ABC Australia Challenged Over Biased Marriage Coverage


At an Australian Senate hearing, ABC Australia's managing director Mark Scott was asked pointedly by Liberal Senator Eric Abetz about how ABC has presented the marriage debate:

Senator ABETZ: I turn to the ABC program Compass and, once again, the issue of balance. I think it was on 6 July 2011. 'Marriage right vs rite' was featured, with Ms Doogue, and there were six guests sitting around the dinner table discussing same-sex marriage. 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?

Mr Scott : The ABC does not have a point of view, and part of our—

Senator ABETZ: Yes, but why can't it reflect the points of view on an equal basis? We have got it in Israel. We have now got it here.

Mr Scott : I did not see the program and I cannot speak in any detail on it, but I would suggest that the critical test is: are the arguments coming through in that conversation? 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? I cannot speak about in the abstract because I did not see it. I note your concern about it...

Senator ABETZ: Also on marriage, on 16 August, 1,000 people crammed into the Great Hall to celebrate and defend the traditional definition of marriage. Did the ABC cover that on TV that night?

Mr Scott : I will have to take that on notice.

Senator ABETZ: I know the answer, but take it on notice. 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?