Media heavyweights question sacking of SBS journalist Scott McIntyre

Mumbrella360 free speech panel

L:R Belshem, Morrison, Goodsir, Weisbrot

Media heavyweights have questioned the sacking of former SBS sports journalist Scott McIntyre following his Anzac Day tweets, with ABC head of current affairs Bruce Belsham noting McIntyre did not suggest his views were those of SBS.

Speaking at last week’s Mumbrella360 conference session on free speech and free press, Belsham said he would have “had a conversation” with McIntye around the tweets which included describing the dropping of nuclear bombs on Japanese cities Nagasaki and Hiroshima in the Second World War as the “largest single-day terrorist attacks in history”.

Belsham said: “I would have certainly had a conversation with him, it was a pretty silly thing to do.

“We’ve had examples where reporters or members of staff have made comments on social media that have made us uncomfortable. We’ve had conversations with those people. We have a pretty clear, simple social media policy.”

Belsham, noted that it was not his place to lecture his sister public broadcaster, but outlined the ABC’s social media policy as being based on four basic principles: “don’t suggest what you’re saying is the view of the agency, don’t jeopardise the effectiveness of your work and don’t bring discredit to the agency.

“SBS’s policies are a little bit different to that but around the same territory,” he said.

“I wouldn’t have thought Scott being a sport journalist was undermining the effectiveness of his work because he wasn’t talking in an area where he was broadcasting, he wasn’t suggesting those were views held by SBS. It’s around a judgement on whether he was bringing SBS into disrepute.”

While Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun-Herald editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir would not be drawn on if McIntyre should have been sacked, he did say a Fairfax Media employee was spoken to for joining in on the online conversation in support of McIntyre’s views.

“We had an employee, not my employee but a Fairfax Media employee, who joined in the social media support of Scott’s views in a way that contravened our social media policy, which are akin to the ABC’s policy.

“It wasn’t a sackable offence, no doubt at all,” he added in reference to the Fairfax employee.

Goodsir has sacked contributors and journalists for bad behaviour online, including Melbourne contributor Catherine Deveny for an inappropriate tweet about Bindi Irwin during the 2010 Logie Awards, and just last year asked Mike Carlton to apologise for being rude to readers via Twitter.

“Our contributor in Melbourne who was completely outrageous to Bindi Irwin during a Logies performance, she fell foul but it wasn’t her first transgression our of policy.

“I see these as HR policies in the main,” he added.

Media commentator and former Radio 2GB and 2UE host Jason Morrison said McIntyre should have been given the opportunity to defend his comments to the “greatest judge of all” the public.

“I don’t think they should have sacked the bloke for what he said,” Morrison said.

“I just look at the taste of it – do you want your publication associated with someone that says that. I don’t think because you’ve said an offensive thing it should be off you go mate. You make a judgement based on the impact it will have.

“What I would have done frankly given that they own radio, online and television outlets and called him before the greatest judge of all, the public, and have him defend and debate his point of view.”

Morrison said he believed McIntyre’s arguments would have broken down if he had been forced to debate them in a public forum, describing them as “bumper sticker style views”.

McIntyre launched a discrimination case against SBS at the end of May, claiming it did “not follow due process” when it fired him.

Miranda Ward


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