The broadcasting industry watchdog has refused to back down from its ruling against Four Corners, in spite of the fact Rupert Murdoch has now admitted he allowed his US Fox News network to spread lies about Donald Trump.
Murdoch made the admission in a deposition to a court case in which a voting machines company is suing Fox for defamation over claims the 2020 presidential election was “stolen.”
The media tycoon admitted that he knew Fox News spread lies about the election result, and that that he had allowed them to do so.
Read a Guardian report about Murdoch’s admission
It follows a controversial decision by the Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) that Four Corners had breached the ABC’s Code of Practice by broadcasting the two-part series “Fox and the Big Lie,” which focussed on the Murdoch channel’s role in promoting political discord in the United States.
The questionable ruling against Four Corners came as scrutiny about ACMA, including its lack of investigations and the conservative political background of its CEO, increased.
The ACMA CEO, Creina Chapman, was appointed by Malcolm Turnbull and, as well as serving time with the Rupert Murdoch empire, has worked as a political adviser to Liberal politicians including renowned ABC-hater Richard Alston.
In response to the criticism the ABC released a strongly- worded statement saying it was “deeply concerned” by the “subjective characterisation” of the series, and that the ruling would have a deleterious effect on journalism.
The ABC statement said:
The ABC has considered the findings and has serious concerns that the ACMA’s interpretation of the ABC’s Code of Practice will have negative consequences for the future production of strong public interest journalism.
The ABC believes that some subjective elements of the ACMA report and media release are inconsistent with the established approach to accuracy and fairness under the Code and may place undue pressure on content makers when selecting an editorial focus, for fear of a potential breach. The ABC further believes this contradicts the express direction in the Code, that the standards are to be applied in ways that “do not unduly constrain journalistic enquiry”.
ABC Friends asked ACMA if it would be withdrawing its criticism of the ABC (including an unprecedented public criticism made by the CEO) in light of the fact Four Corners is now proven to have been correct.
Read the full ACMA investigation into Four Corners
But in response, ACMA doubled down, saying that its ruling and the CEO’s statement were justified because the Murdoch revelations were not known at the time of broadcast.
The spokesperson said:
The ACMA’s role is not to make judgements regarding the subject matter the ABC chooses to investigate and on which it reports. Independent public interest journalism is fundamental to a vibrant, healthy democracy and the ABC plays an integral part in delivering news and current affairs services to the Australian community.
The ACMA’s role is to assess whether the material broadcast is consistent with the ABC’s Code of Practice (the Code) at the time it is broadcast. In this case, the ACMA investigation found that elements of the Four Corners program breached two standards of the Code and that there was no breach of five standards of the Code.
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