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ACMA decision on “Q+A” demonstrates need for new independent, external body to hold ABC to its code of conduct

Apr 20, 2022 | AIJAC

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The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) is very disappointed at the decision by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to dismiss complaints from AIJAC and others about the episode of the ABC TV program “Q+A” which aired on May 27, 2021.

The program featured a 12-minute discussion of the recently concluded conflict between Israel and Hamas, with a five-person panel comprising Palestinian activist Randa Abdel-Fattah, Labor MP Ed Husic, human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson, who has participated in legal action against Israel, Liberal MP Dave Sharma, a former Australian Ambassador to Israel, and singer Ed Tambo.

To any objective observer, the program was clearly unbalanced, with two anti-Israel activists on the panel as against no pro-Israel activist, and four of the five panellists taking positions critical of Israel. Yet ACMA found that the ABC did not breach its Code of Conduct requirements to provide impartiality, to not disproportionately represent any perspective and to not unduly favour one perspective over another.

AIJAC Executive Dr Colin Rubenstein said, “AIJAC has long been calling for the ABC to have an independent external complaints procedure rather than the current system where the ABC judges itself. We have often noted that the only appeal from such decisions is to ACMA, which is not fit for the purpose.

“ACMA absurdly accepted the ABC’s contention that Dave Sharma represented an ‘Israeli perspective’ on the conflict, despite his presence on the program being to put the Government’s position on a range of issues, not as an advocate for Israel.

“This determination simply proves that the current system is not satisfactory, and that no-one can have confidence that the ABC will be held to the standards of balance and fairness that the taxpayers who fund it have every right to expect.

“We are also concerned that it took nearly 11 months from the airing of the program to the publication of the ACMA decision, and approximately seven months since our appeal to ACMA – further evidence that ACMA is not up to the job of reviewing complaints to the ABC.

“We note that the ABC is currently undertaking a board-commissioned review of its complaints procedure, and once again call for an independent, external process that can hold the ABC to its Code of Conduct. This is the only way to restore community confidence in the impartiality and objectivity of ABC News and Current Affairs,” Dr Rubenstein concluded.

Dr. Colin Rubenstein
Executive Director
AIJAC

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