Watchdog clears ABC for Q&A Broadside episode after over 200 complaints

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has cleared the ABC over a controversial episode of Q&A which aired last year and featured speakers from Broadside, a feminist ideas festival.

The watchdog received over 200 complaints after the episode aired following one panellist calling for violence against rapists.

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.

It was a question posed to Elthawy which drew a negative response as she questioned how many rapists women must kill to end rape.

The complaints to ACMA ranged from views that the panel did not present diversity of perspectives, contained coarse language and promoted offensive male stereotypes, as well as a view that the program incited violence.

“Every panel member was 100% an activist advocate of post third-wave feminism. There was no diversity of opinion,” read one complaint.

In response to the lack of diversity, the ABC said that while the ideology of the women on the panel was similar, they all came from different backgrounds.

“The Broadside edition of Q&A provided a platform to contemporary feminist academics, commentators and activists. It is important to note that ‘feminism’ is simply the principle of achieving equal rights and opportunities for women,” read the ABC response.

“While each panellist can be broadly described as providing a ‘feminist’ perspective, they have very different backgrounds and specialities. Importantly, and as their varied lived experience and areas of expertise suggest, this panel considered how issues of discrimination and social disadvantage can overlap and be compounded for people in minority groups, such as the elderly; women who live with disability; Indigenous women and the LGBTQI community.”

The ACMA accepted that it was a ‘valid editorial approach’ to tailor the episode to celebrate one event, in this case the Broadside festival. Given the focus of the conversation, which was feminism and issues relating to it, the ACMA found that there were no issues with the diversity of the panel.

While both Gorrie and Eltahawy made comments which ACMA ruled to be ‘provocative’, it ruled that the context of the broadcast was important and that neither person was proposing a course of action, but were rather taking part in a hypothetical discussion about the future of women’s rights, with the context of past events.

“Within an editorial context where the panellists intellectualised approaches to achieving change, these comments, although offensive to some viewers, were justified,” said ACMA.

“To the extent that the views put by the panellists referred to violence as a response to violence or as a means to effect change, those views were expressed as part of an intellectual exercise. While they may be seen by many as marginal, radical, and possibly even offensive when considered in isolation, as part of an intellectual discussion, the ACMA does not consider that those views required advisories or warnings.”

Given the time of the broadcast and the multiple attempts by host Kelly to moderate the language used, the ACMA did not consider that the inappropriate language and cursing in the episode breached the Code.

An internal review of the episode last year led to it being removed from ABC Iview.


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