ABC’s Media Watch Accused Of Platforming Anti-Trans Views

ABC’s Media Watch Accused Of Platforming Anti-Trans Views
Image: Paul Barry

ABC Media Watch’s most recent episode has been criticised for platforming anti-trans talking points and targeting LGBTQI organisation ACON and its Pride in Diversity Program. 

The episode broadcast on Monday, October 17, claimed to be looking at the “relationship” between ABC and ACON, which runs the Australian Workplace Index Awards. 

“Can the ABC remain impartial when it partners with a lobby group and gets ranked in a competitive index?” the programme asked. The programme appeared to suggest that ABC’s coverage of LGBTQI issues, especially issues of the transgender community, was impacted by it participating in ACON’s Pride In Diversity initiative. 

“The concern here is that it is not impartial but one-sided,” said host Paul Barry, who extensively referred to a controversial panel discussion on October 4, 2022, organised by the University of Melbourne. Trans activists and some academics had pulled out of the panel over the presence of anti-trans speakers from the UK. 

ABC Reiterates Editorial Independence

Media Watch raised the issue of  independence of ABC‘s editorial coverage in  light of the fact that it participates in ACON’s AWEI program. Media Watch cited BBC and Channel 4 exiting Stonewall’s Workplace Diversity program and indicated that ABC should follow suit. 

“Now, we’re not suggesting the ABC should abandon its commitment to diversity and inclusion.  And the BBC certainly has not. After cutting ties to Stonewall it put another diversity scheme in its place,” the host said.

“The problem here is a media group partnering with and being rewarded by a lobby group — any lobby group. And how that can lead to perceptions of bias in coverage or to bias itself. We think the ABC should review the arrangement.”

In a statement, ABC reiterated its editorial independence. “The ABC has rigorous and independent pre- and post-publication processes to reinforce these standards,” the broadcaster said in a statement.

“Transgender and gender identity issues are complex and require careful editorial judgement to ensure informed reporting without causing offence or undue distress and harm to vulnerable individuals and communities. Like other responsible media, the ABC endeavours to ensure its reporting is based on credible research, talking to people with lived experience, peak bodies and qualified experts and taking an evidence-based approach,” ABC said. 

ABC also pointed out that it participates in “other benchmarking indexes to monitor its progress and improve workplace practices, such as those run by the Diversity Council of Australia, Reconciliation Australia and the Australian Network on Disability.”

Not A Lobby Group

According to Dawn Emsen-Hough, Director of ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs, for over a year the organisation had been targeted for their “messaging around trans inclusion and in particular, trans women”. Emsen-Hough said that Media Watch had ” mischaracterised ACON and Pride in Diversity as a “lobby group”. 

The statement emphasised that ACON was a community-based organisation that specialises in “community health, HIV responses and inclusion for LGBTQ people”.

“Pride in Diversity is not a public advocacy program. Its remit is strictly related to workplace diversity and inclusion practice,” said Emsen-Hough in a statement. “We will continue to deliver services and programs that improve and strengthen our communities’ health and wellbeing – including initiatives that foster diversity and inclusion – and provide support to those that share our purpose.”

On social media many users pointed to Barry’s past transphobic post misgendering Caitlyn Jenner. Other users pointed to comments on social media that appeared to show that a producer on the show, who attended the University of Melbourne panel discussion, was behind the program.

Trans advocate and Switchboard Victoria CEO Joe Ball accused Media Watch of “deliberately” misrepresenting ACON. 

“Sadly, we have been here before. This tactic is not new. It was used in the UK to undermine LGBTIQ+ charities. Charities are allowed to engage in policy discussions. Charities such as Beyond Blue, Lifeline & Headspace also promote workplace wellbeing activities,” Ball posted on Twitter.


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