ABC staff urged to stay out of politics as fight over broadcaster’s future ramps up

ABC’s management has asked staff not to publicly comment on the broadcaster’s future as the debate over the organisation’s role steps up.

In a staff note, ABC head of news Gaven Morris and editorial director Alan Sunderland told staff they are free to attend the public rallies being held by Friends of the ABC and publicly say “how great the ABC is”, but that they should not get involved in the political debate.

ABC head of news Gaven Morris: “Ultimately, we’re journalists and production professionals”

“It is perfectly understandable that ABC staff are proud of the ABC and keen to defend the organisation and what we stand for. Generally speaking, anyone who uses their social media to reinforce how great they think the ABC is on pretty safe ground,” wrote Morris.

“However, whether we like it or not, the ABC has recently become a political football in a highly contested and politically charged public debate. That means we need to take great care to ensure we don’t get sucked into that debate in ways that undermine our reputation.”

The rallies and staff note come as the national broadcaster finds itself under sustained attack from the Federal government, with communications minister Mitch Fifield blasting the broadcaster for ‘repeating Labor Lies’ and defending the government’s decision to freeze the national broadcaster’s funding.

In his memo, Morris told staff that it is management’s role to defend the broadcaster’s corporate position: “It’s fine for those with the responsibility of officially representing the ABC to put forward the ABC’s official corporate position. That’s what the MD did at the press club the other day.”

At a recent Melbourne Press Club lunch, ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie defended the broadcaster and warned the Australian electorate would not tolerate the ABC becoming a political punching bag.

While some prominent ABC broadcasters including John Faine and Phillip Adams have been given permission to speak at the Sydney and Melbourne rallies, Morris said this was on the proviso they do not engage in campaigning or make any political statements.

Morris told staff there were two key things to keep in mind:

    1. Don’t use the ABC airwaves or ABC platforms to engage in any campaigning or partisan commentary about the current ABC debate
    2. Don’t use personal social media to campaign on the issue either.

“Ultimately, we’re journalists and production professionals,” Morris concluded. “Our personal views should always be very separate to the work we do on behalf of all Australians.”


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