Citizen Journalism

Archive for the ‘John Faine Affair’ Category

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 »

Transcript – 774 ABC Melbourne, Mornings, Friday, 8 March 2013 08:35 AM

In ABC, John Faine Affair, NBN, Telecommunications on March 6, 2013 at 1:44 PM

Audio of Jon Faine – Stephen Conroy Interview


We shall turn or attention to state politics in a moment or two, but first on the federal sphere, is it true that there is now a push within the Labor Party to replace Julia Gillard and look for a Denis Napthine style option? Stephen Conroy is the Minister for Broadband Communications, the Digital Economy, Digital Productivity – this is the longest title anyone’s every had surely, and leader of the Government in the Senate. Senator Conroy good morning to you.

Yes it is a very long title. Good morning Jon.

We’ll come to the NBN and its problems in a moment, where you’re being accused of pork-barrelling, but is it true the Labor Party are looking at Simon Crean as a Denis Napthine option to replace Julia Gillard before the federal election?


My information is that that’s now being considered as an alternative to a Kevin Rudd push which would be electorally toxic.
Julia Gillard overwhelmingly won a vote last year for the leadership…

Long time ago now.

She retains the majority support of the Parliamentary Labor Party, and she will take us to the next election. There’s lots of stories but bottom line is, the Prime Minister has the overwhelming support of the caucus.

In the last 24 hours, since the change in leadership in Victora, it’s been put to me by figures involved in the Labor Party that this may be an option as well for resolving the predicament you find yourselves in. And Kevin Rudd, unacceptable, that would make a mockery of your procedures and processes, and Simon Crean emerges as the Denis Napthine.

Look Simon’s doing a great job travelling the country, talking about the benefits of Labor’s policies, explaining them to people in regional and rural Australia, championing the National Broadband Network, and is doing a fantastic job. But, Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister, has the overwhelming majority of caucus supporting her. And this is just further distraction to getting on with – explaining, demonstrating, and ensuring that our policies are fully understood out there in the broader community. I mean we are focused on reforming the education system, we’re focused on introducing a National Disability Insurance Scheme, and continuing the roll out of the National Broadband Network.

And yet the opinion polls show, and they’re trending in a very awkward direction, they show that none of that is getting through. And I put it to you again, Kevin Rudd, absolutely electorally unacceptable as well as internally toxic, Simon Crean the Napthine equivalent.

Look, Simon, as I said, is doing a great job. But Julia Gillard has the support of the overwhelming majority of the Parliamentary caucus. And what all of the caucus members need to focus on – is if we keep talking about ourselves, if we keep just having conversations about what’s going on in the Labor Party, we will get a response in the polls that goes down. People are not interested in hearing about the ins and outs in the Labor Party, they’re interested in hearing about how we’re going to reform the education system so that every child gets a better education; about how we’re going to ensure that one of the segments of society, families with disabled children and family members need more support; and the National Broadband Network which will open up opportunities for small business, open up opportunities…

Speaking of the Broadband Network, you’re accused of pork-barrelling with the roll out of the Broadband Network, and yet again we’re seeing western Sydney getting a disproportionate share of not just the NBN, but all infrastructure promises because of its electoral sensitivity.


Look this claim about the NBN and pork-barrelling Labor seats has been debated and disproved. But let me really precise about this, the ACCC, an independent statutory authority, intervened in the process of building the NBN. They said, following lobbying from telecommunications companies, that there will be what we call 121 points of interconnect, or POIs in the jargon. And they ticked the, you know, physical sites of these points of interconnect, and said you will start building from here. And if you overlay the map of the roll out of the NBN, it pretty much follows the instructions from the ACCC. And the ACCC are an independent statutory authority, so suggestions that there’s one electorate favoured over another are absurd.

I did want to raise one issue, John, which is starting to concern me, and I know a number of listeners, particularly to the ABC – there now seems to be a policy of trying to intimidate ABC personnel. Malcolm Turnbull is constantly attacking and trying to bully some of your journalists. And today I read in The Australian, and I know you shouldn’t always believe everything you read in The Australian, but a very disturbing thing where another journalist on the ABC staff has been internally disciplined because they’re not prepared to just accept every policy pronouncement, or claim that’s made publicly.

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. This is the second…

Well now by way of background, the ABC has disciplined one of its editors, who – a man called Nick Ross who edits a forum on the ABC’s online publications, who has been critical of the Coalition. Mr Ross has been critical of the Coalition’s broadband policy, and supportive of yours. And it’s been determined by the ABC internal complaints process that his reporting has not been even-handed.


Well what – I don’t agree with all of Nick Ross’s findings, he’s not someone I’ve ever met expect for I think at press conference. I don’t agree with everything that Nick Ross writes in his columns. But what he’s been prepared to do is compare policies, now that is the job of journalists. To be prepared…

No, he’s been accused of being part of your fan club.


