The federal government has taken note of the criticism surrounding the ABC’s recent Australian Story episode featuring Labor MP Sam Dastyari, ordering the broadcaster to explain why it decided to run it.
Australian Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi, Labor MP Michael Danby, Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson, government minister Zed Seselja, and Liberal backbencher James Paterson all accused the ABC of using Australian Story to plug Dastyari’s new book about his Iranian heritage, titled One Halal of a Story.
The politicians described it as a “puff piece”, “propaganda”, and an “infomercial”, and called on the ABC to – as Pauline Hanson would say – “please explain”.
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has since acted on the wishes of the politicians, writing to ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie demanding an explanation, according to The Australian.
“With respect to Australian Story, questions have been raised about the timing of the episode given the recent release of Senator Dastyari’s book. I ask that you provide an explanation of the editorial decisions associated with the airing of the episode and whether, and how, the ABC factored in the recent release of a book by Senator Dastyari,” Senator Fifield wrote in the letter.
Fifield has also issued a ‘please explain’ to Guthrie for a Media Watch episode from three weeks prior, which also featured Dastyari’s views on the senate inquiry into the Future of Public Interest Journalism, The Australian reported.
“The combination of these two programs within weeks of each other prompts me to seek further details about the background to them,” Fifield wrote.
“It is important for the ABC not to be seen to be favouring any individual in terms of its programming.”