Australian broadcasters reminded to be impartial in same-sex marriage debate

A senior manager at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) had to remind staff to remain impartial, following accusations of bias in its coverage of the same-sex marriage debate.

The email, sent to staff in ABC’s news division by the corporation’s editorial policy manager Mark Maley, included a reminder that the preferred terminology of ABC is ‘same-sex marriage’, rather than ‘marriage equality’, or ‘gay marriage’.

Politicians have agreed to hold a postal vote on the redefinition of marriage.

Partiality

ABC is a publicly funded organisation, and is required by law to be impartial in its programming.

Last week, Australian Senator Zed Seselja spoke out against media bias in favour of same-sex marriage, and highlighted ABC’s partiality.

“Even the ABC, who are tasked with being fair in their charter, haven’t actually been fair on this issue, and haven’t equally given both sides an airing”, he said.

Attacks

“Those arguing against change have a lot of things stacked against them. Virtually every media outlet is campaigning for change”, he added.

In a report for Sky News, political commentator Andrew Bolt claimed that ABC staff are now “fiercely crusading for same-sex marriage”.

He highlighted comments made by ABC presenters both in their coverage of the same-sex marriage debate and on social media, attacking supporters of traditional marriage.

‘Discretion’

Maley’s email, which ABC claim was unprompted by any incident or complaint, said it was “very important” that staff in the news division remain impartial.

He wrote: “Please remember that approximately 40% of the population opposes the change and more importantly that the ABC does not have a position on the issue”.

ABC staff were also reminded of the network’s expectations in regards to social media, saying “advocating for one side or the other will make it more difficult for the ABC to be seen as impartial.

“The more high profile you are the more important discretion is”, said Maley.

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