ABC launches investigation into Q&A after ‘openly feminist’ Broadside episode

A special episode of Q&A which featured speakers from ‘unapologetically feminist’ ideas event Broadside has sparked an investigation into whether ABC’s editorial standards were breached.

The episode featured discussions of rebellion and protest, which turned into a debate about whether violence is ever the answer in a civil rights situation. It also included swearing from some of the panelists.

The episode, titled Ageism, Violence against women and Post #MeToo, was led by Fran Kelly and featured an all-women panel with journalist Mona Eltahawy, author Jess Hill, writer/Indigenous rights activist Nayuka Gorrie, businesswoman Hana Assafiri and anti-ageism campaigner/author Ashton Applewhite.

Early on in the episode, Kelly said the panel were ‘trying to keep the language under control’, but joked that viewers who were offended should ‘probably turn off now’.

The controversy was sparked primarily by a question from the audience about whether violence is ever the answer in a protest or rebellion situation, which sparked Eltahawy, who had already drawn criticism from far-right spokespeople ahead of her appearance, to ask how many rapists women must kill before violence against women comes to an end.

Screenwriter Gorrie joined the conversation, saying Indigenous people are not offered the same options as privileged people, and that she wondered how long it would be before people resort to ‘burning stuff’. She added that she looked forward to that time.

The controversial comments came over 40 minutes into the episode, which also discussed ageism, domestic violence and whether freedom of speech online was a good thing.

ABC managing director David Anderson released a statement in the days after the Monday night episode, acknowledging the ‘provocative’ nature of the program and promising a review.

“Monday night’s episode of Q&A was presented in conjunction with The Wheeler Centre’s feminist ideas festival, ‘Broadside’. The intention of the program was to present challenging ideas from high-profile feminists whose expertise ranges across ageism, disability, Indigenous and domestic violence issues,” read the statement.

“The ABC acknowledges that the program was provocative in regard to the language used and some of the views presented.

“Q&A has always sought to tackle difficult issues and present challenging and thought-provoking content. However, I can understand why some viewers found elements of this episode confronting or offensive.

“We have received audience complaints about the program, are assessing the concerns raised and will investigate whether the program met the ABC’s editorial standards.”

Anderson’s comments were matched by those of Communications Minister Paul Fletcher.

“The ABC has this afternoon announced that it will investigate whether the program met the ABC’s editorial standards. This is appropriate,” said Fletcher.

In a statement which said the ‘offensive language’ and ‘endorsement of violence’ had generated ‘significant community concern’, Fletcher also made it clear the editorial judgement falls ultimately to the ABC.

A video posted after the episode to the Q&A Twitter page included follow up comments from Assafiri, who clarified that she had not agreed with the panel regarding their comments on violence, and Eltahawy’s comments that men should ‘fear’ feminists.

The episode is still available on ABC Iview.

Speaking to SBS in the days after the episode aired, Eltahawy said she always received vitriol after her appearances on Q&A, calling the response ‘uniquely Australian’ and saying that she’d become ‘accustomed to the hysteria of misogynists in Australia’.

Update – November 8, 12.12pm: Mumbrella notes ABC Iview has now removed the episode from its platform. 


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