We critique politicians who, out of one side of their mouths, extol the notion of a ‘free press’ in the abstract, especially within a parliamentary political debate such as around media reform, and then, in their daily political encounters with legitimate questioning, seem to do their best to hobble and intimidate journalists and avoid the tough enquiries of that free press as they fulfill their democratic, fourth estate roles and functions.

Mind you, they and their media minders keep the avalanche of media releases, leaks and duchessing of favoured scribes flowing and rejoice if slabs of their propaganda appear in print, come out of broadcaster’s mouths or get picked up as talking points or assumptions during interviews by journalists too time pressed and/or lazy to do their own original research.

A free press? Sure thing.

Or even worse, as Tony Abbott has done and continues to do, avoid forensic interviews almost entirely. What does an outlet such as the ABC do then?  Media entities are institutions within the media-saturated democratic ecology too. The ABC, historically and today, holds a special and vital place in our system despite its flaws and the many and growing pressures upon it. Both sides of politics despise it more than love or even respect it.

The commercial sector is just as vital. The strong advocacy (often overtly, corporately self-serving) character of much of News Limited’s contemporary journalism, recently most stridently around media reform, is a major blot on the journalistic landscape. Read the rest of this entry »

Anatomy of Sales -v- Gillard interview

In Federal Election, Peter Clarke on March 26, 2013 at 11:56 PM

By Peter Clarke
March 26, 2013

A little context …

Lady Bracknell: To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness.
The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde

What would Wilde have had to say about losing a conga-line of ministers, parliamentary secretaries and assorted whips?

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Another day, another interview. Or two, or three.

For an anchor of a nightly national current affairs program such as Leigh Sales @ABC730, this is her bedrock job: conducting set-piece accountability interviews and performing to the highest broadcast journalistic standards she and the team around her can aspire to and produce.

Last Monday night (25 March) was typical and unusual both. Her interviewee was the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. That’s standard. Sales has interviewed Gillard many times both as PM and earlier. And, at times, very effectively both in terms of the information that she elicited and the tone and dynamic of the interview itself.

Monday night’s interview did not fall into that category. It was clearly an unusual context with Gillard, after yet another Ruddesque encounter with losing her Prime Ministership, out in media land selling her message of ‘done and dusted’ and essentially telling Australian electors, ‘Nothing to see here’.

The repeated lines tended to work better on shows such as The Project.

The Project

The Project

Of course, there was much to be seen here and imagined and speculated about and grimaced over and long sighs expended upon, heads shaking all the while. We knew that. Leigh Sales had that as an inescapable reality as she sat at her desk, writing her leads and plotting her approach to what turned out to be a short interview considering the steaming pile of political slag the PM was standing in front of vainly attempting some verbal legerdemain and misdirection to divert our collective bemused and weary gaze. Read the rest of this entry »

Are journos about truth or reporting what they say?

In ABC, John Faine Affair, Journalism, MSM, NBN, Peter Clarke on March 11, 2013 at 7:33 PM
Malcolm Turnbull - Surrealist Artist Installation Staged At Bondi Beach

Malcolm Turnbull – Surrealist Artist Installation Staged At Bondi Beach

By Peter Clarke
March 11, 2013

Margo: My first journalism job was at The Courier Mail. One day I wrote a story about a disagreement in the Queensland National Liberal Coalition Cabinet about condom vending machines. My first paragraph quoted the then health minister  Mike Ahern. My second said that his statement contradicted another minister, Lyne Powell. The chief sub editor, Graham Earle, called me over to demand an explanation for my story. ‘What is this?” he asked. ‘The truth,’ I replied. ‘Your job is not to write the truth, your job is to write what people say.”

I was devastated.

I was relieved when Fairfax’s the Times on Sunday, successor to the National Times, offered me a job as its Queensland reporter. Truth was what counted for Fairfax then. I felt honoured to work for them

Still, I encountered variations on the theme there too, particularly when I covered the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal re-hearings into Alan Bond’s bribe to Sir Joh to pay him $400,000 to settle a defamation claim in exchange for, well, you know, the ability to do business in Queensland.

I was steeped in the first hearing, and during the second reported when the evidence diverged from the first hearing. Again, I was told, your job is to write what people say. I fought that view, and won.

