ABC defends marriage equality coverage
CANBERRA: The ABC’s managing director, Mark Scott, has been forced to defend the public broadcaster’s coverage of same-sex marriage during a Senate Estimates hearing in Canberra yesterday.
The ABC boss was also the subject of questioning on the worth of political satire show At Home With Julia, the broadcaster’s coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict and its recent decision to remove conservative News Limited columnist Glenn Milne from Insiders.
The grilling came during the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee’s continuing examination into the Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy portfolios, chaired by Labor’s Doug Cameron.
Liberal Senator Eric Abetz put it to Scott that a July episode of religious affairs program Compass (pictured) in which host Geraldine Doogue presented a dinner table discussion on the issue of same-sex marriage was biased.
“Out of the six dinner guests, only one was defending the dictionary definition of marriage; the other five were against it; and the host was seen at times laughing while the sole voice for the dictionary definition of marriage was trying to make his case.
“Is this another example of the ABC taking a completely balanced, unbiased approach to the issues of the day?” Abetz queried.
Scott said that while he had not seen the program, the “critical test” would be concerning the forms of argument being presented.
“Did the other five have a uniform view or were there different arguments or nuances that they were making?
“Was the spectrum being reflected in the conversation?” Scott said in return.
The show in question featured Anglican Bishop The Right Reverend Robert Forsyth, Baptist minister Reverend Nathan Nettleton, Catholic Jesuit priest Father Frank Brennan, Professor Dennis Altman, broadcaster Julie McCrossin and dad and gay rights advocate, Geoff Thomas.
Abetz was also upset that a rally in August at Parliament’s Great Hall to “celebrate and defend the traditional definition of marriage” was apparently not covered by ABC Television that evening.
“On 13 August, just three days earlier, the ABC evening news had a story on a pro homosexual marriage demo, where there were 10 to 12 people. Once again, can you tell us how that is indicative of the ABC's balanced reporting?” Abetz added.
Yesterday’s hearing also saw Scott having to explain the concept of political satire to Labor Senator Lisa Singh who claimed to have found the recently aired comedy on Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s personal life, At Home With Julia, as “completely crass”.