Flat White

Their ABC and ‘allegations’, rather than ‘facts’

8 August 2021

5:18 PM

8 August 2021

5:18 PM

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

In the Alice in Wonderland world of the ABC, it now appears that ‘allegation’ may be interpreted as ‘fact’, or at least according to its own Board-ordered external review, when, ABC documentaries on the Luna Park Ghost Train fire were presented as ‘allegations’ rather than ‘facts’.

This begs the question, when might an ‘allegation’ be presented as a fact? When may something alleged, however wacky, be taken up as evidence, as fact?


The ‘allegations’ as presented by Your ABC, most recently, in the three-part Luna Park Ghost Train documentaries,  alleged improprieties by former NSW Premier Wran, brought out a bevy of high profile people, including Bob Carr, Malcolm Turnbull, former Sydney Morning Herald editor Milton Cockburn, et al, all who decried the ‘allegations’ against Neville Wran.

An earlier internal ABC review was over-ridden, ironically enough by the ABC Board (perhaps feeling the hot winds of anger fanning hides that would be envied by elephants)and subsumed by an external review in which it was, somehow, in a muddled way, concluded that the documentaries “made allegations rather than [stated] facts.

Hmmm. The tax-payer-funded ABC’s editorial policy states that ‘credibility depends heavily on factual accuracy’. So did the findings of the latest review breach ABC editorial standards for accuracy,  since the documentaries “made allegations, rather than [presented] facts”.

Does that now mean the ABC accepts ‘allegations’ in its reporting, allegations that may be levelled, without basis in fact, just ‘allegations’ against anyone the ABC doesn’t much like?

This is the ABC whose editorial policy on accuracy notes that ‘credibility depends heavily on factual accuracy.’ That means, we can take it, that to be credible, ABC news services and documentaries must be based on facts – and this is where the initial internal ABC review, the one that found the documentary met the stated ‘editorial standards’ falls down, so that the external review ordered by the ABC Board finds itself in a quandary – facts or allegations?

Perhaps it’s the peculiar, idiosyncratic inbred culture that exists within the ABC, the same organisation of which Kim Williams wrote, in his incisive, truth-telling memoir, ‘Rules of Engagement’ in 1992… the [ABC’s] interior, self-focussed, disconnected culture that was prevalent at the time. … [T]he ABC was an enormously harsh and difficult place at which to work. It was almost incapable of considering its audience as it was so mired in internal factions, divisions and industrial rigidities of the most arcane kind.  It was self-obsessed in a peculiar way that was quite disconnected from the independent production industry and also from the broader television industry.’

Williams had his difficulties with the ABC  and reading his words it seems the ABC is still ‘mired in internal factions’ etc. as he described. It also seemingly has difficulty in understanding, as poor Alice did, that words can be made to mean different things… such as ‘allegations’ presented as “facts”.

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