Issue 128

GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 128

9 MARCH 2012

“Media Watch Dog on Fridays…is a sort of popular read in the Crikey office”

Crikey’s Andrew Crook on ABC 2 News Breakfast, 24 September 2010.

“Gerard Henderson is big enough to take care of himself, but that doesn’t stop us worrying about him from time to time.

Lately it’s Hendo’s tendency to self-harm that has us losing sleep.

For example, peruse the correspondence he’s published in his latest Media Watch Dog blog…..There’s a part of us that just wants to ask:

“Hendo, are you OK?”

– James Jeffrey’s “Strewth!” column, The Australian, 8 November 2010.

“I realise this makes me practically retarded, but until five minutes ago

I thought Nancy was Gerard Henderson’s wife, not his dog.”

– Byronbache via Twitter, Monday 7 February 2011

“Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails

are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s

Marius Benson, 11 March 2011. He did go further – see MWD Issue 86.

Media Watch Dog – “disgraceful”, “sick”

– Professor Robert Manne, April Fool’s Day 2011.

“Go to the Sydney Institute Media Watch Dog website to marvel at [its] work”

– Mark Latham The Spectator Australia 11 June 2011.

“Henderson…What a pompous, pretentious turd you are.”

- Mike Carlton, Saturday 13 August 2011 (after lunch)

“We’d better be careful what we say, just in case Gerard’s offsider pooch Nancy is keeping an eye on us for his delightfully earnest Media Watch Dog”

- Tom Cowie of The Power Index, Crikey 20 January 2012

Stop Press : Rod Cameron Dismisses Tony Abbott Yet Again

● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: Mark Latham’s Recycled Joke

● Can You Bear It?  : AM – All the Nudes That’s Not Fit to Print

● Special Editorial on Ray Finkelstein QC’s Media Inquiry – Or How The Fink Proposes to Jail Disobedient Journos

Correspondence: ABC’s Jonathan Green & Bruce Belsham Defend Robert Manne and The Drum’s Policy of Not Checking Facts

STOP PRESS

ROD CAMERON ON WHY 150 PER CENT OF VOTERS OPPOSE TONY ABBOTT

What a stunning performance by one-time Labor pollster Rod Cameron on 7.30 last night.  According to your man Rod, no one – but no one – supports Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Rod Cameron : The informed part of the electorate has no idea what he [Tony Abbott] really stands for. The uninformed part of the electorate just doesn’t trust him. And he does have a problem with women. Many women find him creepy, they find him full of passive aggressiveness. They can’t quite work the guy out. And they’re still struggling after all this time.

And it’s not just the Labor Party with their extraordinary antics of late. The Liberal Party seems to be in a great mess at the moment too. They cannot get their act together. And is it any wonder that ordinary voters just shrug their shoulders and say, “Oh, please, can we move on?”

[Oh, please, why does Rod Cameron talk in clichés of the can-we-move-on genre? -Ed].

So according to Mr Cameron, Tony Abbott is opposed by (i) the informed, (ii) the uninformed and (iii) women. [I assume Mr Cameron places himself in the “informed” group – Ed].  Which makes you wonder precisely how the Coalition is consistently ahead of Labor in the opinion polls.

According to MWD’s records, Rod Cameron is something of an expert on Mr Abbott and the Liberal Party. In December 2009, Cameron told a sympathetic Laura Tingle that Tony Abbott was “unelectable” (Australian Financial Review, 2 December 2009).  He added: “This is a description that I reserve for a very small group of politicians”.

In August 2010 Tony Abbott was the first Opposition leader to force a first-term government into minority status.  Not content with such false prophecy, Rod Cameron reckons that Mr Abbott is opposed by – wait for it – around 150 per cent of voters. How about that?

NANCY’S PICK-OF-THE-WEEK

MARK LATHAM CHANNELS ALBO WITH HOLLYWOOD QUOTE

Remember when, due to shoddy staff work, Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese ran a line from the film The American President which he thought was his own? What fun.

In the recent ballot, Anthony “Call me Albo” Albanese voted for Kevin Rudd. This may, or may not, have been a wise decision.  However, Albo demonstrated real wisdom in always opposing the leadership aspirations of Mark Latham – who led Labor to a disastrous defeat at the hands of John Howard in 2004.

