Stonewalling on steroids: ABC fails transparency test

ABC Director of Communications

MIchael Millett, Director ABC Corporate Affairs

EDITORS NOTE: When there is more information on an ABC apology and reprimand to Jon Faine from right wing blogger Michael Smith’s website than from the ABC itself  you smell a story. Thanks to Tweep donations AFHP commissioned journalist Peter Clarke to pursue it. Both he and I thought the story would have been told by now, more than two weeks after @CUhlmann demanded on Twitter that the ABC back Faine.
It hasn’t. The ABC is playing word games to avoid answering Peter’s questions and has not reported this story at any time on any of its platforms except Media Watch. Why? And why the difference in approach from the last time there was an adverse finding against an ABC interviewer, when there was an ABC statement and solid coverage?
Here is today’s email from Peter to the ABC Director of Corporate Affairs, Michael Millett, in reply to a stonewall response to Peter’s questions. You can read all the email and SMS communications between Peter and Mick HERE. To my surprise, and Peter’s, the ABC appears to be using political and bureaucratic techniques to avoid accountability on the premise that questioners will give up and move on. We won’t. The AFHP Jon Faine archive is HERE.

From: Peter Clarke
Date: 15 February 2013
To:Mike Millett


Dear Mick,

Thank you so much for your recent reply in relation to the Jon Faine matter.

Unfortunately, your reply does not even begin to address our detailed questions and raises more questions than it answers.

For example, you point to section 5 of the guidelines to clarify how a person such as Faine might “appeal” or seek review of a negative finding. I have carefully read and parsed that section and all relevant sections. It is simply not clear how a person such as Faine has or can exercise a “right of appeal”.

By contrast, if the original complaint is to ACMA, the ABC as an entity seems to allocate to itself a defensive role on behalf of the complained against broadcaster.

For an internally based process, this seems much less clear.

Would you confirm that Jon Faine has a right under the complaints process to seek a review of the findings? How?

Has he sought such a review?

Has HE received the detailed reasons for the finding to authentically inform such an appeal against the findings?

Did the committee thoroughly document its investigative and decision-making process?

Is there in fact a detailed set of reasons on record?

What is actually stopping the ABC from publishing it if it exists?

Does Faine need the support of his managers to exercise any right of appeal (if he indeed has one) or is the process more independent and at arm’s length from the management chain of command. A close reading of the guidelines seems to indicate that the process is intimately bound up with management decision making processes and not more akin to an openly fair “legal” process.

Here is the nub of your problem.

Simply saying “there is no precedent” doesn’t change reality that this finding clearly is one. But one without published reasons tied to the details of the guidelines and the facts of the case.

The complex of inter-related relevant criteria and considerations to be applied in a complaints investigation only underscores this.

It IS intrinsically a precedent beyond any doubt. Our soundings inside the ABC reveal considerable confusion and insecurity following this finding. Abstract words in guidelines are one thing. Actual cases are another. ABC interviewers facing an election campaign need that sense of security and clarity to be effective.

I emphasise that key word “argumentative” in the negative Faine finding.

The key and central problem of clarity and transparency remains: no detailed reasons that make explicit the actual application of all those criteria IN CONTEXT has yet been published for the benefit of ABC interviewers nor for us the citizen consumers of ABC news journalistic services.

It is not simply an “internal matter”. It is a public one and very clearly a matter in the public interest.

We shall continue these articles, enquiries and analyses until a far more satisfactory outcome of openess and transparency from the ABC is achieved.

I look forward to your further assistance in this process including accurate and open answers to my questions in this email. We would expect nothing less from the national broadcaster.

Thank you, Mick.

Peter Clarke

Additional reading recommended by AFHP:

  • Email and Text communications between Peter and Mick HERE
  • The AFHP Jon Faine Affair archive is HERE.
  • The corporate ABC profile on Michael Millett

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  1. sulphurcrested says

    This is wonderful, thank you, Peter. You do this on behalf of many who are greatly dismayed and grieve over the terrible monster in sheep’s clothing the ABC has become.
    It is very chilling indeed that this is happening under everyone’s noses and nothing is being reported about it outside of independent media and the blogoshpere.

  2. Make it simple for me. Has the ABC been compromised by business interests who want to overthrow the government?