A controversial episode of Q&A in which panelists endorsed violence, has been cleared of complaints by the media watchdog.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority found no breach of the ABC Code of Practice on impartiality, language, and inciting violence.
ABC received over 200 complaints on the November episode, presented in conjunction with The Wheeler Centre’s feminist ideas festival, ‘Broadside.’ A discussion around violence against women raised the question, “…when is aggression and violence a better option than assertiveness…?”
Last year ABC launched an internal investigation with managing director David Anderson -who was watching at the time- acknowledging, “I can understand why some viewers found elements of this episode confronting or offensive.”
Host Fran Kelly, who cautioned a panelist over coarse language, later conceded she should have done more during the broadcast over remarks around violence.
ABC’s investigation led to the episode being removed from iview.
ACMA investigated 7 formal complaints around a lack of perspectives, for promoting offensive male stereotypes, inciting violence and coarse language.
In a 35 page finding it concluded that as the show was promoted as part of the Wheeler Centre’s feminist ideas festival its perspective was clear to the audience. ABC also submitted it has sometimes featured one perspective in Q&A where there is a single guest such as Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten and environmentalist Dr David Suzuki.
Both Mona Eltahawy’s and Nayuka Gorrie’s comments (‘how many rapists must we kill?’; ‘yeah, let’s burn stuff’), were deemed provocative but ACMA found they were illustrative of potential responses to the debate topic rather than proposing courses of action.
ACMA looked at whether Nayuka Gorrie appeared to support and even advocate arson as ‘the only option open’ to Indigenous Australians wishing to end the violence of colonisation. It concluded most viewers would accept the context of a light-hearted delivery, including a laugh and smile, was not an actual call to action.
There were also multiple F-bombs dropped during the debate which drew complaints. ACMA found one reference to Donald Trump as a ‘fascist f***’ carried more impact than other uses. But it noted Q&A as a current affairs programme does not require Classification, screened in a late slot and that Fran Kelly made three attempts to remind guests of language.
However given panelist Mona Eltahawy had previously been in breach of the Code over language, ACMA did find ABC failed to make reasonable efforts to provide information about the potential for content to cause offence. But because David Anderson issued a statement and the episode was removed from iview, it also considered this concern was resolved.
ACMA also found that although comments were made by panellists about male violence toward women, the panellists did not claim or imply that all men were violent toward women.
Last year Tony Jones, who was wrapping up as resident host, told TV Tonight, “If we were to go back and reinvent the panel we probably would have had a panel with alternative views.”