ABC CEO Mark Scott says the public broadcaster has come under concentrated attack from News Corp in his first interview following a string of stories in the Rupert Murdoch controlled newspapers.
Scott told ABC News 24 the broadcaster had acted in the public interest by reporting the Indonesian spying story based on information from Australia’s Electronic Intelligence Agency leaked by US whistleblower Edward Snowden and shared with the ABC by The Guardian Australia.
In two separate articles The Australian reported Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s disappointment at the ABC’s decision to publish the spying scandal story, as well as a separate article citing the Attorney General’s concerns leaked information could jeopardise counter-terrorism operations.
And the front page of The Australian today is dominated by pictures of Scott and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, heading a story that suggests a “bromance” between the two. Scott and Rusbridger were seen having a breakfast meeting before the publication of the spy story, the Australian reports.
This follows extensive coverage of confidential salary information leaked by the ABC after The Australian failed to obtain it through a Freedom of Information request.
Scott said: “We have come under concentrated attack from News Corp. Some aspects seem quite obsessed by us and I think there are some who have an ideological opposition to public broadcasting. I think there are some who think they would make more money if the ABC wasn’t what it is today.”
However Newspoll results showing 85 per cent of Australian people think the ABC provide a valuable service is “a comfort”, Scott said.
“We have some loud and noisy critics, but overwhelmingly we operate with large public support,” he added.
And when the broadcaster chose to go ahead with the spy story presented by The Guardian, Scott said, the ABC acted in the public interest as it was a significant news story also covered by 20 media organisations around the world including The New York Times.
“Yes it has caused short-term difficulty but we feel it was in the public interest,” he said.
“The question really is when an important story was presented to us, were we really going to walk away from that because it was controversial, because it might generate a bit of political heat? That’s a very difficult thing for an independent public broadcaster to do.”