E&OE…

Ben Fordham

The ABC has told its staff to be more balanced in their coverage of same sex marriage.  The Liberal Senator Zed Seselja has accused the National Broadcaster of campaigning for the yes vote ahead of the postal plebiscite.  Just hours after that accusation was made, an email was sent around to ABC staff telling them to be more impartial when talking about same sex marriage.  Senator Zed Seselja the man who got all this started joins us on the line from Canberra.  Good afternoon to you Senator.

Senator Seselja

Gday Ben, how are you?

Ben Fordham

I’m alright.  You must have been on the money because they’ve already acknowledged it.

Senator Seselja

Well look, I guess it’s a good start.  There’s no doubt that it’s not just me saying it.  I pointed to Media Watch, ABC’s own Media Watch which concluded that, to be fair, the ABC and other media outlets haven’t been fair in their coverage of this issue.

Now the difference between the ABC and commercial media outlets, who I still think have a responsibility to be fair and balanced, but of course the big difference is the ABC is our national broadcaster.  It’s funded by taxpayers so it has a particular responsibility to be fair in all its coverage of contentious issues.  Obviously same sex marriage is one of those.

The people will have their say, which is a really good thing.  For this to be a fair debate I think it’s important that the ABC and other broadcasters cover it in a fair way.

Ben Fordham

Yeah, the email went around saying, “Please remember that approx. 40% of the population opposes same sex marriage and more importantly the ABC does not have a position on the issue.”

It’s interesting as well because in this day and age Senator, you’ve got social media sites as well and a lot of ABC employees who might be expressing their opinion online.  Does that still count? Are they still representing the ABC when they’re sharing an opinion on their Twitter page, for example?

Senator Seselja

Well, I think many of them of course have built up their profile because they’re on the ABC.  So the very large Twitter following, I’m sure, for a lot of their large personalities is in large part a result, of course, the fact that they’re on the ABC and they get a large audience on the ABC.  So of course there’s a responsibility there as well.  In the end the ABC should be doing the right thing.

I found that part that you referred to a little a bit odd, referring to the 40%.  I’m not sure why that’s of particular relevance.  If we look at how the ABC covers things like issues around asylum seekers I would argue that an overwhelming majority of Australians support our policies on tough borders but you would never get that idea if you watch the ABC.

So I haven’t seen them really reflecting community views on a lot of issues.  I think what they have is a responsibility to be fair and balanced and I’d hope they’d do that in future given that their own Media Watch has said that in the past that they haven’t don’t that.

Ben Fordham

Well said, thank you for coming on.

Senator Seselja

My pleasure. Thanks very much

Ben Fordham

Liberal Senator Zed Seselja joining us on the line.

So that email, that internal memo, “Please remember that approx. 40% of the population opposes same sex marriage and more importantly the ABC does not have a position on the issue.”

I wouldn’t trust the 40% figure because I don’t trust any figure from any poll.  Haven’t we already worked that out?

[ENDS]