Nowadays Mark Latham is a part-time scribbler who writes a column for The Spectator Australia. Here’s what Latham wrote last Friday about his enemy Kevin Rudd:

The folklore among Labor MPs is captured in a popular Caucus story. Rudd had a backbencher cornered, talking about himself for more than 30 minutes. Eventually this self-serving blurb ended, with Kevin declaring “Enough from me. What do you think about me?”

At least Rudd was speaking to a colleague. In the lead-up to Monday’s ballot, he spent most of his time talking to the media and posing for photos in Brisbane’s CBD.

In fact this joke is older than Methuselah. [I thought it was older than that. – Ed].  It was popularised in the 1988 film Beaches where the CC Bloom character (played by Bette Midler) says:

But enough about me, let’s talk about you. What do YOU think of me?

How about that?  It seems the Lair of Liverpool is now confusing film scenes with real life.

CAN YOU BEAR IT?

AM FINDS NEWS IN ADELAIDE FRINGE FESTIVAL NUDITY

Nancy’s co-owner is a conservative type who dresses modestly.  Not so Nancy who is invariably in the buff – even when it’s wet.

So it comes as no surprise that Nancy just loved the high-priority that AM gave yesterday to an act of the Adelaide Fringe Festival.  It goes like this.

Act One : Two sheilas and one bloke get their gear off and walk starkers through Adelaide’s Rymill Park [Would anyone notice? – Ed].  They assemble at a roped-off area and wait for someone or something to turn up. Someone. Anything.

Act Two : The ABC’s Nance Haxton turns up and interviews Kat Henry.  She advises that this is art of the highest (taxpayer subsidised) order. Let’s go to the audio tape:

Nance Haxton: For performer Kat Henry the journey of Deliverance started months ago as an idea in her lounge room and now she has just walked naked through Adelaide’s Rymill Park to a roped off area of land about the size of a lounge room that will be her home for the next 10 days.

Kat Henry: We’re standing here now in the space with an audience in front of us. Some lovely people stepped immediately into the space to give us – we’ve each got a t-shirt now. I’m holding a lovely Chinese fan in front of myself.

Nance Haxton: Over the bits that weren’t covered by the shirt?

(Laughter)

Kat Henry : That’s right. Penny has got a tennis ball that was given to her by someone and Will is now wearing a pair of underpants.

Wacko. Well done – and so on.  A flash for the arts – to be sure.  Let’s go back to the final segment of this most important interview:

Nance Haxton : They won’t leave this space for the entire time, their only concession being to go to a special toilet area. It’s not a performance as much as an experiment as performer Penny Markham explains.

Penny Markham : This is the biggest thing we’ve ever done and we’re all so happy and giggly and excited and optimistic. And I think in a piece like that, that’s the best head space to be in.

Nance Haxton : Do you have any expectations or is that almost the point?

Penny Markham : It’s totally the point but I mean it happens. My only expectation is that people respond to it in a really positive way, yeah, that they don’t look for answers but ask questions I guess. And we won’t have those answers (laughs).

MWD doesn’t have an answer, either.  But it has a question. What’s AM doing running such tosh?  Can you bear it?

EDITORIAL – WHY FINKELSTEIN QC’S RECOMMENDATIONS ARE INAPPROPRIATE AND SELF-SERVING AND WILL NOT WORK

The Report of the Independent Inquiry diflucan sale Into The Media And Media Regulation by The Hon. Ray Finkelstein QC, with the assistance of Professor Matthew Ricketson, was released last Friday.

The Finkelstein Report gives the impression of being a substantial document – consisting, as it does, of 468 pages. However, much of the report is made up of material prepared by academics and lawyers – with chapters on “the democratic indispensability of a free press” and “theories of regulation”.  As is pointed out in the Introduction, “much work had to be done in a short time; this made it necessary to appoint a team to assist with aspects of the report”.  The team consisted of academics Dr Rodney Tiffen, Dr Franco Papandrea and Dr Dennis Muller and barristers Kristen Walker, Christopher Young, Graeme Hill along with two Monash University law students (Jack Bourke, Mansa Chintoh).

Some of the material in the Finkelstein Report is valuable, some is useful and some is worthless.  However, the key sections of the report – namely the “Executive Summary” covering conclusions and recommendations and Chapter 11 on “Reform” are remarkably light.  Mr Finkelstein has recommended the creation of a government-funded organisation without any attempt at costing his proposal.

