The ABC Ombudsman investigated the complaints following the broadcaster’s coverage of the coronation, but found it did not violate editorial standards.
ABC has received 1,832 complaints.
Ombudsman Fiona Cameron has seen many complaints about ABC’s judgment for scheduling this discussion as guests were entering the Abbey, but the timing and format of the panel discussion was not an issue for the Ombudsman.
A total of 61 complaints broadly related to ABC’s editorial standards being investigated by the Ombudsman’s Office.
In summary, the complaints allege that the roundtable between 5 and 6 pm was unbalanced, biased, disrespectful, inappropriate, offensive, anti-monarchical and poorly timed. While some complainants referred to
concerns of inaccuracy, no specific facts were disputed, and the concerns raised related to a perceived lack of alternative viewpoints.
“It is recognized that the Crown represents different things to different people. The broadcast recognized the multicultural character of the Australian community and the 5-6pm hour sought to reflect the significance of the event to different cultures, including the impact of colonization on indigenous Australia” the report stated.
“Each panelist was clearly introduced and identified to the ABC audience, and it was made clear that the discussion was intended to examine significant issues of context relevant to an Australian audience around the coronation of a new monarch. Also note ABC News’ advice that “a number of conservative voices were invited to appear on the coverage to contribute their perspectives, but declined.”
“The viewpoints of the judging panel were robust but fair and the conversation was courteous and respectful, enabling the public to make a decision on the issues discussed.
“While the ABC should at all times be fair, accurate and open-minded, the standards of impartiality do not require that every perspective be given equal time, nor that every aspect of every topic be presented.
“It is also notable that this forty-five minute panel discussion is only a portion of the extensive coverage of the coronation across ABC television and digital radio platforms. In addition to live coverage of the coronation, ABC iView was featured Charles R: The Making of a Monarch; Camilla’s country life; A great royal design; AND Prince Charles: within the Duchy of Cornwall in honor of the day’s events.
“I also note that the issues discussed and the opinions shared were not new and did not raise specific accuracy issues. These are issues to consider when reflecting on issues of impartiality. Furthermore, the discussion reflected the contentious element of the monarch’s role for many Australians. This controversial element is hard to ignore, and while potentially inconvenient for your intended audience, it is also a consideration in determining due impartiality.
“The role of the monarchy in modern Australia and the indigenous perspectives presented were legitimate and newsworthy topics for discussion on the rare occasion of a coronation and in the context of the ABC’s extensive coverage. In these circumstances, and for the reasons set out above, I do not consider a violation of the criteria of impartiality.
“While the broadcast did not violate the Corporation’s editorial standards, it was the decision to schedule the panel discussion between 5-6pm while footage of the arrivals at the Abbey was being broadcast which attracted the most criticisms and complaints received by ABC. There were clearly instances where the footage presented from London did not relate to the nature of the critical discussion held by the panel in Australia, which was jarring and distracting to some of the audience as evidenced by the complaints received.
ABC News, in part, said in response to the findings:
“Often in news reports journalists are told ‘now is not the time’ to discuss certain issues ………This argument is often used to close uncomfortable debates and silence critical perspectives. While they can be uncomfortable, important topics and discussions are often best discussed alongside major events when the audience is engaged and open to discussing them.
“Discussing the function of the Crown in relation to Indigenous people for perhaps one-sixth of the three hours of coverage before the ceremony itself began was not disproportionate given the prominence and contemporary focus on the history of colonization in Australia and elsewhere in recent public discussion and discussion.
“Throughout all coverage, including discussions between 5-7pm, there is no question that all major perspectives have been presented fairly as editorial policies require. In addition to Stan Grant, Teela Reid, a young lawyer who also provided a youthful perspective, and Craig Foster, who contributed Indigenous and republican views, guests included Liberal backbencher Julian Leeser, deputy editor of The Australian Women’s Weekly Juliet Rieden, Australian Local Hero of the Year in 2023 Amar Singh, South Sydney Anglican Bishop Michael Stead, United Nations Youth Representative Angelica Onjinaka, constitutional law expert Anne Twomey and author Kathy Lette, whom he met personally King Charles III many times. They discussed royal traditions, the role of the monarchy, and details about the ceremony as it unfolded. We do not accept that any particular perspective has been unduly favored. Julian Leeser, an articulate and prominent MP from the royalist and liberal party, had ample opportunity to respond to them, and continued to participate in the panel after they left. Other supporters of the monarchy and the constitutional status quo joined the discussion, providing a wide range of mostly favorable perspectives.
“Editorial policies do not and never have required equal time for different arguments on matters of contention. It’s distorted to see the 40+ minutes or so isolated from the coverage as a whole.
“While the program covered difficult topics, it was always conducted with respect, as was publicly noted by the panelists. There were no accuracy errors.”