The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (the ABC), established in 1932, is one of Australia’s two national public broadcasters. It produces a variety of media content including television, radio and online. The ABC receives a large amount of audience feedback each year, including complaints that range from minor issues of personal preference to allegations of breaches of the ABC’s Editorial Policies. In 2016–17 the ABC received 58 477 written audience contacts of which 30 881 (53 per cent) were complaints.
The objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of the ABC’s management of complaints. To form a conclusion against the audit objective, the ANAO adopted the following high level criteria:
- Is the ABC’s complaints process clear, accessible and responsive to the public?
- Does the ABC have sound processes and practices to effectively manage complaints?
- Does the ABC regularly analyse and report complaint outcomes and review the effectiveness of its complaints management process?
Effective complaints management assists the ABC to be transparent, accountable and continuously improve its content and services. The ABC’s management of complaints was selected for audit to provide assurance that the ABC has effective processes and procedures in place to manage complaints, and regularly analyses and reports on complaints outcomes to inform improvements to its broadcasted content and other services.
The audit found that:
- The ABC effectively manages complaints handled by its central complaints management area. The ABC’s limited visibility over content areas’ handling of complaints reduces the overall effectiveness of its complaints management.
- The ABC’s complaints process is accessible to the public, easy to navigate and responsive to complainants. The ABC has effective processes and practices in place for complaints managed by its central complaints management unit, Audience and Consumer Affairs (A&CA). The ABC monitors complaints managed centrally but it has limited visibility over the progress and outcomes of the less significant but higher volume complaints managed directly by content areas.
- The ABC analyses and reports complaints to internal and external stakeholders. The external information that the ABC publishes on complaints assists in maintaining its transparency and accountability as a public broadcaster. The ABC provides analysis of complaints data to relevant decision-makers to inform continuous improvement of its programs and services.