The key recommendation of the Finkelstein Report can be found at Pages 8 and 9, viz:

… I recommend that a new body, a News Media Council, be established to set journalistic standards for the news media in consultation with the industry, and handle complaints made by the public when those standards are breached. Those standards will likely be substantially the same as those that presently apply and which all profess to embrace.

Moreover, I recommend that the News Media Council have those roles in respect of news and current affairs coverage on all platforms, that is, print, online, radio and television. It will thus explicitly cover online news for the first time, and will involve transferring ACMA [Australian Communications and Media Authority] functions for standards and complaints concerning news and current affairs. It will replace the voluntary APC [Australian Press Council]… The News Media Council should have secure funding from government and its decisions made binding, but beyond that government should have no role.

Ray Finkelstein’s Actual Recommendations

The details of the proposed News Media Council are contained in Chapter 11 of the Finkelstein Report.  They are as follows:

● The NWC should consist of a full-time independent chair and 20 part-time members – half of whom “should be selected from the public at large, being persons who have not had previous connections with the media” – and half of whom “should be appointed from the media or those who have worked with the media” who will be “nominated by the media and the MEAA [the trade union Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance].

● One half of the NMC members “should be men and one half should be women”.

●  Appointments to the NWC should be made by “a committee that is independent from the government”.   This committee “could…consist of three senior academics from tertiary institutions appointed by the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee…, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Solicitor-General for the Commonwealth”.  According to the Finkelstein Report, three senior academics can speak for “the public at large”.

● The chair of the NMC “should be a retired judge or other eminent lawyer”.  In other words, the NMC should be presided over by a judge or eminent lawyer and half of its members should be appointed by senior academics.

● Members of the NMC “should be entitled to reasonable remuneration”.  In other words, members of the NMC will receive a significant financial benefit.

● Funding for the NMC “should be by the government out of consolidated revenue”. In other words, taxpayers should foot the bill.

● The NMC should “oversee the enforcement of standards of the news media” and take over the functions of both the Australia Press Council and the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

● The NMC should supervise “the many newsletter publishers and bloggers…who offer up-to-date reflections on current affairs”. Publishers who distribute “more than 3000 copies of print per issue or a news internet site [which] has a minimum of 15,000 hits per annum should be subject to the jurisdiction of the News Media Council”.

● The NMW will not cover “foreign publishers who have no connection with Australia”.

● Complaints to the NMC should be filtered “by a senior officer of the News Media Council…to determine whether or not a complaint is frivolous or vexatious”.  It “may be appropriate to allow for an appeal to the chair by a complainant whose complaint is not to be pursued”.  In other words, NMC officers will supplement the work of NWC members.  This implies the creation of numerous positions to service the NWC panel.

● The NMC “should, in the first instance, attempt to resolve a complaint through discussions with the media outlet”.  In other words, a complaint should not take his/her case up with the media outlet in the first instance.  Rather all complaints should be channelled through the NMC bureaucracy.

● It is “not proposed that the complainant should first present his/her complaint to the media outlet”.

● “If not resolved informally, complaints should be dealt with by a complaints panel consisting of one, three or, only in exceptional cases five members of the News Media Council”.  The panel for any complaint will be selected by the chair.

● “Complaints should, as a general rule be dealt with on the papers and not by a hearing”.

● Complaints should be resolved “within days or weeks, not months”.  For example, “there could be a requirement that the media outlet concerned has two days to respond to a complaint and the panel has two days to resolve the complaint and make a decision”.  In other words, a publicly funded NMC should be able to turn matters around within a week. Currently the publicly funded ABC aims for a six week turn around period for handling complaints.

● There “should be no requirement for the [NMC] panel to provide reasons for a decision although it would likely ordinarily do so”.  In other words, the NWC would not have to explain itself or its decisions.

● “The News Media Council should have…remedial powers for complaints and own-motion investigations”.  Including power to (i) require publication of a correction, (ii) require withdrawal of a particular article from continued publication, (iii) require a media outlet to publish a reply by a complainant or other relevant person, (iv) require publication of the NMC’s decision or determination and (v) direct when and where publication should appear.

● The NMC should have no power to impose fines or award compensation. However, if the NMC is not to be a “toothless tiger”, it should have a means of enforcing its decisions.

