ABC shut out of leaders forum

The ABC is protesting over the TV exclusivity of a Leader's Forum saying it provided footage of the Great Debate to SKY.

The ABC is protesting over the television exclusivity of a Leader’s Forum at Rooty Hill RSL, organised by SKY News and the Daily Telegraph.

The People’s Forum will see both leaders face separately face questions from an audience of swinging voters. ABC News 24 is unable to screen the event live with Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, which airs at 6pm AEST on Wednesday on SKY News.

News Director Kate Torney says many Australians will miss out while access is being withheld by both organisations. The broadcaster previously provided a ‘clean feed’ of other campaign events such as the Great Debate to all other networks, including SKY.

“At all times, the ABC has put the public interest ahead of media politics in this campaign,” she said.

“At the request of other media organisations and the two major parties, we have provided these campaign events to all media outlets. Now it appears others have chosen not to play by these rules, and the Australian public will be disadvantaged.”

ABC holds the exclusive right to live coverage of Press Club events, and wore the production costs involved.

“We did this because the ABC is committed to public access to key campaign events,” she said. “We believe that as many Australians as possible should have the chance to engage in events of national significance, not just the 30 percent of households who have access to subscription television.”

Some footage of the forum is expected to be released to other media after the event.

Torney said the ABC was prepared to mount the production for Wednesday’s forum and make it available live to all media, including SKY.

Sky News Chief Executive Angelos Frangopoulos said in a statement, “SKY News will make available a feed of its live program, The People’s Forum, to the ABC and all other media outlets (at no cost) for broadcast from 7pm (AEST) this Wednesday night, August 11.

“The ABC clearly does not understand the difference between a television programme and an open campaign event.

“Today SKY News provided its coverage of the Communications Debate at the National Press Club (at no cost), which was aired live and in full on the ABC. The ABC has declined to provide a live feed of its television programs, such as last night’s Q & A featuring Prime Minister Julia Gillard.”

Since launching last month, ABC News 24 has been the subject of criticism from News Limited newspapers, publisher of The Daily Telegraph.

Last night Julia Gillard appeared live on Q & A while Tony Abbott is guest next week.

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