After a turbulent few weeks for the relationship between the ABC and the government, the public broadcaster has claimed it did not ‘pull’ an upcoming Four Corners episode from air.
The episode was reportedly focused on the relationship between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the conspiracy group QAnon.
QAnon is a far-right conspiracy group that erupted initially in the US. At the crux of the conspiracy – which has been resoundingly discredited – is a belief that the world is controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshippers who run a pedophile ring.
Many QAnon believers link the supposed cabal explicitly to the Democratic party, and QAnon supporters were seen at the far-right US Capitol riot in January.
The conspiracy gained particular traction last year as QAnon supporters posted COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter disinformation online.
A recent study by the Public Religion Research Insitute has found that 15 per cent of all Americans believed the allegation by QAnon that “the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.”
The Four Corners episode, which was originally scheduled to broadcast this coming Monday, was set to explore the relationship between Scott Morrison and a supporter of QAnon.
It was fronted by Louise Milligan, an ABC journalist at the centre of the furor between the broadcaster and former Attorney General Christian Porter, after Porter dropped his defamation case.
According to The Sydney Herald, sources from the ABC told it (and sister publication The Age) that the episode had been blocked after Gaven Morris, the news director, “upwardly referred” it to managing director David Anderson. The Guardian similarly reported that a senior source told them that the episode had been “upwardly referred”.
According to the ABC’s editorial policies, “those who create, acquire, commission or oversee ABC content are responsible for ensuring that it complies with the Editorial Policies, but they are also required to upwardly refer any editorial matter where they are in doubt.”
“Editorial content that is controversial or likely to have an extraordinary impact should also be upwardly referred, even if there is no doubt, to allow closer consideration of any editorial policy issues.”
The policies also say that if an editorial issue is upwardly referred to the managing director, it must also first be referred to the editorial director for input and advice.
The Herald also reported that their sources claimed the decision not to air the episode came days after Gaven Morris received a call from the PM’s office, which referred to a range of matters including the upcoming episode.
On Thursday, as reported in both the Herald and Guardian, a spokesperson said that “the ABC did not ‘pull’ a story from broadcast.”
“Any suggestion to the contrary is misleading and mischievous. All ABC content is subject to the same rigorous editorial decision-making processes before being published.”
“The decision to publish is only made once all requirements, including editorial and legal requirements, have been met and it is appropriate to do so.”
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