● There should be a legal requirement that, if a regulated media outlet refuses to comply with a NMC determination, the NMC – or the complainant – should have the right to apply to a court of competent jurisdiction for an order compelling compliance.

● According to the Finkelstein Report, “any failure to comply with the court order should be contempt of court and punishable in the usual way”.  The “usual way” for punishing contempt is fine and/or imprisonment.  In other words, Ray Finkelstein QC is seriously proposing that media executives may serve time in jail for not accepting NMC findings.

● In order to preserve the ability of the NMC to act swiftly, there should be no internal appeal from – or internal merit reviews of – a  determination.  Nor should there be external reviews via the Administrative Review Tribunal.

● The NWC will have greater coverage than the Australian Press Council and will receive more complaints than the APC.  Also, the NMC “will be required to carry out motion investigations” which may well involve the media incurring costs.

● The costs to government “are not likely to be significant”.  The current cost of operating the APC is approximately $1 million per annum and the APC says it needs $2 million per annum.  “Even if the actual costs are greater (as is likely) they will not be significant.”

No Costings Or Staffing Details Provided

So there it is.  Ray Finkelstein QC has proposed the creation of a government funded News Media Council.  However, he does not know how much it will cost – except that it will be more than $2 million per annum.  Mr Finkelstein does not know how many public servants will be employed on the NMC’s staff.  He does not say where the NMC’s office/offices would be located.  And he has not estimated the cost to the media industry consequent upon the creation of a News Media Council.

An Elitist  Approach

Ray Finkelstein QC believes that half of the places on the 20 person strong NMC should be decided by “three senior academics” – implying that academics are more suitable to oversee such appointments than butchers or bakers or candlestick makers.

Fines or Jail Possible for Publishers and Editors

According to the Finkelstein Report, the NMC should not have to provide reasons for its decisions.  However, if there is any refusal to comply with a decision of the NMC, the NMC, or the complainant, should have the right to apply to a court for an order compelling compliance.  Any failure to comply with the relevant court order, should be a contempt of court.

In other words, the Finkelstein Report envisages that, in the final analysis, determinations of the News Media Council will be implemented by fining and/or imprisoning media executives or editors or bloggers.  Including bloggers who receive a mere 15,000 hits a year.  It seems that Mr Finkelstein has little understanding of the new social media – he seems unaware that a total of 41 hits a day would cover virtually every amateur blogger in Australia.  Maybe the Finkelstein Report intended another measurement.

On the Finkelstein Report’s Gravy Train

Ray Finkelstein QC was a solicitor who became  a barrister and then worked in the Victorian Public Service as Solicitor-General.  He served on the Federal Court between 1997 and 2011.  Mr Finkelstein has never worked in the media.

According to the Finkelstein Report, the chair of the proposed News Media Council “should be a retired judge or other eminent lawyer”.  Step forward Ray Finkelstein QC.

It is quite possible that the “three senior academics”, who would appoint half of the members of the NWC, could be Dr Rodney Tiffen or Dr Franco Papandra or Dr Denis Muller.  Alternatively, any or all of these three might be appointed by their peers to the NMC – and receive “reasonable remuneration” per courtesy of the Australian taxpayer.  Step forward Doctors Tiffin, Papandra and Muller.

Margaret Simons who heads the Centre for Advanced Journalism at Melbourne University and is Crikey’s media reporter, has praised the Finkelstein Report (see Crikey 5 March 2012). She described the Finkelstein Report as “weighty and scholarly, though admirably clearly-written report”.  As Nick Leys reported in The Australian on 7 March 2012, Margaret Simons’ Centre for Advanced Journalism is organising a $500 a head workshop on the Finkelstein Report.  Key speakers include Professor Ricketson and Dr Tiffin and Dr Muller.  Normally Ms Simons and The Crikey team are into full disclosure.  However, the Centre for Advanced Journalism’s seminar on the Finkelstein Report will be a confidential affair.

A Case of Perceived Bias

In the introduction to his report, Ray Finkelstein makes it clear that the Media Inquiry was established “following revelations that journalists” at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World “had engaged in phone hacking”.  This, he reports, “provoked calls in Australia for the establishment of a wide-ranging investigation into the media” – even though there was no suggestion that Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited in Australia “had engaged in similar practices”. Nevertheless, as Mr Finkelstein reports, “the leader of the Greens, Senator Brown, called for a general inquiry into the newspaper industry”. And so it came to pass.

