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Oz panel: ABC’s Iraq coverage not biased

Gov't official's criticism not supported by complaint org

SYDNEY– Relations between the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and the government have reached a new low after the ABC’s independent review body rejected complaints that its Iraq war coverage was biased and anti-American.

In May, Communications Minister Sen. Richard Alston criticized the way the conflict was reported on the pubcaster’s daily current affairs radio program “AM.”

Alston, who is at odds with the ABC over funding and the axing of its digital channels, cited numerous examples of what he described as “one-sided and tendentious commentary” by program hosts and reporters.

The ABC referred the complaints to the Complaints Review Executive, an independent office set up last year.

Complaints rejected

The CRE rejected 66 of Alston’s 68 complaints. It found the remaining two were cases of speculative reporting but neither amounted to “evidence of systemic anti-American” or anti-Oz government reporting.

“I am satisfied with the process and outcome of this investigation,” ABC managing director Russell Balding said Monday. “It vindicates the ‘AM’ program and its staff. The ABC’s war coverage was second to none, and I stand firmly behind the ABC’s programs.

“Overall, I believe our coverage of the conflict was balanced and delivered in a professional manner upholding the standards of objective journalism.”

Alston was clearly unhappy with the ABC’s response. “I remain concerned that ‘AM’s’ coverage did not meet the journalistic standards that one would expect from a national broadcaster that is fully committed to accuracy and impartiality,” he said Monday.

Alston added he would decide whether to take his complaints to the Australian Broadcasting Authority or the Independent Complaints Review Panel once he had assessed the ABC response.

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