No he’s been prepared to compare the Labor Government’s NBN policy, and Malcolm Turnbull’s pretend NBN policy. And he’s gone to great lengths to compare all of the claims backwards and forwards, he’s been critical of me plenty of times in the past. In fact he used to be very critical to my face at press conferences. But what you see here is he’s engaged in getting the facts together, demonstrating that the claims – just by having the facts, demonstrating that the claims that Malcolm Turnbull makes about his policies, are not – don’t stand up to scrutiny. And for this he’s attacked by The Australian, he’s vilified in The Australian today, and a campaign, through a process that is non-transparent, doesn’t give people inside the ABC a fair go.

Well you’re the Minister for the ABC, if you think the process is not transparent and unfair, why don’t you do something about it?


Well I don’t run the ABC, it’s got a board, it’s got an independent charter, and it’s got a managing director. But I think it’s time to call out, where you’ve got journalists inside the ABC are being disciplined in a process that does not – does not remotely give fair justice to the journalists involved. This is just an outrageous process.

I have to return to state politics in a moment, but just one final question Senator Conroy, and we’ll see if either the ABC management or others want to comment on that, we’ll see if Mr Ross wants to comment too. But you’re a key factional warlord in Victoria for the right.


Who are you going to install in Gellibrand to replace Nicola Roxon?

Well I expect that the party will open its nominations in the near future. I’m sure, given it’s a very traditionally safe Labor seat, there’ll be a lot of interest, and there’ll be many nominations, and the rank and file members, as they do in most occasions in the Victorian branch of the Labor Party, get an opportunity to vote.

Yeah that’s the theory, but the practice is that you will choose who you want to install. Who have you got your eye on? Why not just tell us?

The rank and file members of the Labor Party will get nominations, and they will get an opportunity to vote on who they think will be the best representative for Gellibrand. We’ve been extraordinarily lucky in the last 20 years, we’ve had treasurers like Ralph Willis, we’ve had health ministers, and attorney-generals like Nicola Roxon. We have been very very lucky in Gellibrand to have some high quality candidates. I’m expecting a whole range of high quality people will put their hand up as well.

Are you going to offer a parachute to Senator David Feeney who’s been put into an unwinnable position on the Senate ticket in Victoria? One of those who was instrumental in the removal of Kevin Rudd.

Look, the third position in the Senate is not unwinnable, it’s challenging. David Feeney won it last time, and I’m confident David can win it again.

You’re going to leave him on the Senate ticket, or are you going to move him Gellibrand?

We’ll look for Gellibrand nomination to open, but I think David won against the odds the third Senate posi last time, and I’m confident David will be able to win from there again.

Thank you. we’ll read between the lines, and undoubtedly we’ll get the chance to speak again soon. Thank you for your time.


Senator Stephen Conroy, Victorian Labor Senator, and the Minister for the Broadband Communication, and Digital Economy portfolio in the Gillard Government.

@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 »

Looking for my Aunty

In ABC, Ashby Conspiracy, John Faine Affair, Nancy Cato on February 17, 2013 at 4:14 PM

By Nancy Cato
February 17, 2013

Nancy Cato

Nancy Cato

Yes – silly isn’t it. I feel rather foolish making this awful public confession that I’ve sort of lost my Aunty, but it’s a fact – if a fact can be ‘sort of’. Anyway, I do my share of complaining about the lack of any sort of facts in much of today’s media, so ‘fess up I must. It’s embarrassing. Aunty Ambidextra Balancedia Clarificia (ABC for short) has been in our family for – well, since she was born really, in 1932 – making her only 7 years 5 months older than her niece. It happens in families.

Mind you, she’s not just my Aunty and she’s not really my Aunty at all – as in a blood relation or anything. My Mum and Dad just happened to take her in as a tiny baby and reared her as my Aunt. This also happens in families. Goodness knows where her parents were – she seemed to be surrounded by fusty, old, white, politically-absorbed males at the time – but that’s for later.

When Aunty arrived in our house she was just a noise – no visual accoutrements at all – but she sure made her presence felt. Dad was a busy dentist; his surgery attached to our house allowed him to sneak home regularly, in-between patients, to listen to Aunty holding forth on one thing or another of national importance. He’d get up at some ungodly hour like 4am to listen to Alan McGilvray commenting on the overseas Test Ashes Series and managed to know exactly what was going on in the much-loved serials The Lawsons and Blue Hills every lunch hour.

It was in those early days that Aunty did three things of enormous significance for my family; three things that formed a bond between my Aunty and me, changed the course of my life, and caused this current rising panic because I can’t find her.

First Significance: Dad was a cricket tragic and as soon as I was old enough to appear to be able to understand what he was saying, he explained the system that Aunty had used 2 or 3 years earlier in 1938, to telegraph Test results back home from England. Apparently, I was sitting on the floor playing with my toy monkey and had my back to him. He was tapping a pencil on the kitchen bench to show me how the broadcasters in Aunty’s Studio simulated the sound of  bat hitting ball. I showed no interest. Dad tapped louder, but not even clap of hands and stamping of feet made any difference. I don’t remember that bit of the story, but I DO remember getting swooped up suddenly into an enormous, heaving bear hug and trying to wipe my dad’s tears away with Bunky’s tiny hands.

