“We have a more detailed and systematic process of independent review of audience complaints than exists anywhere else in Australian media,” he repeated.
This red herring, straining the truth, enabled him to deflect the senators’ questions about recent contentious broadcasts and news reports: the navy’s torture of asylum-seekers; the “sicko garbage” and smutty stuff of the New Year’s Eve broadcast; the vulgar Chris Kenny dog skit; and the unchecked damaging Media Watch statement on this newspaper’s finances.
It was an occasion when an observer could have wished for some of the brutal questioning of a Four Corners reporter.
But the senators were no match for the anodyne answers of Scott, who was at his condescending nicest. So he got away with assurances the ABC meant no disrespect to the navy; that next year’s New Year party might be different in tone and content; that Chris Mitchell (editor-in-chief of The Australian) can take his complaint to the Australian Communications and Media Authority if he is unhappy with the review under way of the Media Watch coverage.
As for Paul Barry, recalcitrant presenter of Media Watch, he corrects but continues to refuse to apologise for his mischievous reporting and Scott, ABC editor-in-chief, will let him get away with it.
Indeed, Scott signalled to the Senate committee that in future, Barry and others caught out in flagrant breaches of editorial practice will escape the ignominy of on-air correction or apology.
The ABC is planning to create a special place on its website to carry all corrections, clarifications and apologies - its equivalent of a newspaper “page two”, as Scott put it. He justified this as making them easier for the public to find, but those weasel words obscure the truth: this is intended as another brick in the ABC’s defensive wall.