So this is a recurring theme in journalism.

In Canberra I was aggressive in press conferences, and back in Sydney I was aggressive too. I remember one occasion when I was writing stories on how it was imperative for developer donations to be disclosed in NSW. I went to a Bob Carr press conference on the Bali Bombings, where I questioned the Premier on the matter, to be met with false allegations that I had condoned the bombings.

The then news editor, Mark Coulton, complained to the editor of, for whom I worked, that it was unacceptable to press the Premier so hard, to be so ‘aggressive’. So I posted the audio and asked for comment. The majority of readers backed me.

Is our job to report what people say or to search for the truth?  And if it is the former, does journalism serve a useful purpose in our democracy?


Examining over the last few weeks the intricacies of the Jon Faine affair, has been fascinating. I have encountered so many differing perceptions, views, narratives, claims, assertions around the original Faine broadcast interviews and the unruly notions of ‘factual’, ‘balance’, ‘impartial’, ‘accuracy’, ‘argumentative’ and, yes, the biggie, TRUTH.

Then, there have also been claimed ‘bias breach’ and process attributes such as ‘consistent’ and ‘proportionate’.

Most of these encounters, but not all, have been with news media professionals or the executives within the ABC whose job it is to hold the line and keep the ‘fair and consistent process’ alive and functioning no matter the manifest anomalies.

What has become very clear to me in researching and discussing this still unfolding story around Faine is that there are two realms from which to observe and appraise it: inside the ABC, where apparently process and its survival is everything, and outside the ABC where the view can be entirely different. Read the rest of this entry »

Conroy demands ABC transparency after second pro-Coalition slap down of strong journalism

In ABC, John Faine Affair, NBN, Peter Clarke on March 8, 2013 at 1:35 PM
Nick Ross - ABC Technology & Games Editor

Nick Ross – ABC Technology & Games Editor

By Peter Clarke
March 7, 2013

The Federal Communications Minister, Victorian Senator, Stephen Conroy, has accused the ABC of  a ‘lack of transparency and fairness’ over its reported disciplining of its online technology writer Nick Ross, who has written extensively about the NBN.

The minister’s allegations, made to Jon Faine on Melbourne ABC radio this morning, echo much of the commentary around the ABC’s recent negative finding of ‘bias. against Faine himself:

‘Now this cannot go on. These internal procedures of the ABC have to be more open and more transparent. Journalists cannot work on a basis that they’re going to be bullied and intimidated, and have complaints lodged against them in a process that is not transparent and open.’

Senator Conroy also accused his opposition counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull, of ‘constantly attacking and trying to bully some of your journalists’.

Conroy was responding to a report in today’s Australian Media section. It stated that in relation to NBN stories, an ABC spokeswoman said Ross had ‘been reminded of the need to ensure that his work in this area is in keeping with ABC policies’.

That report quoted from an opinion piece in the same edition of the newspaper by Kevin Morgan under the headline: ABC’s man leaves objectivity on the cutting-room floor to spruik NBN.

Morgan is an ‘independent telecom consultant’ and served on Kim Beazley’s ministerial committee on telecom reform.

Nick Ross, tweeting under @ABCTech has denied being reprimanded or disciplined but has so far been silent when approached to clarify the actual circumstances.

Ross did tweet that he was left ‘literally speechless’ by the Kevin Morgan opinion piece.

The ABC’s technology writer was further quoted via the twitter account @774Melbourne, as denying supporting one side or the other, ‘This is an 11,000 word article.. people have to make up their own minds on this.’

Ross was emphasising that this most recent of his articles, referred to by Morgan, is a detailed analysis piece.

The ABC now has two recent examples of internal “disciplining” of their own journalists for alleged breaches of their own Editorial Guidelines.

Jon Faine was found to have been guilty of a breach by the ABC’s own internal Audience and Consumer Affairs unit after complaints following his robust interviews with former Sydney shock-jock, Michael Smith, and The Age journalist, Mark Baker.

Faine very pointedly challenged Smith to provide facts to justify his ongoing campaign against Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, around her involvement in the AWU slush fund affair.

