ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie has “unreservedly apologised” to former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd over a story coming from the Cabinet Files revelations which stated that Rudd was warned about “critical risks” relating to the home insulation program which caused over 200 house fires and the deaths of four home insulation workers.
The story implied that Rudd had ignored safety concerns about the program when the files actually referred to financial risks. Kevin Rudd who had been cleared of ignoring safety concerns by the Royal Commission into the program launched legal action against the ABC. The ABC quickly rewrote the story with an accompanying note that they never intended to “suggest that Mr Rudd recklessly ignored critical risks before the deaths of four young installers” or “that he lied to the royal commission that examined those deaths”.
The formal letter of apology has had the desired effect of having Kevin Rudd drop his legal action against the ABC. In the letter, Guthrie concedes that “clearly we have also made a number of mistakes concerning our content during that period”.
She also admitted that the ABC’s editorial guidelines needed amending “Stories were published which hadn’t received the editorial scrutiny they needed, and weren’t up to our standards. It is important those mistakes are acknowledged and that we continue to drive change to strengthen processes, improve accountability and boost the quality of our coverage.”
It is not the first time in recent months the ABC has attracted criticism for editorial oversights. An analysis piece about company tax cuts by new Economics Editor and former Lateline host Emma Alberici was pulled from the ABC website for getting basic information on companies’ income and profits wrong after it was attacked by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and Business Council of Australia CEO Jennifer Westacott.
However, there is one other politician who still waiting for an apology from the ABC and that is Tony Abbott. The Australian Communications and Media Authority this week made an adverse finding against the ABC based on a report by Political Editor Andrew Probyn which described Tony Abbott as “the most destructive politician of his generation” in relation to Abbott’s speech on climate change in the UK. ACMA found the report breached the ABC’s code and was “not in keeping with the ABC’s requirement to present news with due impartiality”.
Tony Abbott is his weekly appearance on Radio 2GB’s Sydney Live with Ben Fordham said he was not demanding an apology because he’s “not that kind of person” but still believed that “ordinary decency” should call on the national broadcaster to make some form of apology.
Given that an independent broadcasting authority judged the ABC to slur Abbott during a news report one would expect if the ABC was serious about preventing these types of editorial violations as Guthrie has stated is her intention then an apology to Abbott would be the appropriate recourse. The fact they apologised to a progressive like Rudd and not to a conservative in Abbott does nothing to rectify the perception the ABC has a left-wing bias.