Report: Fletcher presses ABC to reconsider complaints system

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher questions if ABC complaints process is robust and functioning as intended.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has called on the ABC to reconsider its current complaints system following an independent review of Exposed: The Ghost Train Fire.

While the report by Rodney Tiffen & Chris Masters largely praised the Luna Park documentary, it found some faults with a lack of evidence to support allegations around then-NSW Premier Neville Wran.

This comes after a complaint lodged by Milton Cockburn, a former editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and an adviser to Wran, was dismissed by ABC’s audience and consumer affairs unit.

“While the ABC has operational and editorial independence, in my view this matter suggests board and management should consider whether the existing complaints process is functioning as it should,” Minister Fletcher told The Australian.

He said a robust, independent complaints process should apply whether a viewer was a public figure or not.

“The fact that an independent review subsequently found the program had significant defects suggests that the approach taken by audience and consumer affairs was not sufficiently genuine, independent or robust.”

However, it isn’t clear if the Minister has formally contacted the ABC board over the matter.

In July the Australia Israel and Jewish Affairs Council also called for reform after claims of bias and lack of impartiality in an episode of Q&A were rejected.

FOX News has also threatened to lodge a complaint over recent Four Corners episodes, but it isn’t clear if it has proceeded.

ABC has maintained an audit of the complaints by the Australian National Audit Office in 2018 found it was effective in managing issues.

Complainants who are dissatisfied with the outcome can refer the complaint to ACMA.

4 Responses

  1. In a democracy I would say it is in the the interest of any Federal Government that the tax payer funded national broadcaster (ABC) maintain its independence, especially for its news services, as the alternative would be that the ABC becomes a political information hub to promote the government dictates and policies of the day. The issue of course when publishing any story is sorting out the circumstantial evidence and proving allegations, sometimes without real proof of culpability to rely on. When it comes to accusing senior politicians of anything you have to remember the rules that they play by which is similar to them creating a Royal Commission; you must always know what the conclusion or verdict will be right at the start, political reality does not allow for any nasty surprises.

    1. … from personal experience the ABC complaints process is a farce because their first response is to dismiss, but if you are persistent, they eventually concede, but then make excuses and by that time the whole matter is ancient history … Kevin Rudd has recently had a go at the ACMA for having “monumentally failed” so maybe it’s time that there was some actual strength put into what the ACMA can do and have it apply to all broadcasting organisations, public and commercial instead of the current situation where an ABC executive producer can just ignore anything they say …

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