Let’s talk: should the ABC be “batting for the home team”? 661

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Following recent controversies from an incident broadcast live on Q&A, Tony Abbott has asked whose side the ABC is on. The head of the ABC has shot back, saying it is “clearly on the side of Australia”.

Today we’d like to ask the Starts at 60 community: what role should the ABC have: serving its country with a unified message, or serving its people with lively debate?

The long-running tension between government and broadcaster hit fever pitch this week when Zaky Mallah, a member of the Q&A audience, had a heated exchange with Steve Ciobo, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“The Liberals have just justified to many Australian Muslims in the community tonight to leave and go to Syria and join ISIL because of ministers like him,” said Mallah, live on air.

While addressing what he perceived as “bullying” for young Muslims in Australia, his words were interpreted by many viewers and media outlets as a pro-radicalisation statement.

Mallah’s history of provocative comments last got him into headlines in 2005, when his videotaped suggestion of killing ASIO officials had him charged (but ultimately found not guilty) as Australia’s first terror suspect.

Tony Abbott has publicly lashed out at the broadcaster for inviting Mallah to the studio audience.

“They compounded the mistake by re-broadcasting the program,” he said. “Now, frankly, heads should roll over this”.

Abbott has long been a critic of our national broadcaster, suggesting they “take everybody’s side but our own” and describing Q&A as a “lefty lynch mob”. He is now proposing an external review.

Abbott’s own Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnball, disagrees. “I don’t run the ABC, neither does Tony Abbott”, he said. “It’s a public broadcaster, not a state broadcaster”.

Last night, ABC’s Managing Director Mark Scott gave a passionate speech in response to the Prime Minister’s comments.

“At times, free speech principles mean giving platforms to those with whom we fundamentally disagree,” he said.

“Media organisations often give air time to the criminal and corrupt, to those who express views that run contrary to accepted public values… You have to set the bar very high before you begin to exclude certain views or perspectives”.

“The A in ABC is for Australian,” he said. “And the part we play, what we do for the side, is a vital one, central to our culture and our democracy – that of being an independent public broadcaster”.

“I hope no one seriously wants the ABC to be a state broadcaster… We know the examples. North Korea and Russia. China and Vietnam. There are many others”.

Scott acknowledged it was a mistake to let Zaky Mallah on air, emphasising that the ABC has launched its own internal review.

Is Tony Abbott right to question the ABC’s loyalties? Is it the government’s role to interfere? And where do we draw the line between patriotism and freedom of speech?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Governments come and go but The ABC is always there, they have been there reporting in wars and disasters and in times on Peace and should always remain. The ABC should never be dictated to by any side of Politics..it should should just get on and do its job of entertaining Australia and reporting news and current events

    9 REPLY
    • yes, reporting on wars (in other countries) and disasters (in other countries) is fine, but when this is Not overseas but right here, and right now, on OUR soil, I dont feel its entertaining to have people like this man anywhere near us, and/or having a huge say in things..

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      • Creepy feeling watching Zaky Mullah on Q & A
        Would he have lost his head in Syria for treason?
        Why did he tweet two weeks ago about gang raping female
        Australian journalists?
        Is this another crime he has been involved in, otherwise, why would he mention rape?
        The ABC did show how naive we Australians are…

    • We should always have free speech in this country, we never want to be like China or North Korea where the Government dictates our tv viewing..leave the ABC alone

    • Tasma Royce we will not hesitate to ban you – this is your first and final warning. Do not call people stupid on our forum.

    • Dead right Leanna. Censorship is the beginning of dictatorship. The PM can’t have it both ways. We either have free speech, or we don’t.

    • How can the ABC be “neutral”?.. They film the news, then they show it. If the good the bad and the ugly didn’t do it or say it – it can’t be on TV. If it is on ABC then it happened. Neutral doesn’t come into it.

  2. People watch Q&A to be involved in a lively debate, most of us have minds of our own and would not be influenced…I thought it was well managed and halted appropriately….this government wants to treat us like mushrooms!!

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  3. Not to listen to suspected terrorists say things like that to our politicians that’s what. It was disgusting that they had him on….if Isis asked to go on and berate our politicians and our life style would they allow it and then continue to say the same thing….this is not a matter of free speech this is something so much more seriousness.

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    • The young man made some interesting points, his last comment was a reaction to threats from the politician. I disagreed with what he said and thought it unwise of the ABC to have him on a live show where they had no opportunity to remove his comment before it went to air. I found it very interesting because it did show the tough talk isn’t scaring Muslim youth just making them angry.

    • He is a terrorist who has openly threatened people end of story. Should not be given a platform.

    • Are you Judge and Jury? What terrorist act is he guilty of? he was threatened by one of the panelists! He has been working for years to try and stop kids being radicalised.

    • Yes I did smarty pants, yes I do he is a suspected terrorist and it was disgusting what he said. What do we have to stop making the young Muslims angry, get over it they are full of hate and he proved that. You would believe anything.

