In August 2017 the Government secured the support of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party (PHON) for passage of the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Reform) Act 2017. In exchange for this support, the Government agreed to put forward a Bill amending the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983 (the Act) altering the duties of the ABC Board in section 8.
The Bill amends the Act to insert the words ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ into paragraph 8(1)(c). The amended Act would require the Board ‘to ensure that the gathering and presentation by the Corporation of news and information is fair, balanced, accurate and impartial according to the recognized standards of objective journalism.’
Both the Government and Senator Hanson acknowledge that the ABC’s editorial policies already require ‘fair treatment’ and ‘a balance that follows the weight of evidence’.
The Minister for Communications, Senator Fifield, argues that the amendment would reinforce these requirements by enshrining them in legislation. Supporters of the Bill, such as the National Farmers Federation, highlight instances where they consider the ABC has not met these standards in its reporting.