Thursday, August 18, 2011

Our ABC - apparently obtuse, rude interviews are someone's notion of playing 'devil's advocate'

I recently made the following complaint to ABC concerning a RN interview between Sabra Lane and Treasurer Swan:

"As with an earlier interview on RN Lane has conducted a rude, simple-minded interview completely lacking in balance and cogent reasoning. It came across as a Coalition inspired attack on the most important structural change to our economy in well over a decade.

An excellent deconstruction of Lane's earlier interview with Swan can be found at

Every step of the way ABC reporters are out digging for negative reactions to the package, whipping up more fear in place of reasoned analysis of the package as a whole. Why isn't the focus on the reactions of people who actually know a thing or two about the implications of the package. I did'nt hear any question from Lane on today's survey of the reaction of economists to climate change policies.

This type of journalism is execrable and doing our country a great disservice. Many people are sick of the editorialising virus that is sweeping the ABC, seeking to shift opinion on the major issues of the day. In your quest for so-called 'balance' some dreadful 'pamphleteers' get a regular airing, such as those from thoroughly compromised think tanks such as the IPA.

No wonder the PM's polling is going south on matters of national importance such as carbon pricing. Our ABC is out there doing the reactionary's job for them. Journalists like Lane need to go back to journalism school. Poor fella my country..."

I received the following reply from Kieran Doyle of ABC's Audience and Consumer Affairs Dept:

"Thank you for your email regarding the interview with the federal Treasurer on The World Today.

Your concerns have been investigated by Audience and Consumer Affairs, a unit which is separate to and independent of program making areas within the ABC. We have reviewed the broadcast, assessed it against the ABC’s editorial standards and sought and considered material provided by ABC News.

The adversarial or ‘devil’s advocate’ style of interviewing, employed at times by Sabra Lane, can generate a strong and mixed reaction from the public. Part of the technique of the ‘devil’s advocate’ approach is to take major points of criticism from various sources, including opposing politicians, and put them to the interviewee. This can sometimes give the audience the impression that these are the personal views of the interviewer. This is not the case.

When she is doing a one-on-one interview she has a duty to conduct a testing interview that does not allow the interviewee to use the occasion as a political platform. It is her duty to put other points of view to the interviewee and her responsibility to make reasonable efforts to ensure that the questions are answered.

Having reviewed the interview with the Treasurer against the impartiality provisions of the ABC Editorial Policies, Audience and Consumer Affairs is satisfied that the interview is in keeping with those standards. The questions posed to Mr Swan were relevant and based strictly on their news value. He was afforded ample opportunity to clearly state his views in response. We are satisfied that the interview was suitably respectful and courteous. Audience and Consumer Affairs has concluded that the interview is in keeping with sections 4.1, 4.2, 4.4 and 4.5 of the ABC Editorial Policies.

Sabra Lane conducted an equally rigorous interview with the Leader of the Opposition on AM that same week. ABC Radio current affairs programs AM, The World Today and PM have provided a vast and diverse range of principal relevant perspectives on the government’s carbon package and related issues, and no one perspective has been unduly favoured over another."

I replied:

"Oh sure, the trouble is the questions are obtuse, poorly researched and delivered with all the charm of a rampaging buffalo..."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What you've received is a pro-forma response. "Interviewer played 'Devil's Advocate' ... duty to present testing interview ... Opposition received similar treatment ... blah blah."

They simply paste the unique identifying details of the case into the blanks. I can state this with confidence because I've received several such responses myself that follow identical format and wording.

The simple fact is: no matter how serious the complaint, the ABC never upholds complaints of bias. They find themselves in the clear every time.

Imagine if another business conducted itself in this way - where complainers are always wrong, and the business itself always in the right. It would be a joke! But it's standard procedure for the ABC.