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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Scott’

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 »

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

Who is wearing the Kafka mask at the ABC?

In ABC, John Faine Affair, Peter Clarke on February 5, 2013 at 6:04 AM
Publishers’ Note: The citizens journalism project Australians for Honest Politics is proud to announce that thanks to member donations we have commissioned Peter Clarke (@MediaActive), an elder of Australian journalism, to oversee reporting of the Jon Faine story. As a pioneer ABC radio interviewer, he is well placed to take us behind the story and explore its implications. Peter was initially loathe to take the commission as he is a friend of Mr Faine. Journalists often know people they report on, and I know Peter will bend over backwards to be impartial and get the facts right. – Margo & The Geek

By Peter Clarke
February 5, 2013

A remarkable story around the reliability and transparency of our public broadcaster is unfolding as this fraught federal election year begins.

Remarkable, because it seems the ABC is applying one set of journalistic “rules” to others that, so far, it is very reluctant to apply to itself when it comes to legitimate examination of its own internal processes that respond to external complaints of bias and unfairness.

The back story: on November 23 2012,  ABC leading local radio broadcaster at 774 Melbourne,  Jon Faine, interviewed journalists Mark Baker from The Age and Michael Smith, formerly a 2UE broadcast journalist, regarding the AWU “slush fund” affair and Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s alleged role in it.

They were certainly robust interviews.  Faine is a lawyer by training and background as well as having thousands of hours of flying time conducting live, tough, forensic interviews with politicians and many others facing public accountability.

His style and approach is well known to his listening audience. And his dogged, often very insistent, search for more than spin and propaganda is much appreciated and valued by many.

You can listen to the interview here.

There were a number complaints of bias against Faine made to the ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs Agency. Their role and task was to consider the relevant circumstances of the complained about interview and apply the publically available ABC Editorial Guidelines.

The committee delivered this brief finding against Faine:

Audience and Consumer Affairs found that the interviews were in breach of the ABC’s editorial requirement to gather and present news and information with due impartiality.  The argumentative style of the interviews, combined with a pattern of strongly stated personal opinions by the presenter that at times oversimplified the issues at hand, was not in keeping with the ABC’s rigorous impartiality standards for news and information. Seventeen complaints were upheld.

The finding, as delivered, contains serious and fundamental ‘allegations’ against Faine.  One of them is his ‘argumentative style’. Another Faine’s ‘strongly stated personal opinions’.

Any experienced interviewer knows that live, forensic interviews involve a highly skilled process of using a range of techniques to elicit the best quality and most authentic information possible for the audience – citizens all.

These techniques differ from interview to interview according to context and the status and perceived intentions of the interviewee. They have for a long time included challenging  well-practiced interviewees using ‘arguments’ to the contrary.

With politicians, fully media-trained and in the hands of relentless spin-meisters, the interview becomes a feisty contest of challenge and often concealment or ‘staying on message’. Read the rest of this entry »

Open letter to Mark Scott about Jon Faine from Margo Kingston

In ABC, John Faine Affair, Margo Kingston, MSM on February 4, 2013 at 6:54 AM


February 4, 2013

Mr Mark Scott,
Managing Director

Dear Mark,

Re: ABC apology to anonymous complainant and reprimand to Jon Faine over his interview with former shock-jock Michael Smith 

I write to seek information on this matter and express my concerns at its process.

I first learned of it through a strongly worded protest by ABC political editor Chris Uhlmann published on Twitter at @CUhlmann:

The ABC’s finding that Jon Faine is guilty of a “lapse in standards” in 2 interviews on the AWU slush fund is absurd.

Jon challenged two journalists to defend claims that the Prime Minister acted improperly in her former career as a lawyer.

Jon believes that, based on the publicly available evidence, the Prime Minister did no wrong. To date, the facts support that view.

The interviews, which so shamed the ABC’s correctness commissars, were robust exchanges between a broadcaster and two journalists.

Jon pressed them to lay out the key allegations and provide evidence to support their claims of wrongdoing. In short, he did his job. Well.

Jon is one of the jewels of local radio’s crown and I am proud that I was once his producer. I await a robust defence of him from management.

While on the topic. I also think it’s high time we fell in behind our peerless political commentator Barrie Cassidy.

Naturally I was interested to find out more.

Chris’s link was to an OZ paywall story. I found a short piece at Fairfax. I found nothing at all on the ABC media platforms or on its corporate website.

Luckily, former ABC broadcaster Peter Clarke sent me the result of his in-depth search, a very buried, very brief statement of the decision with no background or reasons.


To my great surprise I got more information from Mr Smith’s website, because he published the ABC email to the anonymous complainant, who appears to be one of  his fans. See ‘Jon Faine – will you resign?

As I write, I can find no media release by the ABC and no news story on the apology, reprimand or Mr Uhlmann’s call for ABC management to back Mr Faine and withdraw the finding. Read the rest of this entry »