The ABC has quietly dropped al-Jazeera from its 24-hour news channel, where it has had a home overnight since 2011. The inclusion of the international news service has been slammed for years by conservative politicians who said the public broadcaster was airing “Islamic propaganda”.
Seven years ago the then-channel controller Gaven Morris described it as a “welcome addition” to ABC News 24, which would give viewers access to the most up-to-date news from around the world. But the leader of the Australian Conservatives, Cory Bernardi, and the Liberal senator Eric Abetz have lobbied tirelessly for the ABC to dump it. The News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt is another critic.
“Our national broadcaster is adequately funded to provide news that Australians are interested in,” Bernardi said in 2013. “There’s no need for them to be channelling content that in many cases omits the significant deficiencies in the Islamic world and overlooks some of the important information in regard to terrorism.”
Last year Abetz peppered the ABC managing director, Michelle Guthrie, with questions about the broadcaster in Senate estimates, asking how the ABC paid for al-Jazeera. Did she agree the network harboured “Taliban leaders and other Islamist interests which Australian troops are actually fighting”? The ABC replied: “The ABC currently has a reciprocal news access arrangement with Al Jazeera Media Network. The ABC does not pay Al Jazeera for this arrangement, nor does the ABC receive an income stream from this reciprocal relationship.
“The ABC assesses Al Jazeera content on its merits, ensuring that content broadcast on the ABC is consistent with all ABC editorial policies, including recognised standards of accuracy and impartiality.”
Al-Jazeera has not appeared on News 24 since a channel refresh at the end of January. The ABC said it had decided to run live bulletins out of Perth as well as repeats of its own shows. “As a result there is now less BBC and Al Jazeera content carried overnight,” a spokeswoman said. “The arrangement with Al Jazeera is unchanged and we are open to exclusive content from them, on merit – as we were previously and also are with our other overseas news providers, such as BBC and Deutsche Welle. Our programming decisions are made independently.”
Bernardi welcomed the move. “Delisting al-Jazeera as a source is a small step in the right direction,” he told Beast. “The ABC shouldn’t be funding Islamic propaganda and the Australian people shouldn’t be funding the ABC’s almost exclusively leftist propaganda. If the ABC won’t comply with their charter obligations to be balanced then the case for radical reform of the ABC grows stronger by the day.”
Don’t come the raw prawn
An online Courier-Mail story about the price of prawns in Queensland has managed to earn itself no fewer than four breaches of the Australian Press Council’s standards of practice. Thai Terrace Rosalie restaurant complained that the story in April last year headlined “Prawn prices in Queensland rise in restaurants despite fishermen cutting prices” was inaccurate, and the watchdog agreed. The problems arose because the reporter contacted the restaurant through an online form rather then identifying herself as a journalist.
New boss at Acma
Speaking of media watchdogs, the government made a significant appointment this week, naming Creina Chapman as the new head of the Australian Communications and Media Authority. . No permanent successor had been named since Chris Chapman (no relation) stepped down two years ago, because the government was reviewing Acma’s role in the rapidly changing media environment.
Creina Chapman, now the head of regulatory affairs and corporate communications at Southern Cross Austereo, was the chief spinner at News Corp Australia before quitting in 2012 to join Tony Abbott’s office as an adviser. The well-connected lawyer has also worked for PBL and the Nine Network, where she ran into strife with its then boss Sam Chisholm. Chisholm, who also complained about women wearing pants, objected to Chapman eating an apple in the corridors of Channel Nine. She ended up leaving to join News Corp. Chapman once told the Australian she thought Nine was more blokey than News because of the strong influence rugby league had at the network. “But I haven’t found either sexist,” she said. “I don’t think being a female has held me back in my career in any way.”
Gilead extends its empire
After the stunning success of The Handmaid’s Tale for SBS, Weekly Beast can reveal that the broadcaster has decided to translate seasons one and two into Mandarin for Chinese-Australian audiences. Its chief content officer, Mandi Wicks, told Beast it was the first time SBS had translated an overseas acquisition with the aim of giving Mandarin speakers a greater insight into the “nuanced dialogue” of the series, which is hard to follow in a second language. SBS has previously translated its own shows including The Family Law (Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese), First Contact (Chinese and Arabic) and Is Australia Racist? (Chinese and Arabic). Wicks said there was a potentially huge market for the subtitled version because Chinese is the most popular language after English in Australia, with 877,654 Chinese-speaking Australians, according to the 2016 census. Season one with subtitles is already available on SBS on demand. The success of the award-winning drama is likely to be brought up by commercial broadcasters at the upcoming competitive neutrality inquiry into SBS and the ABC.
Fin keeps a touch of Tingle
Fans of Laura Tingle’s column in the Australian Financial Review who feared it would end when she was appointed chief political correspondent of the ABC’s 7.30 program can rest easy – a Tingle column will continue to run in the Fin at the weekend. The ABC radio host Philip Adams – who has Tingle as a regular guest – caused some confusion when he said on air she had filed her last newspaper column, until the AFR clarified matters. Tingle told Beast her column would now appear on ABC Online as well as in the AFR.