ABC censored comment on Windschuttle
Wednesday August 09th 2006, 5:05 pm

ABC burning from the inside outJournalistic independence has never been under greater pressure at the ABC.

From the 8 August 2006 Crikey newsletter:

How I was censored by the ABC, by Bob Weis

According to The Age, Melbourne radio station ABC 774 has censored criticism of controversial ABC board member Keith Windschuttle. During an interview with Helen Razer on the Sunday Arts program, film director Bob Weis, talking about his documentary Women of the Sun – 25 Years Later, was cut off before he could say: “That while David Irving – the Holocaust denier – sits in prison, the Australian Government put our chief Holocaust denier on the board of the ABC.” Razer hit the dump button, saying on air: “I can’t possibly let you say that”. It’s alleged by Weis that Razer then said, off air, “I will lose my job”.

There was “no attempt to censor comments made by Bob Weis”, says local ABC Victoria radio manager Steve Kyte. “The program team felt the guest had said something potentially defamatory and used the dump button. This is a device that we use to stop anything that could be legally problematic going to air. It’s also used on other occasions for example when a caller or a guest uses bad language. It’s a ridiculous suggestion to say that the program team dumped the comments because they were afraid of losing their jobs. This is just not true.”

Bob Weis responds:

While there has been some heat around the appearance on ABC radio of Justine Saunders and myself there has not been a great deal of light. Let me set the record straight.

In answer to a question about why Justine had given back her Order of Australia and a further question to the parallels I draw in the film Women of the Sun – 25 Years Later between the Holocaust and events here, I offered to contextualise this by comparing the British response to Holocaust denial in the case of David Irving and the treatment of our own Holocaust denier in Australia. This is as far as I got either on air or before I was “dumped”. I had no intention to mention names. That the program makers assumed they knew what I was going to say goes to the heart of some important issues of our stolen democracy.

Firstly, they are not responsible for what I say or, more fantastically, for what they think I might say. Secondly, it is a sad refection of their working situation that they assumed that I might say something which would endanger their jobs. Thirdly, by silencing a dissenting voice and finishing an interview that had somewhere to go, the program makers showed a profound lack of respect for the Indigenous people of this land and their sad and true stories. It was a direct slap in the face to a celebrated figure in Justine who was angry and upset at the insult to me.

Perhaps most importantly, the ABC is NOT an arm of government nor the mouthpiece of any particular view of the world. We have enough of that in the commercial sector. The independence of the ABC is written into its charter. What we experienced was the insidious way that independence can be undermined by a government determined to be the authors of the TRUTH. More than ever, we need a bill of rights that guarantees freedom of speech and equality of all humans in this land WE call Australia.

Windschuttle responds in the 9 August 2006 Crikey:

Keith Windschuttle on how he should be covered by the ABC

Jane Nethercote writes: How should the ABC cover its most controversial board member and his contentious ideas? we asked recently-appointed ABC Board director Keith Windschuttle this morning.

Is it possible that ABC journalists might feel constrained about how to present arguments about yourself and your works? Are there guidelines in place as to how to deal with this situation? Could you imagine a situation where you would sue the ABC?

Our questions follow an incident on Sunday when Film director Bob Weis says he was cut off by Melbourne radio station ABC 774 before he could criticise Mr Windschuttle because, Weis claims, ABC staff were worried about protecting their jobs (yesterday, item 3).

In response to Crikey’s questions today, Windschuttle said that “Bob Weis is performing a cheap publicity stunt” to promote his film, adding that he is “not going to help him by answering questions on the matter”.

We prodded further. Putting aside how you feel about this particular incident, doesn’t this issue have wider ramifications at the ABC? Windschuttle wouldn’t elaborate, reiterating that he knows a publicity stunt when he sees one.

But he did have one question of his own: “How long have you been in journalism?”

When the ABC can’t report on its own board members without fear of retribution, the independence of their news reportage is rightfully suspect.

From ABC Editorial Policies:

Independence demands that program makers not allow their judgement to be influenced by pressures from political, commercial or other sectional interests, or by their own personal views or activities. There must be no external interference in the presentation or content of programs.

The choice of Windschuttle for the ABC Board wasn’t just controversial- it was utterly inappropriate and fundamentally incompatible with the constructs of the independent national broadcaster which is obligated to serve all Australians. Windschuttle questions the existence of the massacre of Tasmanian Aboriginals; indeed, a denial of Australia’s own ethnic cleansing, which does an immense disservice to all Aborigines. It’s Faith Bandler and Mandawuy Yunupingu‘s ABC, too.

Windschuttle’s continued presence on the board compromises the editorial independence of the ABC News division and inhibits their ability to report without fear or favour.

Appointments like this must become a political liability for the Liberal Party. The only way to remove the Howard stacked ultra-right wing from your ABC is at the ballot box in 2007.


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

That is scary shit Weezel, that post is incitement to commit terrorism.

Comment by Benno 08.14.06 @ 10:26 pm

Nah, I haven’t been seditious in at least a week or so. 😉

Comment by weez 08.14.06 @ 10:37 pm

Sure, but I am guessing that if it made other people as angry as it made me then… EMPTY THREAT.

Comment by Benno 08.15.06 @ 7:01 pm

Benno, I’m heatened by the fact that numerous Australian governments have tried to bend the ABC to their political advantage, but none so far have succeeded.

Comment by weez 08.16.06 @ 8:17 am

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