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December 24th 2015 print

Roger Franklin

A Very Curious Omission

The Ray Martin-Shaun Brown examination of the way Q&A goes about its business is a curious document, not for its entirely predictable conclusion that all is more or less OK with the show, but for something mentioned only in passing and, somewhat mysteriously, never placed in context

jones mugThat Q&A compere Tony Jones is the snide, self-satisfied essence of bias and smuggery has long been the view of those who watch the program from the right side of the sofa – an impression disputed, of course, by the show’s green-left admirers, supporters and staffers. Thanks to Ray Martin and Shaun Brown, commissioned by the ABC to report on the show’s balance (or lack of it), that matter has been settled once for all.

Below, excerpts taking Jones to task from the duo’s 108-page report. These may come as a surprise to those who have read only summations of the document in the mainstream press, which tended to emphasise the show’s overall clean bill of health and the authors’ recommendation that more women and Greens are needed to “balance” the weekly panels.

jones 1And just a few of the cited examples:

jones 2

And then there is this wisecrack, which invokes the loony-left meme that Tony Abbott was an illegitimate prime minister because he is not a bona fide Australian citizen. Needless to say, it drew immediate applause from an audience Martin and Brown insist is never stacked. No, not at all.

Jones 3

Despite all this, Martin and Brown manage no more than a mild rebuke, observing

jones 4

 

What makes this oh-so-gentle verdict curious – indeed, allows it to be uttered with a straight face – is a bizarre passage atop the section dealing with Jones’ serial indiscretions.

jones 5

The show in question was the one that went to air one week after the Zaky Mallah debacle. Martin and Brown neglect to provide the slightest context, nor do they quote the Jones comment that prompted Tim Wilson’s spirited rebuke. It is a curious omission, but perhaps an innocent one: Ray Martin might still have been jet-lagged from his fact-finding mission to London, which was part of his investigation (as noted on page 3). No details of Martin’s ticketing – first-class or business? – are available, nor are they likely to be. Quadrant Online’s efforts to ascertain the total cost of the report and the fees its authors received have been rebuffed.

View the show in question – available via the following link at the Q&A website — and the context missing from the report becomes instantly clear. In the to-and-fro about religion informing morality, Wilson says “People are entitled to their views”

At that point, Jones ponderously and pointedly rolls out the words “…when you say people are entitled to their views…” The audience gets the gag immediately, laughing uproariously at what is a clear and specific reference to the Zaky Mallah incident of seven days earlier. For those interested, the relevant section of the video comes at around the 50-minute. The relevant section of the ABC transcript is below:

jones 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somehow, even though the highlighted words in the transcript above reference the Mallah business and resulting furor, Martin and Brown don’t bother to frame the exchange. Indeed, they side with Jones, saying

jones 7

Now that the ABC has a fresh and incoming managing director, Michelle Guthrie, optimists might incline to the view that, in regard to bias, cronyism, nepotism, secret contracts and mates giving the tick of approval to mates, the national broadcaster might see a turn for the better. It would be nice, for example, if the ABC were to reveal how much it pays its jet-about consultants, not to mention how they are selected in the first place.

But that would optimists. Realists will manage no more than a scoff.

Roger Franklin is the editor of Quadrant Online. Should the ABC need further auditors, he is available to investigate, but only if premium-class international travel is laid on and a lovely six-figure fee guaranteed.

Comments [5]

  1. Rob Brighton says:

    They were clearly selected for their prejudice so the resulting white wash is of little surprise. One wonders if the new boss will be of a better stripe. Certainly her work history would suggest it would be so lawyer by trade, worked for foxtel and News Corp so I have some hope of a realistic mindset. Not that she will change everything overnight, that wouldn’t be politically workable.

    Good bye whatever your name was, it was a lamentable period for the ABC.

    Merry Christmas one and all.

  2. Simon says:

    Laurance Krauss was a huge disappointment in supporting the ABC, and dissing the government. I guess we can give him a bit a leeway because he doesn’t know how bad the situation with ‘our’ ABC really is.

    What is less forgiveable is Anne Aly comparing Paul Kelly’s Australian interview of Zaky Mallah with the absolute set-up of Ciobo on Q&A.

    What a tawdry, superficial and student-level piece of activism Q&A has become. It’s hardly surprising viewer numbers are dwindling.

  3. Tony Thomas says:

    From the report – determined NOT to get involved with the Zaky Mallah appearance:

    Despite some newspaper editorials and columns suggesting otherwise this was never intended to be an overall review of the ABC. Nor was it commissioned in response to the highly controversial program of June 22, 2015. The review of Q&A had already been identified by the ABC in advance of the controversial appearance on the program of Zaky Mallah, a former terrorism suspect.
    Both the ABC’s Managing Director and Board subsequently apologised for the decision to allow Zaky Mallah to appear live on Q&A as part of the studio audience. The program’s Executive Producer, Peter McEvoy, also received a formal warning under the ABC’ s misconduct provisions.
    This review does not re-visit the issue of Zaky Mallah’s appearance.

    Later, we get this:
    We note that from to time the moderator will provide some background on the questioner, particularly if it gives greater weight to the question being asked. Generally that background emerges after the initial question has been asked.
    We believe the viewing audience, and the panel, would benefit if, when circumstances warrant, appropriate background were provided prior to the question being asked.
    The type of circumstance that would warrant such treatment is when the questioner has a particular and relevant experience (as with Zaky Mallah), represents or is strongly associated with a particular organisation or, more generally, where audience knowledge of the questioner’s background provides an insight into the context and motivation for the question.
    We make this recommendation not with the intention of limiting or in any way qualifying the legitimacy of the questions but rather to provide the audience with the information that the moderator is already aware of and which in all likelihood contributed to Q&A’s selection of the questioner.

    I do suppose Zaky has “a particular and relevant experience” — how nicely the two authors advert to his slightly troubled background.

  4. en passant says:

    A real statesman like Churchill used to write comments in the margin of the master copy. I suppose in 30-years time the master will be released and we will find something like:
    From Mitch – Malcolm & Mark, This is the perfect reason why we should defund the ABC and make it a cable network dependent on subscriptions from its avid audience.
    From the Office of the PM: [Redacted]. If you are looking for an Ambassadorship in Damascus this is a good first step.
    From Mark: I would just like to say[Redacted],[Redacted] [Redacted]
    From En Passant: Send this whole unnecessary organisation to the dustbin of history.
    From Mark: I would just like to say[Redacted],[Redacted] [Redacted]

  5. Richard H says:

    Corporatio delenda est