In view of this, it was unprofessional for Mr Finkelstein to appoint left-wing academics Rodney Tiffen and Dennis Muller to work on the Media Inquiry.  Dr Tiffen is on record as criticising Rupert Murdoch. Dr Muller is also a public critic of Rupert Murdoch – see, for example, his Crikey article dated 25 July 2011. This can be ascertained by a quick Google search.

As a retired Federal Court judge, Ray Finkelstein should be familiar with the principles governing a reasonable apprehension of bias.

There is nothing wrong with left-wing academics advising the Media Inquiry.  It’s just that Ray Finkelstein did not engage any conservatives or right-of-centre academics to balance the input of Dr Tiffen, Dr Muller and the left-of-centre Professor Ricketson.

Conclusion – Ray Finkelstein as an ABC-Admiring Kind of Leftie

The evidence suggests that Mr Finkelstein himself is a left-of-centre type.  The Finkelstein Report is replete with positive references to the ABC which he sees as without bias and deserving of more taxpayer funds.

Ray Finkelstein did not seem to notice that his own Media Inquiry did not engage any conservative adviser.  Likewise he does not seem to notice that the ABC has not one conservative presenter on any of its significant programs despite the fact that it has a host of leftists in such positions.

The Media Inquiry has produced a report advocating that the media in Australia be regulated by a government-funded body.  Little wonder that, at this stage, only Greens leader Senator Bob Brown has embraced the findings of the Finkelstein Report.

CORRESPONDENCE

JONATHAN GREEN BEATS ABC COMPLAINTS DRUM IN ATTEMPT TO COVER FOR ROBERT MANNE’S FAILING MEMORY AND LACK OF EVIDENCE

The following correspondence trail provides a case study of the tendency of tenured academics to engage in polemics without evidence – and the inability and/or unwillingness of the ABC to check facts.  Here we go:

GERARD HENDERSON TO JONATHAN GREEN – 8 MARCH 2012

Jonathan

Your former colleague Andrew Crook at Crikey drew my attention to the article by Robert Manne titled “Payback; I criticised The Australian; now I must pay” which was posted on The Drum Opinion on 6 March 2012.  I am writing to you in your capacity as editor of The Drum and The Drum Online.

ABC managing director Mark Scott is invariably banging on about high editorial standards at the ABC.  Well, here’s an idea.   How about engaging a fact-checker at The Drum? Especially dealing with copy from tenured taxpayer funded professors with fading memories.

Misrepresentations In Robert Manne’s Drum Article

As is his wont, Professor Manne wrote primarily about himself in his latest piece in The Drum Online.  However, towards the middle of the article, Robert Manne alleged I am conducting a “vendetta” against his friend David McKnight.  He also claimed that I have raised the question of “public accountability” concerning a substantial grant which Dr McKnight received from the Australian Research Council for a book on Rupert Murdoch.

Neither statement is accurate.  I simply sought guidance from David McKnight about how a person goes about getting taxpayer funding for writing polemics. That’s all.

Factual Errors In Robert Manne’s Drum Article

Then there is the more serious matter of howlers – and The Drum’s disinclination to employ a fact-checker.

Robert Manne’s Claim

In his article in The Drum Online, Robert Manne alleged that The Sydney Institute was “generously funded by Larry Adler’s FAI Insurance”.

Response:

Larry Adler died in December 1988 – some six months before the formation of The Sydney Institute.  This can readily be checked by material on the public record.  As a tenured academic, Professor Manne has access to the considerable facilities at La Trobe University Library.  He should be able to do better than this.

Robert Manne’s Claim

In his article in The Drum Online, Robert Manne asserted that “when the National Companies and Securities Commission conducted a raid on its [FAI’s] offices, Henderson used his column in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age to launch a vitriolic attack on its chairman, Henry Bosch.

Response:

Had The Drum bothered to do any fact-checking of any kind, you would not have trusted Professor Manne’s failing memory.  My comments are as follows:

▪ I am not aware that Henry Bosch’s NCSC conducted a “raid” on FAI’s offices.  Perhaps you might ask Professor Manne when and where such a “raid” occurred – and the legal authority used to justify such a “raid”.  It’s called fact-checking.

