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ZFA statement on publication of ABC complaints inquiry report

The Zionist Federation of Australia is disappointed by the recommendations of the ABC inquiry into its complaints handling system.

ZFA President Jeremy Leibler said, “The ABC inquiry’s recommendations are largely cosmetic. The complaints unit will now have a name change, but the way complaints are considered remains the same. It still won’t be independent; ABC staff are still being asked to pass judgement on their colleagues. The ABC complaints handling system wasn’t fit for purpose before this inquiry, and likely won’t be after these recommendations are implemented.”

The ZFA’s submission highlighted the key themes of transparency, independence and format. On transparency, the ZFA recommended that all complaints to the ABC, and all ABC responses, be published – this being the only way for third parties to verify whether the complaints mechanism is fair. Although the ABC inquiry report speaks of transparency, its action on this front will be to consolidate ‘complaints data’ into one ABC webpage.

The ZFA also called for independence between the complaints unit and the relevant content division. Currently, after a complaint is received, it is sent to the relevant content division for their input, which informs the response to the complaint. The ZFA suggested that the complaints unit should form a preliminary decision, based on the published material, before being sending it to the relevant content division for their response. However, the ABC inquiry report indicates no change in this method.

More importantly, on format, the ZFA submission noted that the ABC complaints unit currently only determines whether the main perspectives of an issue is covered, but doesn’t examine how each perspective is portrayed. The ZFA submission pointed to numerous examples where viewers were likely led to positions critical of Israel because of significant differences in background footage, background music, narration, commentators chosen, and time spent on each perspective. The ABC inquiry report does not address this at all.

The ZFA is also concerned that the ABC took so long to release the report; it was presented to the ABC Board in April.