An independent review into the ABC’s coverage of economic issues during the federal election has praised the public broadcaster for its balanced and probing coverage.
The review, conducted by former Channel 9 political editor Laurie Oakes and former Australian Industry Group head and Reserve Bank board member Heather Ridout, was commissioned to examine the ABC’s coverage of economic arguments during the election.
Entitled “Coverage of the debate over economic management in the 2022 Federal Election,” it was the ABC’s 28th independent editorial review.
Although the report began with worrying pro-Coalition sentiment (the authors state that the Coalition was “comfortable in running as the most credible and trusted economic growth managers”), and is strangely devoid of a conclusion, it glowed with praise for the way the ABC handled economic matters during the election.
According to the authors:
The importance of economic issues to the election debate was clearly recognised across ABC platforms and, in almost every case, they were given due weight. The politics of participants were from across the spectrum. As far as the reviewers are aware, there were no serious questions about the accuracy of the ABC’s reporting.
The ABC’s coverage of the May 3 rate rise decision and related issues was particularly thorough, beginning with backgrounding and speculation before the RBA announcement and continuing for several days.
Apart from slight criticism of Political Editor Andrew Probyn for following the media pack in concentrating too much on Anthony Albanese’s famous opening gaffe, when the Labor leader could not name the unemployment or cash rates, and some passing criticism of an otherwise on-message Patricia Karvelas, the review was effusive with praise, particularly for 7.30’s Laura Tingle.
The importance of Laura Tingle to 7.30 was demonstrated in the campaign. The way she used her knowledge, experience and authority in reporting, analysing and providing context for issues and events helped to solve what used to be a real difficulty for the program—how to differentiate its coverage from what viewers had just seen on the news. Her economics expertise and Financial Review background were particularly valuable because of the dominance of economic issues in the campaign.
Other ABC stalwarts like Fran Kelly, Ian Verrender and Peter Ryan, were also singled out for praise for raising questions on economic issues that were ignored by other news services.
The journalist who suffered the strongest criticism was not from the ABC at all.
The Australian’s Chris Mitchell was singled out for being unjustifiably critical of ABC Radio Current Affairs for concentrating on homeowners worried by rising interest rates.
“If Mitchell had a point,” the authors wrote, “it was a very small one. In the ‘80s and ‘90s very few people would have borrowed six times their annual income to buy a house.”
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