▪  I commenced writing newspaper columns in 1987. However, I never wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald or The Age during Larry Adler’s lifetime.  I commenced writing for the Sydney Morning Herald in January 1990 and for The Age in December 1992.  Clearly, Robert Manne did not do any checking before submitting his piece, originally published on The Monthly’s website, to The Drum Online – otherwise he would have known that I did not write for either the Sydney Morning Herald or The Age during Larry Adler’s life time.

▪ I did refer to Larry Adler and Henry Bosch in my column in The Australian on 24 October 1988. However, I made no reference to any alleged “raid” by NCSC. Nor did my comments about Henry Bosch amount to a “vitriolic attack”.  You could have checked this out.

I was, and remain, of the view that Henry Bosch was a poor performer as NCSC chairman. He was a media tart who achieved little.  The fact is that I did not criticise any of Mr Bosch’s successors.  In 1993, Henry Bosch said that Aborigines were “the most backward one per cent of the population” and that reconciliation was “a complete waste of time” (Sydney Morning Herald, 26 July 1993).  Shortly after, in a radio interview,  Henry Bosch claimed that Aborigines had “got away with murder” in Australia over the last two centuries.  Robert Manne is aware of these comments and has written about this in the past.  It’s surprising that he now seems to forget them.

Mr Bosch, who had left the NCSC in 1990, was forced by the Keating Government to step down from his position as an advisor to the Department of Administrative Services due to his intolerant comments on Aborigines.  Subsequently, in his book The Workings of a Watchdog, Henry Bosch called for a return to the days when issues could be resolved by “a word in the club over lunch”.  The clubs Mr Bosch was referring to excluded all women as well as Jewish and Catholic males.

Conclusion

Clearly, Robert Manne and I disagree about Henry Bosch’s abilities – or otherwise.  However, there is no excuse for Robert Manne’s factual errors about me which were placed on the taxpayer funded The Drum Opinion last Tuesday.  So I ask:  How do you propose to correct Professor Manne’s howlers?

I have forwarded a copy of this note to Mark Scott – in his capacity as the ABC’s editor-in-chief.  Here’s hoping Mr Scott will take some action to ensure that in future articles are fact-checked before they are placed on The Drum Online.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

cc:      Mark Scott, Managing Director, ABC

Michael Millett, Director – Communications, ABC

JONATHAN GREEN TO GERARD HENDERSON – 8 MARCH 2012

Gerard, thanks for writing.

I’ll discuss this with Robert Manne and get back to you.

Jonathan Green

Editor, The Drum

Presenter, RN Sunday Extra

cc: Michael Millett

GERARD HENDERSON TO JONATHAN GREEN – 8 MARCH 2012

Jonathan

Thanks for acknowledging my note.

You are paid a good salary (by the taxpayer) to edit The Drum and The Drum Online.

You should be able to check the facts yourself, from publicly available material, without seeking guidance from Robert Manne – whose memory is not the best these days and who seems too lazy to check his missives before forwarding them to you.

Gerard Henderson

cc:      Mark Scott, Managing Director, ABC

Michael Millett, Director – Communications, ABC

JONATHAN GREEN TO GERARD HENDERSON – 8 MARCH 2012

Gerard I’ve passed your complaint to the Audience and Consumer Affairs department for action. They’ll take it from here.

GERARD HENDERSON TO JONATHAN GREEN – 8 MARCH 2012

Jonathan

I refer to your email which I have just received.

I never gave you permission to pass the contents of my email to the Audience and Consumer Affairs Department and I do not want it to look at this matter.  I have never made a formal complaint to the ABC because I regard its complaints procedures as a means used to protect ABC journalists and those who write on ABC websites (like Robert Manne).

As Mark Scott said in his address to The Sydney Institute in 2006, he is the ABC’s editor-in-chief.  As editor-in-chief, Mr Scott can resolve matters immediately if he so chooses.  You will be aware that I have sent this material to Mark Scott. As editor of The Drum, you also can resolve issues immediately if you choose.

It is simply a matter of evidence. Either Robert Manne should produce the evidence to support the claims he made about me on The Drum on 6 March 2012 or he should acknowledge that he has no evidence and that his claims were made up.  It is as simple as that.

As I have written previously, the existence of the ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs Department means that legitimate concerns about errors and howlers on the ABC cannot be corrected immediately and get bogged down in a bureaucratic organisation which invariably finds in favour of the ABC, usually after a delay of at least six weeks.  When I last looked at this, around 95 per cent of complaints concerning the ABC were rejected by the ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs Department.  You have to be a mug to submit yourself to such a procedure.

