Thursday, October 07, 2004

Disgusted by the ABC

At the top of our Political News RSS feed from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation this morning is a link which reads:

'ADV: Build a Better America with the RNC' (Screw them, I'm not linking it).

If you click the link it takes you to an RNC site:

The ABC is the Australian equivalent of the BBC. Why the hell is a supposedly neutral Australian
Company running American republican ads? At the very top of the News Items too. The only clue that it is an advert is ADV at the beginning of it. In all other respects it is masquerading as a news item. This is the first advert I have seen on their (or any) News RSS feed.

We Sent them the following E-mail:

Why is the ABC running political ads for the US republican party on your Political News RSS feed? I am totally disgusted. Aren't you supposed to be neutral? This is the first advert I have ever seen on yours or any RSS feed. It is at the very top of the feed. If you click it takes you to a republican party donation site. Readers of my website expect reliable NEWS not American party political advertising masquerading as news. If you don't uphold standards in broadcasting in this country who will? I have expressed my disgust on my website and will spend the rest of the day spreading word in the media and in the blogosphere about your appalling breach in ethics.
We also sent this to MediaWatch, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and to the Australian Broadcasting Standards Authority:

This morning, at the very top of the ABC's political News feed on our website was the following link:

ADV: Build a Better America with the RNC

If you click it takes you to a US republican party donation site. This is the first piece of advertising I have ever seen on any news feed; it is even worse that it is a political advert and completely appaling that it is the ABC's feed. People expect neutral and reliable reporting from the ABC. It is a requirement of them and is in the code of practice.

The only clue that it is an advert is the ADV at the beginning, easily overlooked by readers who are not expecting the feed to be contaminated by politically biased advertising. In all other respects it is masquerading as a news item.

I find this absolutely disgusting. If the ABC doesn't uphold ethical standards in the Australian media who will? What really offends is the fact that there is a widespread expectation of neutrality from the ABC and this constitutes a real betrayal of that expectation.

Gail Thomas

The ABC's Code of Practice says:

The ABC's place in the broadcasting system is distinctive because of its Charter, which gives the Corporation unique responsibilities, and because of other provisions under the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act, 1983, which give the Corporation particular responsibilities, for example, the provision of an independent news service.

On another page of their site they boast:

Bias Not an Issue For ABC

A recent Newspoll survey* of community attitudes to the ABC continues to confirm that the Australian public overwhelming believe that the ABC is `balanced and even-handed' in its reporting of news and current affairs. Recent monitoring of ABC output by Rehame in the lead up to the Federal Election also supports the ABC's standing as an independent and impartial public broadcaster.

This is the public expectation, which makes their breach of ethics even more appalling.

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