The ABC has resolutely refused all requests to provide detailed reasons for that decision beyond a bald statement of the negative finding.

The Australian editorially, has been consistently critical of the NBN. There have long been public tensions with the ABC.

News Corporation boss, Rupert Murdoch, has long been a proponent of diminishing or ceasing the operations of public news organisations such as the ABC and the BBC.

Read the rest of this entry »

@MediaActive interviews @JonaHolmesMW on #Faine

In John Faine Affair, Peter Clarke on March 6, 2013 at 11:31 AM
Jonathan Holmes - Mediawatch

Jonathan Holmes – Mediawatch

By Peter Clarke
March 6, 2013

If you have been following the Jon Faine ‘bias’ affair you will know that ABC Television’s Media Watch covered the Faine controversy on 4 February – almost the only ABC coverage of the finding and resultant strong dissent by Faine and several leading ABC current affairs journalists. (Faine archive)

In that edition, the presenter, Jonathan Holmes, made it clear that, with some caveats, he supported the negative finding against Faine by the ABC’s blandly titled Audience and Consumer Affairs Department.

Within the tight time constraints of that fourteen minute program, he made his reasons reasonably plain.

While writing the previous articles on this affair, I was able to communicate with Jonathan Holmes via email and Twitter to explore and clarify his views on the issue itself and the investigative and assessment processes around the finding.

He agreed to answer some questions via email on the record.

Holmes’ perspectives and analyses are very useful coming from a journalist of his long experience and, now, as the most established presenter of Media Watch on ABC Television. He took up that role in 2008.

He started in journalism in 1971 at the BBC and went on to Executive Produce the ABC’s Four Corners, Foreign Correspondent and The 7.30 Report. Later he went back in the field as a foreign corespondent for the ABC in Washington and as a reporter for Four Corners.

His report for Foreign Correspondent on the Balibo Five won a Logie in 1998 and his earlier film on the Hoddle Street massacre was also an award winner.

These answers from Jonathan Holmes put more flesh on the bones of his original Media Watch script.

1. On 27 February, in a tweet reply to one of my tweets you said:

Would you expand on what you mean by “woolly ABC Ed pols”? Are those “Ed pols” flawed to the extent they need reform in your view?

Do you mean the authentic application of these “Ed pols” by the ABC itself or by ACMA is intrinsically compromised by that “woolliness?

The current ABC Editorial Policies were issued in April 2011.  They were drawn up by the then Director of Editorial Policies, Paul Chadwick (who has since left the ABC).  Chadwick reduced the former Editorial Policies, which had accumulated over half a century and ran to a substantial booklet well over 100 pages in length, to a much shorter document encapsulating various Principles and Standards.

In addition, Chadwick issued (with the imprimatur of the MD) various Guidance Notes to expand on the much shorter Ed Pols – though none which are of much relevance to this particular matter. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy to face #Faine ‘Star Chamber’: @Colvinius

In ABC, John Faine Affair, MSM, Peter Clarke on February 27, 2013 at 8:25 PM


By Peter Clarke
February 27th, 2013


Last night, I was watching 730 on ABC Television. As we can now, I also had my iPad fired up to follow the #abc730 hashtag as the program went to air.

With the cryptic words of the recent Jon Faine negative finding from the ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs unit still buzzing on my frontal lobes, I was rather amazed to see an interviewer, Leigh Sales, whom I generally admire for the brevity and forensic character of her interview questions, appear to become somebody else.

Bob Brown was the interviewee on a link. Clashes between Japanese whaling and re-fuelling vessels and Sea Shepherd boats in the Southern Ocean was the central topic.

As I remember, Sales in an interview last year with now Greens leader, Christine Milne, exhibited a similar “Mr Hyde” transformation: not listening, hectoring, seeming to have a single line she wished to pursue at all odds. Not forensic, revealing nor at all clever. Except if she was “under instructions” to “do” Brown.

It was not a pretty sight from a frontline journalistic interviewer.

Of course Brown’s claims and assertions needed plenty of testing. He, as a contrarian, in the scheme of things, usually has to bat off quite egregious questions to bring the audience back to some logic and his line of argument.

That is what he did last night. He was able to sidestep Sales’ technique with ease.

