FALSE BALANCE: ABC Media Watch Ignores The Big ABC Elephant In The Room


OPINION: ABC Television’s Media Watch program – renowned for its hard-hitting format and fearless rebuking of journalists from all organisations, the ABC included – has returned to the airwaves for 2016… and pointedly stared down a great big elephant in the room.

Overnight, Media Watch opened the year with three topics – a beat-up by the Gold Coast Bulletin over bikies in Queensland; media reform and cross-media ownership laws; and a piece about ‘food Queen’ Nigella Lawson’s recent visit to Australia, where no journalist asked her about her reported drug problem.

But the nation’s highest profile media program didn’t find any space for a story reverberating around independent media at the moment – the secretly tape-recorded meetings between Head of Current Affairs, Bruce Belsham and Tech editor Nick Ross in 2013 in which Ross was ordered to find any story he could critical of Labor’s NBN plan in order to provide “insurance” against attacks from the Coalition.

You can read that story here, and the full transcript of meeting here.

In a written statement, Executive Producer of Media Watch, Tim Latham told New Matilda that the program would weigh in if Nick Ross proved he was “gagged”.

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“Last night MW looked at media reform and regional news, this made up the bulk of our first show. This is a key issue for people outside capital cities who have seen a slow erosion of local TV news,” Mr Latham said.

“All the signs are the government will have legislation before parliament shortly. Media reform will be one of the media stories of 2016.

“Regarding Nick Ross. This story continues to develop and Media Watch continues to follow it. On the evidence so far we don’t believe he was gagged.

“As you know Nick suggests he has more information and or documents about his time at the ABC. If the evidence shows he was gagged, then we will certainly be covering it.”

So the evidence about ‘false balance’ being provided by the ABC is apparently not worthy of discussion.

New Matilda’s investigation into the matter – in particular the allegation he was gagged – is ongoing.


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. In more than three decades of journalism he's had his home and office raided by the Australian Federal Police; he's been arrested and briefly jailed in Israel; he's reported from a swag in Outback Australia on and off for years. Chris has worked across multiple mediums including print, radio and film. His proudest achievement is serving as an Associate producer on John Pilger's 2013 film Utopia. He's also won a few journalism awards along the way in both the US and Australia, including a Walkley Award, a Walkley High Commendation and two Human Rights Awards. Since late 2021, Chris has been battling various serious heart and lung conditions. He's begun the process of quietly planning a "gentle exit" after "tying up a few loose ends" in 2024 and 2025. So watch this space.