Submission to the Independent Review of ABC Complaint Handling
May 17, 2022 | AIJAC staff
Submitted December 2021
The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) appreciates the opportunity to make a submission to the Independent Review of ABC Complaint Handling and to respond to the thoughtful public consultation paper prepared by John McMillan and Jim Carroll.
AIJAC has had significant experience with the ABC complaint handling process for more than a decade.
As a consequence of this experience, AIJAC has consistently recommended reform to the current ABC complaint handling process for several years. The current process is inefficient; largely unaccountable; not genuinely independent; and denies procedural fairness to complainants.
AIJAC’s recommendation is for the current ABC complaint handling process to be replaced with a new genuinely independent and external complaints process. This new independent and external complaints process would continue to have the ability to request information from ABC content staff. Complaints would then be assessed by an individual or panel jointly appointed by government and the ABC board, supported by professional research staff. This new process would have the ability and resources – and be encouraged – to instigate thematic reviews or to inquire into editorial matters in response to community concerns.
This submission will address the terms of reference for the Independent Review of ABC Complaint Handling. It also responds to a number of the consultation paper’s key issues and specific issues.
AIJAC makes four substantive recommendations to the Independent Review:
Reforms to the ABC’s online complaints form to make it easier to lodge complaints with hyperlinks or attachments, where required, and an increase in the word limit. This would improve the user experience for complainants and improve the fairness of the process.
Introducing a new independent and external complaints process for the ABC where complaints are assessed by an individual or panel jointly appointed by government and the ABC board, supported by professional research staff.
Align the ABC complaints handling process with best practice models of complaints handling, including, but not limited to, assessing whether the complaints process meets the requirements of procedural fairness including the rule against bias.
If ACMA is to continue functioning as a practical and viable appeals process for ABC editorial complaints, it must be sufficiently resourced to enable it to adjudicate referrals in a timely manner and assessed in line with the recommendations of the 2012 Finkelstein Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Media and Media Regulation.