The key words from the Faine finding flew through my mind:

“argumentative”? – check

“over-simplification”? – check

Sales’ cringe-worthy use of a simplistic analogy to equate breaking windows on illegally parked cars in her neighborhood with the Sea Shepherd’s activities in the whale sanctuary and serious questions of international law were clearly “over-simplification”.

“strongly-stated personal opinion”? – check

“due impartiality”? – well this is the clincher, catch-all phrase replete with ambiguity and deeply dependent on subjective responses on the part of citizen consumers and potential complainants.

I tweeted a brief critique of the interview. Others on the #abc730 hashtag were more pungent and clearly did not perceive “due impartiality” in Sales from their perspective.

Let me be clear. I don’t believe the Sales-Brown interview last night warrants a complaint for “bias” or lack of “impartiality” on Sales’ part. A critique of her approach and professional technique? Yes. By any measure, the outcome of that interview for us citizens was a very thin gruel.

That after all is the only real reason for major broadcast, “set piece”, accountability interviews. To reveal “factual” information, test claims and create coherence as optimally as possible in the (always) brief time allocated.

Showing off, digging in journalistic spurs for the sake of it are superfluous to the task. And almost inevitably counter-productive as last night again demonstrated.

Read the rest of this entry »

Stonewalling on steroids: ABC fails transparency test

In ABC, John Faine Affair, Peter Clarke on February 15, 2013 at 8:41 PM
ABC Director of Communications

MIchael Millett, Director ABC Corporate Affairs

EDITORS NOTE: When there is more information on an ABC apology and reprimand to Jon Faine from right wing blogger Michael Smith’s website than from the ABC itself  you smell a story. Thanks to Tweep donations AFHP commissioned journalist Peter Clarke to pursue it. Both he and I thought the story would have been told by now, more than two weeks after @CUhlmann demanded on Twitter that the ABC back Faine.
It hasn’t. The ABC is playing word games to avoid answering Peter’s questions and has not reported this story at any time on any of its platforms except Media Watch. Why? And why the difference in approach from the last time there was an adverse finding against an ABC interviewer, when there was an ABC statement and solid coverage?
Here is today’s email from Peter to the ABC Director of Corporate Affairs, Michael Millett, in reply to a stonewall response 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 to avoid accountability on the premise that questioners will give up and move on. We won’t. The AFHP Jon Faine archive is HERE.

From: Peter Clarke
Date: 15 February 2013
To:Mike Millett


Dear Mick,

Thank you so much for your recent reply in relation to the Jon Faine matter.

Unfortunately, your reply does not even begin to address our detailed questions and raises more questions than it answers.

For example, you point to section 5 of the guidelines to clarify how a person such as Faine might “appeal” or seek review of a negative finding. I have carefully read and parsed that section and all relevant sections. It is simply not clear how a person such as Faine has or can exercise a “right of appeal”.

By contrast, if the original complaint is to ACMA, the ABC as an entity seems to allocate to itself a defensive role on behalf of the complained against broadcaster.

For an internally based process, this seems much less clear.

Would you confirm that Jon Faine has a right under the complaints process to seek a review of the findings? How?

Has he sought such a review?

Has HE received the detailed reasons for the finding to authentically inform such an appeal against the findings?

Did the committee thoroughly document its investigative and decision-making process?

Is there in fact a detailed set of reasons on record?

What is actually stopping the ABC from publishing it if it exists?

Does Faine need the support of his managers to exercise any right of appeal (if he indeed has one) or is the process more independent and at arm’s length from the management chain of command. A close reading of the guidelines seems to indicate that the process is intimately bound up with management decision making processes and not more akin to an openly fair “legal” process.

Here is the nub of your problem. Read the rest of this entry »

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:

Thanks, Michael for your assistance in clarifying this matter.



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.








These questions are in the context of:


(b)               The statement of findings by ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs

(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.



  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

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.


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

Hi Mick,


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.



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 Clarke

 Mike Millett
14 February 2013 
to Peter Clarke



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


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 The ABC also provides statistical reports that provide an overview of audience contacts received by Audience & Consumer Affairs during each quarter . Also publically available are the ABC’s editorial standards and principles , and the 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

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