‘ABC did not gag Nick Ross’: MD Mark Scott tells Senate (full video)


news The managing director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has categorically denied that the broadcaster “gagged” its former technology editor Nick Ross from reporting on the National Broadband Network, stating that it merely wanted the journalist to comply with its editorial policies in doing so.

Over the past several weeks, Ross has made a number of public statements through sites such as Reddit, New Matilda and PC & Tech Authority claiming that the ABC prevented him from publishing articles critical of the Coalition’s controversial National Broadband Network policy.

Ross served as the broadcaster’s editor of its Technology & Games sub-site from 2010 before resigning his position several weeks ago. The journalist came under fire from other media outlets and political figures such as then-Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2013, after he published a number of articles heavily critical of Turnbull’s rival NBN policy. He has published little on the subject since.

A number of senior Labor figures — including Victorian Innovation Minister Philip Dalidakis and Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare — have written to ABC managing director Mark Scott about the issue, and this afternoon in a Senate Estimates hearing, Labor Senator Sam Dastyari pressed Scott on the issue at length.

In response, Scott explicitly denied that the ABC had sought to gag Ross from reporting on the NBN, instead stating that the broadcaster had requested that he comply with its own editorial policies.

Scott said with respect to Ross that there was a “disagreement on the role that he wanted to play”, with the ABC believing that Ross had not focused on publishing a range of views around the NBN debate.

“It was not the responsibility of Mr Ross to simply tell his view, it was to report the range of views,” said Scott. “His role was to report and curate a range of views around this debate … that was what he was being urged to do.”

Ross himself this afternoon used Twitter to dispute some of Scott’s statements. It is recommended to read Ross’s Twitter feed to get a full view of the journalist’s view on proceedings this afternoon.

“I didn’t break [the ABC’s editorial policies],” he said. “I was never told I broke [editorial policies]. I didn’t push a ‘view’. I showed all the facts and drew a balanced conclusion.”

“Saying I’m not balanced in my NBN article. First time an ABC manager has told me that … Mark Scott once again pushing that we didn’t push ALL views of NBN. There was something we missed? Where?”

Ross additionally told several journalists on Twitter: “I keep saying this, but I’d be interested if you could find anything missing from those big articles at all.”

Scott said that Ross had not referred a controversial 11,000 word article critticising the Coalition’s version of the NBN policy to upper ABC editorial managers before it was published, and that in any case it was “unprecedented” for the broadcaster to publish an article of that length.

Scott said he had read the transcript of a taped conversation between Ross and ABC head of current affairs Bruce Belsham on the matter.

However, he stated in response that he was confident that the ABC’s standards were “high” and that he backed Belsham’s editorial judgement in the matter. Scott said he was confident with the ABC’s approach to the issue and the ABC was not planning to hold an internal inquiry into the matter.

Scott confirmed that he had received criticism from political figures, such as then-Shadow Communications Minister, now Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, in relation to the ABC’s reporting of NBN coverage, but stipulated that this did not constitute pressure, given that the ABC regularly received pressure from politicians with respect to the matter.

The ABC managing director said Turnbull had largely questioned — as Turnbull himself has previously said publicly — that he would like the ABC to have used its foreign correspondents to investigate the way various broadband technologies were being used globally.

“I get political criticism all the time around coverage … it does not amount to pressure,” Scott said.

Scott said he did not recall having a discussion with former and current Turnbull staffer Sally Cray — who during the period in question held a role as the ABC’s head of corporate communications — about the Ross issue, and that he viewed Belsham in particular as an “unfortunate victim in these circumstances”.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam sought to defend Ross’s coverage of the NBN issue, noting that Ross’s NBN articles at the ABC were widely cited by other media outlets and had been heavily referenced.

However, Scott insisted that the issue with respect to Ross’s coverage was about meeting the ABC’s editorial standards and not about “false balance”. The ABC MD stated that being a journalist for a major broadcaster such as the ABC was “a very different role to a technology blogger”.


  1. “I didn’t break [the ABC’s editorial policies],” he said. “I was never told I broke [editorial policies]. I didn’t push a ‘view’. I showed all the facts and drew a balanced conclusion.”

    Nailed it!

    Mark Scott is a former Gov Liberal Chief of Staff so frankly I dont believe a word of his denials!

  2. Based on Ross, and on Q and A. I firmly believe that in fact the ABC did have an agenda of reduced NBN coverage. Specifically any coverage that was negative towards the MTM.

  3. The lies from the ABC continue, just like the lies that keep coming from Morrow, Karina and Turnbull’s mouths.

  4. Scott is talking bullshit. He said there should be a “plurality of views”. Why ? As Paul Budde said – “100mbps is better than 50mbps, fibre is better than copper ….” etc – so if Ross was stating FACT then there is ZERO need to canvas alternatives.

    • “Plurality”?
      That is a word only lawyers (mostly patent at that) and occasionally people referring to US election technicalities use.
      No one would ever use it in general or formal conversation

  5. Given that pretty much every other major media outlet was systematically destroying the NBN, I’m not surprised the ABC felt pressured by and copped flak from Turnbull & Co. over its reporting of the topic.

    That said, I still don’t see a smoking gun here. The chat with Belsham could be considered a little iffy and I can understand why Ross wasn’t happy with the directive. But he wasn’t asked specifically to praise the MTM or write anything which wasn’t true.

    Mark Scott does need to acknowledge the political influence, however, just as Belsham has in the taped conversation.