    • I did not see that the politician threatened him’ he was just saying what he thought after what the young man said.

    • That same politician used the following words in a Lateline interview in 2013 – “if anybody had the opportunity to slit Julia Gillard’s throat” – to describe the leadership issues in the ALP. I have serious doubts as to his appropriateness as a politician.

    • Judith you are joking. As pointed out to this page, what do you think of the death threats made against our first female PM, by prominent politicians, broadcasters, and repeated by journalists as if to support the proposition, not decry it! Tell us how you fought to defend Julia. What cogent arguments did you come up with? Or will you say ‘oh it was only words’ .

    • Why do you emphasis “female” prime minister. It shouldn’t have anything to do with the gender – just whether they are doing the best for our country.

    • Judith Forbes you are more dangerous to this country than any Muslim. It’s exactly your attitude that makes them feel marginalised.

    • This is a warning to those who are arguing in our comments – we will not hesitate to ban you for 24 hours. Keep it impersonal and do not fight. Thanks.

    • Probably Adele Harington female was mentioned because of all the mysoginists in the Liberal Party!! Also because such language has NEVER been used on a male politician could be another reason.
      Just saying.

    • All leaders of a country get death threats from lunatics. Any threats made by other politicians, media etc are just words like them or not, how many have been thrown at Mr. Abbott especially from people on social media.

    • Slit throats, stab in the back have to he same outcome. Is Ciobo not entitled to freedom of speech that was afforded to Zaky Mallah

    • A man as barbaric as Ciobo’s, saying things like slitting the throat of a PM should NOT be in a position of leadership. He is unfit.

    • The young man in question was AGAINST Isis not for it. His point was that no one person should be allowed to dictate the rules (i.e. stripping of citizenship) but that it should go through the court of law as in his own case where he was “acquitted of terrorism”. It has all become misconstrued ON PURPOSE.

    • I enjoyed the Q&A programme and could understand both points of view from Ciobo and the young man. It was the last statement from the young man that upset people, but he DID NOT tell all Muslims to join ISIS, he said that it would encourage them after Ciobo’s comments, which was of course taken the wrong way, hence the backlash. However, free speech should reign supreme and the ABC do an excellent job and should not have apologised. Tony Abbott is being very clever in manipulating the situation now to suit his plans.

  4. The ABC Board should be sacked immediately in my opinion. Yes we have freedom of speech in this Country BUT to invite a person who has publicly said “women journalist should be publicly raped” and that “members of ASIO will be killed” is horrific. If this was a commercial radio station or a TV station all hell would break out. They have some good programs but overstepped the mark on this occasion I feel.

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    • a lot has been said about these women journalists being threatened.. it is being reported by right wing journalists..but if he had threatened them why is not arrested? you can delete your comments on the net but you can never erase them, it is the same with your computer It specialists could quickly recover the comments. If what your saying is correct is this another case of incompetence, where the Government was informed, like in the case of Man Haron Monis and is negligent by doing nothing?

    • I suggest you go back and look at calls to violence and death on Julia Gillard by shock journalists and politicians alike. People make stupid threats, where was your outrage then. Only yesterday I heard one girl call out to her friends that they ‘are so dead’ if they continued with their behaviour. If it is wrong it is always wrong

    • Sandra, are you talking about Ciobo’s and the threatening words of Slitting Guillard’s throat? Yes, what kind of government speaks like that? How can they be running a country let alone loose on TV? A total disgrace having arrogant threatening bullies like Ciobo’s anywhere but specially in Government.

  5. I for one don’t want a ‘State’ broadcaster, parroting the government view without criticism. The current Liberal government is behaving more fascist daily. The restrictions to our privacy, over reaction to criticism and its attempts to control the ABC and SBS are signs of this. I watch many shows on the ABC, often find myself disagreeing strongly with opinions, particularly a few of the regular panelists on The Drum. One of the problems for the government was this young man showed us that the tough talk by government doesn’t scare Muslim youth it angers them. I have supported the Liberals on a few occasions in the past but under Abbott they have really lost the plot.

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  6. Why not give this guy some air to make a fool of himself abc forever Tony keep out of it Bill to

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    • I couldn’t agree more. Mr Abbott was happy to praise ABC for The Killing Season, because it was bad for the Labor Party. It seems he only wants us to hear one side of the story and that is if it helps his party. We are entitled to be able to hear the full story and make up our own minds!

  7. abbott piss off,we are adults who can form our own opinions,another pointless inquirey,is he joking,or is that far out of the loop,that he thinks no one can see through his grandstanding and hollow spin,bravo abc

    4 REPLY
    • Yes Allan you can form your own opinion but keep in mind you opinion is in the minority ten percent mate!

    • go read the news websiteS Roger Carrington the ABC has full support, an issue like this will turn people off voting Liberal.

    • Roger Carrigan
      Read the msg I left you on an earlier comment.
      You are one of Abbotts faithful followers and have every right to your opinion. But don’t use made up data to try and back your view. If you are going to quote figures then at least quote the correct ones.

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