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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 3018

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

(Question No. 581)

Senator Abetz asked the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, upon notice, on 8 April 2011:

Given that:

(a) the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has previously advised that '[a]cross all news and current affairs coverage, its decisions about reportage are guided by judgements of news value and public interest';

(b) the Israeli Knesset has recently enacted two highly controversial and widely reported bills: (i) the Loyalty Oath Bill, which stipulated that all future non-Jews applying for Israeli citizenship would be required to swear loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and (ii) the NGO Funding Transparency Bill, which requires non government organisations (NGOs) funded by foreign governments to disclose and publicise their sources of funding;

(c) the ABC has, on multiple occasions, sought out and reported the views of several of the NGOs affected by the transparency legislation, and that these ABC reports have not disclosed or commented on the NGOs' sources of funding; and

(d) the ABC reported on the Loyalty Oath Bill but it did not report on the NGO Funding Transparency Bill:

(1) Can an explanation be provided by the ABC as to why the exercise of its judgements of news value and public interest resulted in different decisions in these two cases.

(2) Does the ABC consider that information on funding sources can be highly relevant in assessing the objectivity and impartiality of commentators.

Senator Conroy: The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

The ABC believes that the Loyalty Oath was a significant issue which warranted an d received coverage on the ABC.

The ABC also considers that the investigation of the funding of human rights groups in Israel was an issue that warranted and received coverage. The ABC acknowledges that information on funding sources can be relevant in relation to a range of organisations.

The level of coverage received by a particular issue is based on editorial significance and news value, and is often influenced by the level of response and debate. There is no doubt that the loyalty oath issue attracted significant attention as it represented a change to existing practice, while some commentators observed that monitoring and public declaration of the sources of funding of human rights groups and other NGOs had already been in place for some time.