ABC board member Laura Tingle has defended her decision to back managing director David Anderson and reject a union-led vote of no-confidence in him, arguing it was in the best interests of the public broadcaster’s staff.
Chief political correspondent for the news organisation’s 7.30 program, Tingle said despite her vote against the union position she understood concerns raised by ABC employees over the way it covers the Israel-Gaza war and the sacking of fill-in radio host Antoinette Lattouf. Tingle joined the ABC’s board as its staff-elected representative in March 2023.
“I did this [support Anderson] because it was my judgement that this was in the best interests of the staff, a judgement based on the information available to me,” she said.
“I completely understand the concerns of staff members who are anxious to ensure that not only the independence of the ABC is maintained, but the perception of independence is maintained.
Anderson appeared on ABC Radio National on Wednesday morning, saying despite the vote and events engulfing the broadcaster recently, its reputation with Australians was still intact.
“It’s all about trust, relevance and value that we provide the Australian people. I think people still have trust in the ABC,” he said.
The interview was his first since last week’s union vote, the Fair Work proceedings commencing, and the appointment of incoming chair Kim Williams.
During the radio interview, Anderson declined to comment on the Lattouf case due to ongoing legal action. However, he pushed back on the assertion that the ABC is biased in its coverage of the conflict in Gaza, after its global affairs editor John Lyons called the broadcaster’s response to external pressure by a group of pro-Israel lobbyists “embarrassing” in a staff meeting last week.
“We are not pro-Israeli, I don’t believe, in our reporting,” Anderson said. “Nor do I think we’re pro-Palestinian in this, we’re certainly not pro-Hamas. The line that we need to tread is to be accurate and impartial at all times, to be objective in what it is that we do, and I believe that we do that.
“I don’t see systemic bias at the ABC. I haven’t in the five years that I have been managing director. There are times when we don’t get it right and we own up to that.”
Both Anderson and Tingle said Lyons is entitled to express his views about the organisation.
“I think John, at all times, is always representing concern with regard to the ABC. I think he’s a mentor to others and people look up to him, and again, he’s entitled to his views. I’ve been in touch with John and encouraged him to get in touch with me directly if he’s got concerns with that,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the ABC regularly receives co-ordinated campaigning efforts. He said it receives complaints and letters from both Israeli and Palestinian perspectives, and from others complaining over the ABC’s lack of stance.
“There is quite co-ordinated campaigns that come to us on email, and you can tell because they’re all formatted. I’ve been aware that they are co-ordinated for some time, and it’s not just around this particular coverage … but before that, you can see co-ordinated campaigns that come towards the ABC.”
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry declined to comment on Anderson’s comments, as did the ABC union house committee. The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network did not respond in time for publishing.
Contrary to comments made by former Media Watch host and ABC Alumni chair Jonathan Holmes last week, also on Radio National, Anderson said diversity and impartiality could coexist.
“I fundamentally disagree with the notion that diversity and impartiality are somehow exclusive. In fact, I reject that completely,” Anderson said.
The ABC secretly reappointed Anderson for another five-year term in early 2023, only confirming the decision in a report by the masthead several months later.
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