FALSE BALANCE: Labor Demands Answers From ABC’s Mark Scott Over Nick Ross Secret Tape Revelations

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The Labor Party has finally weighed in on revelations that in the lead-up to the 2013 federal election, the ABC directed a senior technology editor to find any story he could critical of Labor’s NBN policy, in order to provide “insurance” against attacks from the Coalition.

Last week, New Matilda revealed that former ABC Games and Technology editor, Nick Ross secretly taped a meeting in May 2013 between himself and the Head of ABC’s Current Affairs Division, Bruce Belsham. The meeting was one of several taped by Ross, in which he was told Labor’s NBN Plan was dead because the Coalition would win the upcoming election.

On the third meeting between the men, held on May 28, Belsham told Ross he couldn’t publish anymore articles critical of the Coalition’s NBN policy, until Ross attacked Labor’s NBN Plan.

Belsham is caught on tape saying: “I like the [latest]piece, and I would like to publish it. But I’m just saying, before I can let you do that, so I don’t have screams from the 14th floor… we need to give ourselves [some insurance]and say ‘Look, this guy is prepared to be critical of some aspects of [Labor’s Plan], he’s written this tough article about X.

“[It could be] about [Labor’s] marketing [of it’s NBN Plan]… I’ll just leave that ball in your court. That doesn’t have to be the angle.”

Head of the ABC's Current Affairs division, Bruce Belsham. (IMAGE: Courtesy of Mumbrella).
Head of the ABC’s Current Affairs division, Bruce Belsham. (IMAGE: Courtesy of Mumbrella).

Belsham also tells Ross that the Turnbull camp and his superiors will ‘come down on him like a tonne of bricks’ if he publishes a story Ross has put up questioning whether or not Australia’s copper telecommunications network is up to the job of handling a National Broadband Network.

You can read a brief precise of the story here, and follow the six stories published by NM here.

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Since the story broke, mainstream media outlets, including the ABC, have refused to report any of the revelations. The Labor Party had also maintained a stony silence, but that was finally broken this week, after Opposition spokesman on Communications, Jason Clare appeared on IPTv Bendigo, an online community channel.

Clare was asked by host Keith Sutherland to comment on allegations that former ABC Tech editor Nick Ross, and Lateline host Emma Alberici were prevented from publishing articles on the NBN (Alberici has strongly denied she was gagged in any way).

“I’ve [read]the transcript of the taped conversation that allegedly took place in the ABC,” Clare responded.

“I’m concerned about references to not publishing articles because of the response the ABC would get from quote unquote the Turnbull camp.

“I’m very concerned that editorial decisions inside the ABC might be affected by the views of one political party, or a shadow minister in that case for communications. It’s important that those decisions are made independently by the ABC and are not affected by the views of politicians.

“I’ve written to the head of the ABC, Mark Scott, asking for answers to those questions, because it’s very, very important that people have trust in the ABC and know that the decisions about what they publish and what they broadcast are not affected by the views of one politician or one political party.”

New Matilda is the final stages of preparing part 2 of the feature, which focuses on the gagging of Ross by ABC senior management over a story which revealed then Opposition spokesman for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull lied to the public about the price they would pay to access the NBN under Labor and the Coalition.

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Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the publisher and editor of New Matilda. He is the former founding managing editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine. Chris has won a Walkley Award, a Walkley High Commendation and two Human Rights Awards for his reporting. He lives in Brisbane and splits his time between Stradbroke Island, where New Matilda is based, and the mainland.

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