Statement in ABC News breaches impartiality rules | ACMA

Statement in ABC News breaches impartiality rules

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A statement contained in an ABC News report breached the impartiality provisions of the ABC Code of Practice (the code), the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found.

The ACMA investigated a complaint about an ABC News report, broadcast nationally on 10 October 2017, covering a climate change speech by former prime minister the Hon. Tony Abbott, MP to the Global Warming Policy Foundation think tank.

The investigation found the report generally demonstrated fair treatment and open-mindedness in the way it presented Mr Abbott’s views on climate change over time.

However, a statement made to camera by the ABC’s political editor that Mr Abbott was ‘the most destructive politician of his generation’ was declarative and not in keeping with the scope of the factual matters presented earlier in the report.

The ACMA considered the statement judgemental, not in language considered as analysis and one that the ordinary reasonable viewer would have understood as a pejorative descriptor. As a result, the ACMA found a breach of Standard 4.1 of the code, in that the report was not presented with due impartiality.

‘The impartiality provisions in the ABC’s own code require it to demonstrate balance and fair treatment when presenting news, and avoid conveying a prejudgement’ said ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin.

‘This is only the second breach by the ABC of its impartiality rules since 2011. While this demonstrates strong compliance with these important provisions of the code, the ABC did not get it right on this occasion,’ Ms O’Loughlin said.

The ABC has advised the ACMA that ABC News will incorporate the ACMA finding into its editorial compliance training programs. The ACMA accepts this as an appropriate action by the ABC in the circumstances.

For more information, please contact: Emma Rossi, Media and Communications Manager (02) 9334 7719, 0434 652 063 or

Media release 11/2018 - 1 May

Last updated: 01 May 2018