Media Response to Tony Abbott Criticism of ABC

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has taken another swipe at the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). He complains that it is not on Australia's side. He means it is not on Tony Abbott's side, but he sometimes has difficulty in distinguishing between the two. How have different media companies in Australia reported this item?

The titles were pretty similar.

The Guardian: Tony Abbott attacks ABC for 'taking everyone's side but Australia's'

The Age: Tony Abbott blasts national broadcaster: ABC tasks 'everyone's side but Australia's'

The Australian: Tony Abbott says ABC 'takes everyone's side but our own'

The ABC: Prime Minister Tony Abbott says ABC not on Australia's side in interview with 2GB

The Guardian

This was the longest article. The lead in was that the Prime minister takes issue with the national broadcaster's reporting on asylum seeker claims and 'traitor' Edward Snowden. It noted that Tony Abbott's comments were triggered by Ray Hadley's complaint about the ABC's reporting on the question of possible mistreatment of asylum seekers by the Australian navy. It gave some space to Tony Abbott's comment on the ABC's reporting of Edward Snowden.

The Guardian did not give mention Tanya Plibersrsek or the Labor party.

The article ended with a long quote from Mark Scott, the ABC's managing director. The quote was taken form Marks comments relating to the Snowden spying controversy.

“We are an independent media organisation and of course sometimes we will publish stories that politicians won't be happy about. We are an independent media organisation. That's the role we have to play.”

The Age

The lead in was that Prime Minister Tony Abbott had berated ABC news and suggested that Tony Abbott had implied the media should act as cheer leaders for the country. The article did not mention the name Edward Snowden. Instead it referred to Coalition criticism last year after the ABC and The Guardian broke a story on the US NSA tapping the Indonesian President's phone.

It quoted Tony Abbott as saying that he wanted the ABC to be a “straight news gathering and news reporting organisation”.

The Age did report comments from acting Labor leader Tanya Plibersek with quotes the same as those in the ABC article. It also quoted Employment Minister Eric Abetz.

The article ended with a quote from Tony Abbott asking the Opposition and its leader Bill Shorten “Are they on the side of law abiding citizens? Or are they on the side of people with a tendency to break the law?

The Australian

This was the shortest written article but it did have a 51 second video. The lead in was that Tony Abbott wants the broadcaster to stick to straight news-gathering. They briefly referred to the 'traitor' Edward Snowden. Just less than half the article discussed the ABC report on the Navy's treatment of asylum seekers. From the perspective of an ABC news journalist said to have admitted asylum seekers' claims of mistreatment by the navy are “likely to be untrue".


The lead in commented that Prime Minister Tony Abbott had stepped up his criticism of the ABC, accusing it of being unpatriotic in its coverage of Edward Snowden and asylum seeker abuse claims. The article referred to the Facebook post by an ABC researcher stating that her boss doubted asylum seekers' claims. It also quoted Julie Bishop saying the ABC should apologise for casting doubt on the navy's reputation. It noted that Tony Abbott was critical of the new ABC Fact Check unit.

The article stated that Tony Abbott has empathy with Ray Hadley who along with Alan Jones was belted over the head by the media regulator while the ABC was left to its own devices.

The article ended with coverage of comment from Acting Opposition leader Tanya Plibersek The closing line was a quote from her: “He should stop complaining about media coverage and start behaving like a prime minister”.


The Australian was the most pro-Abbott and against the ABC. The reader was left with the impression that the ABC was wrong.

The Guardian article was clearly swayed by its views on Australia's treatment of asylum seekers arriving by boat and by its own extensive reporting of the Edward Snowden whistle blowing. It quoted Tony Abbott at length. It did not quote the Opposition at all. It seemed not to be in favour of criticism of the ABC.

The Age was not willing to mention Edward Snowden directly. It quoted the Building Minster primarily to give itself a pat on the back for reporting with the ABC about corruption I the building industry. It seemed to be sitting on the fence as far as criticism of the ABC goes.

The ABC did a creditable job of reporting the issue in a balanced way.


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