ABC Boss Mark Scott Takes Aim At Abbott’s Criticism, Staunchly Defends Broadcaster Role

Relations between the Abbott Government and public broadcaster ABC have strained to a point that is mere seconds away from spectacularly snapping, as ABC Managing Director Mark Scott delivered an impassioned speech last night, addressing the controversy following Monday night’s Q&A episode, and following backlash—where the words “ABC” and “lefty lynch mob” were genuinely used in the same sentence.

Mark Scott leaped to the ABC’s defence yesterday evening, following yesterday’s comments by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who claimed “heads will roll” at the ABC over the decision to give Zaky Mallah a soapbox to express his own views on Q&A, and the later decision to rebroadcast the episode on Wednesday morning at 10 AM (something the ABC does every week, for every Q&A episode, to be clear). The Abbott Government called for an “urgent” Government inquiry into the ABC, and Q&A, following the controversy.

Scott claimed that some staff at the ABC thought, in the face of controversy, “To make any concession in the face of criticism is to buckle – they say it’s a sign of weakness. Respectfully, I disagree. It is not weakness to say you made a wrong call,” admitting for the now-countless time this week that the ABC had gone and done no good – in giving Zaky Mallah air time. 

Scott reminded the audience at the Corporate Public Affairs event that Q&A came with its inherent dangers, as live TV always does, but claimed that it was precisely that quality of unpredictability which made the show consistently “compelling.

Mark Scott directly addressed Tony Abbott’s comments from earlier this week, where the PM asked what “side” the ABC was “on”. “The A in ABC is for Australian,” Scott said. “And the part we play, what we do for the side, is a vital one, central to our culture and our democracy – that of being an independent public broadcaster.”

But beyond that, Scott legitimately had to reiterate that the independent and public ABC should not become a State broadcaster, and had to go further – implying that any further control imposed by the government could land us in North Korea territory. “I hope no one seriously wants the ABC to be a state broadcaster,” he said. “We know the examples. North Korea and Russia. China and Vietnam. There are many others.”

He actually had to go there. 

Mark Scott claimed that the nature of “free speech” encouraged balance from both sides of a debate. Scott illustrated his point by quoting Voltaire, saying, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Meanwhile, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull distanced himself from Abbott’s turn of phrase on 7:30 last night, saying, “I’m not going to get into a debate about semantics about the Prime Minister’s mode of expression. I just say this to you: there was a very serious error of judgment on a whole range of levels. And the management has to take responsibility for it.”

And in the interim, while the Defence Minister Kevin Andrews has officially become the first to stage a boycott on appearing on Q&A, this only continues to clock up, day by day.

This – right here? The ABC lining up counter-missiles to the Government’s? It’s just the beginning. 

Via SMH.