FRESH AIR

The Ambassador and the ABC

Mar 31, 2020 | Jamie Hyams

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At AIJAC, we have often made the case that at times we find the ABC coverage of Israel falls short of what we would hope to see from our taxpayer-funded broadcaster.

We complain that ABC reports can lack the context necessary to give a full understanding of the complex issues involved, and can tend to be dominated by perspectives predisposed to perceive Israel and its actions in a negative light.

This criticism covers content on radio, television and the ABC’s online platforms.

Some others insist that the ABC does a great job covering the issues, or is even too favourable towards Israel, and we have no real grounds for complaint.

It is therefore very useful to get the perspective of an impeccably credentialed neutral, Australian observer who has spent considerable time living in Israel and observing both what is actually happening there and the way the Australian media covers it.

One such person is Dave Sharma, who is now the member for the seat of Wentworth in Federal Parliament. From May 2013 to June 2017, Mr Sharma was Australia’s ambassador to Israel, having previously held a variety of other senior positions in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and in the wider public service, including as legal adviser to the Foreign Minister and head of the International Division in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

In the 18 March edition of the Wentworth Courier, Mr Sharma was profiled by Sharri Markson.

Ms Markson wrote: 

“I ask him how, as Israel ambassador, he viewed the ABC’s coverage of the region and he says he was ‘concerned’ by its anti-Israel bias in the conflict with the Palestinians.

“Unlike most politicians, Sharma is not afraid to take on the ABC. 

“Media backlash to a recent tweet where he criticised the ABC for pursuing the Federal Government in court over raids to its headquarters has not silenced him.

“‘I think they tend to give a one-dimensional picture of what’s going on in that part of the world,’ he said.

“‘They tend to focus on a particular story and a particular narrative at the expense of others. 

“‘The art of news coverage should be to give your viewership and your readership a whole lot of different perspectives and let them decide the truth and decide their one point of view whereas the ABC, particularly in its coverage there, tends to ram one narrative down the throats of the people who watch it or listen to it.

“‘I think any publicly funded body has a higher degree of responsibility to taxpayers than a privately funded body,’ he said.

“‘Sometimes the way the ABC conducts itself suggests they think they are beyond reproach, beyond criticism, and I don’t think it’s healthy in a democracy with competing ideas.’”

The mindless defenders of everything the ABC does should take note.  

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