This article canvasses the Code of Practice for the ABC and demonstrates that the obligation to provide impartiality is continually and deliberately ignored when reporting about China. The article is the first of many that will demonstrate this.
Principles: The ABC has a statutory duty to ensure that the gathering and presentation of news and information is impartial according to the recognised standards of objective journalism.
Aiming to equip audiences to make up their own minds is consistent with the public service character of the ABC. A democratic society depends on diverse sources of reliable information and contending opinions. A broadcaster operating under statute with public funds is legitimately expected to contribute in ways that may differ from commercial media, which are free to be partial to private interests.
Judgements about whether impartiality was achieved in any given circumstances can vary among individuals according to their personal and subjective view of any given matter of contention.
Acknowledging this fact of life does not change the ABC’s obligation to apply its impartiality standard as objectively as possible. In doing so, the ABC is guided by these hallmarks of impartiality:
A democratic society depends on diverse sources of reliable information and contending opinions
The case against the ABC regarding impartiality in reporting and commentary regarding China will be developed over several articles. Each will address a particular case study. Additionally, one article will address the balance of published items from the ABC.
The case studies will demonstrate the on-going deliberate flouting of the Code of Practice, which articulates the ABC`s statutory obligation.
On the 16 November, 2022, the ABC published the video "The significance of the Anthony Albanese and Xi Jinping meeting", hosted by Beverley O`Connor. Heralding the content of the video, the by-line states "Peter Hartcher, the international editor with the Sydney Morning Herald, says Beijing appears to have dumped its "campaign of intimidation" against Australia."
"Peter Hartcher, the international editor with the Sydney Morning Herald, says Beijing appears to have dumped its "campaign of intimidation" against Australia."
The video makes no attempt to canvas a diversity of perspectives. A single speaker, Peter Hartcher, speaks for approximately 92% of the time.
Hartcher`s language is indicative of his perspective.
A single speaker, Peter Hartcher, speaks for approximately 92% of the time.
Hartcher`s derogatory language
Any or all of Hartcher`s assertions can be contended. None of them are challenged by O`Connor (as is her style as an interviewer).
The obligation for impartiality requires "a balance that follows the weight of evidence". Hartcher, rather than actually present the evidence that trade has changed, prefers to simply assert that the `easing` is due to "over the last 12 months because it [China] discovered that it needed Australian thermal coal to keep its people warming its economy running and it needed Australian wheat to feed its people".
Thus the requirement for balance or evidence is not met.
The obligation for impartiality requires "fair treatment". It would be impossible to consider Hartcher`s assertions `fair`, given the language in which he couches them. Even when he concedes that the relationship has changed, this carries an inference that Xi is capitulating.
The obligation for impartiality requires "open-mindedness". An open mind is characterised by the willingness to canvas a variety of explanations for behaviour. Hartcher`s characterisation of Xi is singular - Xi is giving way.
The obligation for impartiality requires "opportunities over time for principal relevant perspectives on matters of contention to be expressed." A survey of reporting by ABC News demonstrates a consistent theme of claiming that China`s actions to date have been unreasonable. This is the subject of a later article.
Hartcher asserts that "over the last 12 months because it [China] discovered that it needed Australian thermal coal to keep its people warming its economy running and it needed Australian wheat to feed its people" but presents no evidence to demonstrate that the `easing` is predicated on this, nor provides evidence of the `easing`.
This case study might appear isolated. However, it is reflective of an on-going pattern of reporting from the ABC that violates its Code of Practice.