ABC Ombudsman, Fiona Cameron, has cleared the broadcaster of complaints lodged after the Q+A episode on November 13 which discussed the Israel – Hamas war.
ABC received 882 complaints about the show, which featured Labor MP Tim Watts, former Liberal MP Dave Sharma, a former Australian ambassador in Israel, and UN special rapporteur Francesca Albanese.
The panel also included Australia / Israel & Jewish Affairs Council chairman Mark Leibler and Australia Palestine Advocacy Network president Nasser Mashni.
The broadcast from Melbourne was without a studio audience but with a contingent of police outside the studio for security reasons.
Nearly all the complaints claimed the program was not impartial, with some using idential wording, suggesting a co-ordinated campaign.
Complaints included that it had two Jewish spokespeople, gave disproportionate time to Jewish speakers, that host Patricia Karvelas frequently interrupted Mr Mashni, and that she asked Mr Mashni to condemn Hamas killing Israelis while not asking Mr Leibler to condemn Israel killing Palestinian civilians.
However ABC does not require that all sides are given equal airtime, only that contrasting views are couched within news and current affairs programs.
“Mr Mashni spoke considerably more than other panellists, which in part explains why he was interrupted more,” Ms Cameron wrote. She also noted that there was only one Jewish panellist – Mr Leibler. Mr Sharma stated on the show that he was not Jewish.
“The program included highly polarised views which were appropriately challenged by the host and critically discussed by other panellists, including views that were likely offensive and hurtful to some viewers,” she concluded. “We consider that the program impartially presented these views and did not favour any perspective.”
The Ombudsman concluded the program “did not breach the ABC’s editorial standards for due impartiality and harm and offence”, issuing that the “highly polarised views” platformed on the episode were “appropriately challenged by the host and critically discussed by other panelists”.
“We consider that the program impartially presented these views and did not favour any perspective. By altering the presentation format of the program and actions by the host, including an introduction asking ‘how do we de-escalate tensions and restore respect’, the risk of harm and offence, while justified by the editorial context, was minimised.”