  6. This is an interesting approach by the ABC to the whole issue of balance. And it’s one that the Murdoch media has been keen to press in it’s ongoing attacks on the Govt broadcaster. In reality it is simply a smoke screen to hide the prosecution of another agenda entirely – that of the promotion of right wing political interests.

    I would refer readers to the Murdoch press’ continued publishing, and promotion of persons and institutions regarding the denial of climate change. It continues to do so on the basis of providing of ‘balance’. Despite 97% of published scientific articles supporting the thesis. Yet the Murdoch media continues to have a biased representation of published articles deny climate change. And it does this using the excuse of providing ‘balance’.
    In reality it is using this concept as a smoke screen to promote, or at best slow down, community response to climate change. And it’s applying the same tactics to protect economic and political interests, the right wing conservative Govt.

    As Nick Ross has remarked, the articles he wrote were based on technical and academic analysis and a conclusion drawn from that. No political agenda. Just facts. Yet he was directed to write an article critical of the Labor Govt’s policy, even if it went against the conclusions of that same technical and academic analysis. And the reasons were made known by management, to protect the ABC from political interference and budget cuts.

    Balance my arse! The ABC should be reporting facts and presenting findings based on those facts. And it should where necessary illustrate and refute hubris where-ever it finds it. What it should not do is bow to external pressure to influence output under the farcical argument of ‘balance’. It’s a false argument designed to promote anything but.

    • Well they don’t always do balance.. Eg middle East conflicts etc. They don’t try to see both sides of pov in those cases.

  7. He recalls speaking to Turnbull about the nbn coverage, but not about Ross? I don’t believe him. Turnbull complained to ABC , because of Ross.

  8. “Mr Ross published an 11,000 word – an 11,00 word – treatise on the NBN, [which was] highly supportive of the Labor plan on NBN [and] highly critical of the Coalition plan on NBN.”

    When Nick Ross wrote articles criticizing the Labor NBN it obviously got the same treatment.. Oh wait.

  9. Mark Scott downplayed Sally Crays position at the ABC..
    She was was in fact , officially “Head Corporate Communications Corporate Affairs”

  10. ‘Balance’? How about’ balancing’ out the 95% negative coverage the real NBN got from Australia’s media overall?

    Morrow’s argument is flawed, however. If it was just about Mark Scott’s ‘balance’ and there was no specific directive to get him to change his coverage or writing, why were they spiking his articles?

    The question, the standard, should be whether the content is factual, well researched and thorough. As for ‘balance’, that *is* actually important, insofar that a journalist doesn’t take their preconceived ideology or bias into their reporting. They let the facts tell the story, then draw conclusions based on the evidence.

    Mark Scott’s reporting *was* balanced, insofar that he considered the facts, quite exhaustively. The fact that the ABC doesn’t publish 11,000 word articles is telling – that was one of the most comprehensive, thorough, well researched and important pieces of journalism I have ever read. The ABC should be striving to meet the new bar set by Nick Ross, who is, frankly, a *real* Australian hero. He should be being awarded an Australian of the year award, not vilified by our corrupt media, the ABC, and Prime Minister Malcolm ‘Political Vandal’ Turnbull.

    • I feel I need to add that Morrow and the LNP (and probably the whole mainstream media industry) have deliberately twisted the meaning of the terms balance and advocacy. Balance isn’t about how many articles a specific person writes for or against a specific ideological position. Balance relates to the way an article is written, the position it takes, and whether or not the writer is ‘advocating’ for a specific side from an ideological perspective. Drawing conclusions based on facts and informing the reader of the factual implications of the subject matter *is* balanced. Finding that the logical conclusion of the situation or facts happens to land on one particular side isn’t advocacy, it is demonstrating that in that particular case, over that particular argument, the facts *are* on one specific side. And readers need to know that – in this day of extreme spin, obfuscation, misdirection and misinformation the only hope people have of working out what is real and what is manipulation is by understanding the facts. What Morrow is advocating is deliberately muddying the waters to make it *more difficult* for people to understand the facts. How could that even remotely be considered a reasonable position for the head of the national public broadcaster to hold?

  11. I really dont understand this whole balance thing, most of the time the truth is not balanced between left and right. If a person does the wrong thing and there is evidence showing they did the wrong thing surely a court wouldn’t say we can only have balanced arguments for and against the said person to find out if they did something wrong. Surely the truth is the only thing that matters?? Although in this day and age the truth is not something anyone wants to see or hear. I read the article in question by Nick Ross and as far as i can tell all he did was tell the truth? Is that what we do now, crucify people that have the courage to come out and tell the truth?

    • The incumbent authority *always* vilifies those who present facts if their system of power and control is based on unfairness, misinformation and opaque authoritarianism. See: every monarchy, religion and dictatorial regime ever. It is nothing less than a glaring indictment on a failing democracy when those who present evidence are attacked and repressed for it – an open and democratic government defends freedom of expression and freedom of the press above even it’s own political agenda.

    • “Is that what we do now, crucify people that have the courage to come out and tell the truth?”
      What we do NOW? Galileo says hi.

  12. “he would like the ABC to have used its foreign correspondents to investigate the way various broadband technologies were being used globally.”

    various broadband tech? sure lets do that. then realise that hey – of the various techs FTTP is now the major mover in new rollouts. and that the only other of the ‘various techs’ that comes close to its performance is the yet to be fully commercialised FTTdp – mainly on the basis that it drives the fibre to within a few tens of metres of the end user….

    certainly the foreign correspondents can investigate how the speeds putatively on offer from our government are well and truly behind others?

    ahh damn… theres no hope the foreign correspondents will do this one now, is there?

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