ABC complaint Senate inquiry 'problematic'

ABC complaint Senate inquiry 'problematic'

A Senate inquiry examining the complaints handling process of the ABC would have been problematic, according to the head of the national broadcaster.

Appearing before Senate estimates on Monday, managing director David Anderson said attempts by the government to examine complaints handling were unnecessary and undermined the ABC.

The broadcaster had already announced its own independent review process, headed by former commonwealth ombudsman John McMillan, which will report back in March.

“We're not above scrutiny … but trying to run an inquiry at the same time to deliver the outcome ahead of the board is problematic,” Mr Anderson said.

“(A government inquiry) while we're running a review, that's a problem.”

It comes after a proposal for a Senate inquiry to examine the ABC's complaint handling process was voted down by Labor and the Greens.

The Senate inquiry has been postponed until at least the next term of parliament.

ABC chair Ita Buttrose had labelled the efforts to get up the government-led inquiry as “political interference”.

Mr Anderson said the ABC's board had independence which should be observed and any other process to review complaints handling would be “prejudicial” to the independent review process.

Complaints at the ABC are currently handled by the broadcaster's audience and consumer affairs division.

Mr Anderson said it would be up to the community to decide whether a subsequent review was needed following the findings of the ABC's independent review.

“We are, I think, the most scrutinised media organisation in the country,” he said.

“We should be held accountable by the Australian public and we take their concerns seriously and complaint handling seriously, we're not the only ones that scrutinise ourselves.”

The independent review was commissioned following complaints about ABC programs such as the Luna Park fire documentary Ghost Train.

Estimates also heard the ABC spends $7 million per year on legal fees, with the annual costs going up.

The questioning came after high-profile legal cases involving the broadcaster.

The ABC settled a defamation case with former attorney-general Christian Porter, following a story published in February about a historical rape allegation against an unnamed cabinet minister.

Mr Porter outed himself as the man accused and strenuously denied the allegations.

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