I expect that you will immediately withdraw this matter from the ACAD since you had no authority to send it there in the first place. If you are not able to produce evidence for material which you run on The Drum, then you should simply say so.

I expect that before you run more false material about me on The Drum, you will undertake some basic fact-checking. The taxpayer funded ABC has substantial research facilities and there are numerous ways of checking basic facts on-line and/or in the printed form.  It’s called research.

I regard it as quite unprofessional that a tenured taxpayer-funded academic like Professor Manne cannot check his own material and that the taxpayer-funded editor of The Drum is not prepared to check “facts” presented by contributors to The Drum.

Gerard Henderson

cc:      Mark Scott, Managing Director, ABC

Michael Millett, Director – Communications, ABC

JONATHAN GREEN TO GERARD HENDERSON – 8 MARCH 2012

Sorry Gerard my advice is that I was obliged to pass it on. I’m sure they’ll be in touch.

GERARD HENDERSON TO JONATHAN GREEN – 8 MARCH 2012

In view of the fact that the ABC is a taxpayer funded organisation, I am entitled to ask who advised you that you were “obliged” to pass my email on to Audience and Consumer Affairs – against my wishes.

Just the name will do.

Gerard

BRUCE BELSHAM TO GERARD HENDERSON – 9 MARCH 2012

Hi Gerard

This is just a quick note as Jonathan Green’s manager with responsibility for The Drum. I’ve had a look at your comments about the Robert Manne piece and reviewed further investigation by The Drum staff. To my mind the points you raise as factual errors are in fact strongly contested with disputed evidence. Some issues, such as defining your criticism of Bosch are matters of interpretation.  I’m therefore uncomfortable with any alterations or  editor’s note which adjudicates the contest.  This was after all an opinion piece in a clearly signposted opinion section of the ABC site. To my mind the appropriate course is to offer you a right of reply which the Drum will undertake to publish and in which you can make your points. I look forward to reading it if you choose to submit something.

I take your point about fact checking in opinion pieces. It’s something we do and take seriously, but you will also appreciate that on an opinion site the dividing line between comment and fact is blurred to say the least.

Regards

Bruce Belsham

A/Director ABC Innovation

GERARD HENDERSON TO BRUCE BELSHAM – 9 MARCH 2012

Bruce

I was busy this morning and have just noticed your email sent around 11 am.

I’m not surprised that, as Jonathan Green’s manager, you support Jonathan Green in this instance.  From my experience, ABC managers tend to support ABC editors.  That’s what they do in the publicly funded broadcaster.

Nor am I surprised that, in your “mind”, the points I raised as “factual errors are in fact strongly contested with disputed evidence”. Outsiders may wonder how my refutation of Professor Manne’s claim that I wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in the late 1980s – when the public record reveals that this is not the case – can be legitimately “contested” by him and Jonathan Green.   But – there you have it.  After all, Professor Manne was writing on the ABC’s The Drum Online site and Jonathan Green was his ABC editor. And, of course, Mr Manne is an academic with an increasingly faulty memory.

I have formally advised Mark Scott and Jonathan Green that this is not a formal complaint – since I do not want to get caught up in the ABC’s self-serving complaints procedures.  However, if Jonathan Green and/or Professor Manne can provide any evidence to support the claims about me in The Drum Online last Tuesday, they can send it to me. I note that your email contains no documentation of any kind in support of the Manne/Green position.

I advised Mr Green some time ago that I would not write for The Drum – and I do not propose to change my mind.  So I will not be accepting your invitation to write for The Drum and will publish this material elsewhere.

As you acknowledge in your final paragraph, The Drum does not fact-check opinion pieces.  I also note that The Drum contains much personal abuse in its comments section.  If Jonathan Green is happy with all this, so be it.  It’s just that I do not want to be part of such unprofessionalism.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

cc:      Mark Scott, Managing Director, ABC

Michael Millett, Director – Communications, ABC

Editor’s Note: At 3.41pm on Friday 9 March 2012, shortly after MWD Issue 128 came out, the ABC formally advised Gerard Henderson that Audience and Consumer Affairs would not be pursuing this matter as a formal complaint. Gerard Henderson accepted this assurance.

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Until next time – when some material scheduled for this week, but held over, will be run.

'2012