Aunty had inadvertently alerted my parents to the fact that I was unable to hear a word said. I was deaf.

Second Significance: Dad was a Menzies man. He thought the world of Pig-Iron Bob, Prime Minister at the time of my birth in 1939. Bob could do no wrong, say no wrong, think no wrong. And because Dad understood that lip-reading was useless for radio, he started to interpret what was being said via Aunty, right as it was being aired. Faithfully he imparted News Bulletins, Political Debates, The Country Hour and countless discussions of life in the 1940s.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

Words to flail and words to nail

In ABC, John Faine Affair, Peter Clarke on February 7, 2013 at 1:21 PM


By Peter Clarke
February 7, 2013

Even the toughest journalist, with the most scar tissue, flinches at any accusation of bias. Or unfairness. Or lack of impartiality and balance in their reporting and analysis. It is a matter of personal pride and professional integrity.

These words and the meanings they bear lie at the heart of the current controversy swirling around veteran ABC Local Radio broadcaster, Jon Faine, and the negative findings by the national broadcaster’s internal Audience and Consumer Affairs Department.

Sadly, these words are hurled at perceived “opponents” by journalists and peeved citizens alike, in a range of differing contexts, with little regard to their actual meaning both in theory or professional practice. Of course, the antidotes to these accusations from whatever source are nearly always “facts” and logical calm analysis. Both, paradoxically, are rare commodities in these days of intense partisanship and ideological passions demonstrated by journalists, political players (not only politicians) and politically engaged citizens.

To make clarity and reliability even more elusive, the digital revolution has brought us ever-greater volumes of “journalistic” opinion, commentary and ostensible analysis, often masquerading as “straight reporting” or presented as a mélange of hybridised forms. The former clearer boundaries and marking of journalistic genres have fallen away.

So, as we pursue the story around Jon Faine’s on-air interviews with Michael Smith and Mark Baker and the negative findings against him, I offer a reflection on these key terms terms to anchor, to some extent, these notions for all of us as the discussion and debate unfold further, here and elsewhere.

But first … the ABC’s continuing silence about the Faine affair and what that might portend.

In the contemporary spirit of keeping you well aware of the enquiry process and able to access as many primary documents as possible, here are the emails I have sent so far to the first obvious contact points within the ABC.

Denise Musto works within the ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs Department. Despite that inviting title, it was not easy to get through even to her. Her first response when I asked for the detailed reasons for the negative findings against Faine was to ask me (reasonably enough) “What is your interest in this?”

She initially indicated that there would be no release of any detailed reasons to clarify the brief public statement (online within the Department’s site) of a negative finding against Faine.

She then avowed she was not a “spokesperson” and somebody from Radio Policy in Adelaide would ring me. They didn’t.

I then rang Denise Musto again. She assured me the assigned person from Radio would ring me. They haven’t. Read the rest of this entry »

ABC double standards for political interviews and a sudden collapse in transparency

In ABC, John Faine Affair, Margo Kingston on February 5, 2013 at 11:06 PM

by Margo Kingston
February 5th, 2013


Former South Australian deputy premier Kevin Foley

An ABC deep throat has provided AFHP with the following statement:

In December 2011 the ABC was found by the ACMA to have breached the impartiality codes of the ABC Code of Practice.

The broadcast session involved was an interview with former SA Deputy Premier, Kevin Foley (Labor), on the breakfast timeslot of ABC Local Radio Adelaide.

The ACMA found:

…that the presenters displayed fixed prejudgment on the topics discussed, asked loaded questions and used disparaging language.

The ABC released a statement saying:

“The ABC acknowledges the ACMA’s ruling following a lengthy and highlycomplex investigation

“The ABC has vigorously defended the broadcast throughout the ACMA’s deliberations and is surprised at the outcome.


“Our interpretation of the ABC’s Code of Practice in this instance differs from that of ACMA, and we continue to disagree

“Matthew Abraham and David Bevan are experienced broadcasters, with a reputation for asking tough questions in a robust political environment.

“This approach will continue in line with the ABC’s editorial policies.”

Adelaide Now: ABC radio presenters Matthew Abraham and David Bevan found guilty of bias

Now, isn’t that all Jon Faine did: “[ask] tough questions in a robust political environment”?

Seems a double-standard from the ABC.

Former Shockjock Mike Smith

Former Shockjock Mike Smith

I note that in 2011 the ABC released a statement and reported the ACMA finding
(Watchdog rules Foley interview not impartial’)

This year, the ABC issued no statement, did not report the matter and, as revealed by Peter Clarke in ‘Who is wearing the Kafka mask at the ABC?’ has refused to release its reasons for reprimanding Faine and apologising to complainants. I have referred this material to Peter Clarke for analysis.

:  Mark Scott has yet to reply to my letter about Jon Faine . Read the rest of this entry »