Oz pubcaster overhauls its editorial guidelines

New guidelines aimed at deflecting gov criticism

Pubcaster the Australian Broadcasting Corp. has introduced the biggest overhaul of its editorial guidelines in 20 years — to help it fight criticism that it’s biased and presents only a left-leaning view of Oz.

Mark Scott, topper of the ABC, outlined the new guidelines in a speech to the Sydney Institute Monday night, saying, “It is only reasonable that as a public broadcaster using public money, the ABC set high standards for itself, higher than other Australian media.”

The guideline overhaul — the most significant since 1985 — is aimed at deflecting criticism, primarily from the government, that the pubcaster takes a liberal view, particularly in its news coverage.

Highlights of the new package include: a requirement for impartiality in news and current affairs; topical opinion and docus will continue, but must show a broad range of options and will be signposted as “opinion.”

Also, auds must not be able to conclude the ABC has taken an editorial stand; there will be no checkbook journalism; and a director of editorial policies will be appointed to referee if bias is suspected.

Scott will add the title of editor-in chief, a first for the pubcaster.

The topper called the new guidelines “a massive rod for our own backs, a weapon our critics can beat us with, a very high bar,” but also said they were necessary for the pubcaster’s future.

However the guidelines have drawn ire from some sections of the media world, saying they would encourage censorship, not balance.

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