Managing Directors in Senate grilling

Michelle Guthrie & Michael Ebeid faced tough questions from Pauline Hanson, Eric Abetz & Canberra senators yesterday.

ABC Managing Director Michelle Guthrie and SBS Managing Director Michael Ebeid faced Senate hearings yesterday with a grilling in Canberra.

Pauline Hanson took aim at ABC editorial balance, which she said was being “talked about constantly on talk back radio”, accusing ABC programs of “targeting” One Nation.

Michelle Guthrie rejected claims the ABC was biased, pointing to independent studies which found 80% of Australians trusted it as a news source, while director of editorial policies, Alan Sunderland, said he would look at any complaints Senator Hanson put forward, but stood by “the accuracy, the impartiality and the quality of all the coverage we have done on One Nation.”

Senator Hanson also demanded the salary of ABC presenter Tony Jones be made public. Her colleague, Malcolm Roberts, later expanded on the topic, asking for the details of all staff earning more than $250,000, all production and presenter staff earning more than $200,000, the amount of time they spent on air, and how many investigative journalists the ABC employed, what they were paid, as well as a breakdown in the costs of radio, television and digital platforms.

All were taken on notice.

There were questions over the idea that the ABC was sending out job alerts for Indigenous people, asking whether people applying “just tick a box”.

Hanson: Just following on on Senator Williams’ question about Aboriginality and you know, your 3% [target] there. Can you define what is a person of Aboriginality applying for the job, what is the definition?
Guthrie: Uh, Senator Hanson, we, we have guidelines around how our employees identify themselves as from Aboriginaility or Torres Strait Islander descent, um so we don’t have guidelines to say-
Hanson: Do they tick a box, saying they’re aboriginal?
Heard off camera: You don’t tick a box.
Hanson: You do, on a lot of forms. There are people listening to this who might want to apply for this, a job working at the ABC, so how do you define that person as Aboriginal?
Guthrie: Senator, I don’t … I’m not entirely sure what the question is.


Greens senator Scott Ludlam was concerned about the large amount of British content on the ABC, pointing specifically at the Antiques Roadshow program.

Meanwhile Senator Abetz had requested all communications between SBS boss Michael Ebeid, his office and Australian Marriage Equality, over a decision to support a corporate campaign for marriage equality.

SBS rejected the request on the grounds the emails were sent in a personal capacity. But Abetz demanded to know whether any of the emails bore Ebeid’s professional SBS email signature.

“Just because I’m employed by SBS doesn’t mean I have a lobotomy of my personal views,” Ebeid told him.

“I’m still allowed, and I thought you as a senator that advocated for free speech would have certainly understood that in my personal capacity I’m more than entitled to have a personal view.”

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield agreed he would not be concerned by the occasional use of work email for personal purposes by his own staff. “I’d take a common sense approach,” he said.

Pauline Hanson questioned his $663,000 salary, which is set by an independent tribunal, and asked whether he thought his $92,000 in bonuses were justified.

“I think I’m probably worth a lot more senator,” he replied.

He described a 2015 article published in The Australian which outlined his bonuses and travel as “the biggest load of horse manure I’ve read in a lot time”.

Senator Hanson, who admitted to not having much time to watch TV, asked whether SBS offers shows to help migrants learn English.

Senator Eric Abetz also spent the majority of his time talking about the deleted seven-word Facebook post from ABC presenter Yassmin Abdel-Magied.

Source: Fairfax, SBS, BuzzFeed

7 Responses

  1. Noone of the left will ever say the ABC is unbalanced… which says it all. Fairfax (a left wing media organisation- which is fine – as it is allow because it is privately funded, like News Ltd.), is having great difficulty competed against this taxpayer funded behemoth. If the ABC is unchecked and remains to be funded $1B a year, the biggest corporate casualty will be Fairfax and its biggest dailies The Age, SMH, AFR, Brisbanetimes etc. I’m fine for media organisations like Fairfax and News to be of the Left or Right (because they don’t have to adhere to a charter of balance). But the ABC has to, and it doesn’t.

  2. What a waste of time and money. They should be asking questions such as why bland unoriginal tosh such as Newton’s Law and The Warriors get commissioned but well-made well-loved favourites such as Doctor Blake get canned.

    ABC has been making a lot of poor decisions lately regarding program content and it shows in their ratings.

  3. Why on earth the senators need to question ABC and SBS based on their own dislikes about the station and their management? This is a waste of taxpayer’s money actually as we have more important issues for them to look at. Shame on the Senators (some of them) !!! #WeLoveABCandSBS

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