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Corporate responsibility

The ABC is committed to corporate responsibility and aims to deliver content with integrity, diligence and transparency, and to act in the interests of citizens. Delivering products and services that satisfy the needs and expectations of audiences, and that meet the ABC’s editorial standards, is the essence of the ABC’s existence.

The ABC is committed to fulfilling its corporate objectives across all business and media activities in a manner that is ethically and financially responsible, and in particular pursues environmentally and socially responsible business practices. The values of integrity, respect, collegiality and innovation are the foundation of the ABC’s activities.

Reporting performance

The ABC reports its corporate responsibility and sustainability performance each financial year in the Annual Report, with additional information available in the Diversity & Inclusion Report, and then throughout the year on the Corporate Responsibility webpage at http://about.abc.net.au/how-the-abc-is-run/ whatguides-us/corporate-responsibility/.

Other than references to the ABC’s international activities, the Annual Report is limited to domestic operations within the direct control of the ABC. Sustainability information about the ABC’s investments in MediaHub Australia Pty Limited, Freeview Australia Limited and National DAB Licence Company Limited is not included in the report. Any additional limitations to the scope or completeness of particular data are identified within the reported data.

Stakeholder inclusiveness

The ABC provides varied opportunities for its audiences and other stakeholders to provide input into the content and activities of the Corporation. In 2019-20, mechanisms for engaging with external stakeholders included:

  • the ABC Corporate Tracking Program
  • the ABC Quality & Distinctiveness Study (via YourABC)
  • formal audience contacts and complaints processes - see Editorial complaints management
  • ABC Advisory Council processes see ABC Advisory Council
  • online feedback mechanisms specific to ABC content areas
  • the ABC’s social media properties.

Protecting freedom of expression

Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises freedom of expression as a fundamental human right. Freedom of expression is enshrined in the ABC Editorial Policies.

The ABC’s commitment to impartiality and diversity of perspectives reflects the importance of diverse sources of reliable information and a plurality of views within a healthy democracy. In pursuing impartiality, the ABC is guided by the following:

  • a balance that follows the weight of evidence
  • fair treatment
  • open-mindedness
  • opportunities over time for principal relevant perspectives on matters of contention to be expressed.

The ABC seeks to balance the public interest in disclosure of information and freedom of expression with respect for privacy.

Press freedom

The ABC remained an active and passionate participant in law reform initiatives throughout 2019-20, including as an active member of the Right to Know Coalition, and by way of submissions given to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security’s (PJCIS) inquiry into the impact of the exercise of law enforcement and intelligence powers on the freedom of the press, and the Senate’s inquiry into press freedom, conducted by the Environment and Communications References Committee.

The importance of the ABC’s involvement with those inquiries was highlighted by the decision of the Federal Court in February 2020 following formal proceedings brought by the ABC against the AFP arising from the latter’s raid on ABC premises in 2019. The Court’s decision expressly confirmed that those issuing search warrants in Australia are not required to consider the importance of public interest journalism or the protection of confidential sources. In a disturbing development, the AFP have now referred a brief of evidence concerning journalist Dan Oakes to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The ABC notes the PJCIS's explicit recognition of the value and importance of public interest journalism to this country. Its initial report endorses a scheme that would require public interest journalism and the protection of confidential sources to be considered as relevant factors before a warrant is issued, and supports greater transparency by way of reporting from intelligence agencies and law enforcement.

The ABC will continue the fight for a better standard of media protection for journalists and their sources in line with international best practice.

Accessibility of content and services

The ABC’s purpose is to serve all Australians through media services that reflect the cultural diversity of Australia. Diversity is front of mind in the ABC’s decision-making when working to create and sustain products, systems and services that are accessible for all Australians.

Through investment in digital platforms and the continuation of broadcast radio and television, the ABC make its content accessible, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, social background or disability. Across the ABC’s digital platforms – including mobile broadcasting, regional delivery and integrated online channels – ongoing evaluation and testing of technologies continues to expand distribution and ensure everyone can easily access ABC content no matter where they live.

Further, an internal accessibility expert advises and trains ABC staff on accessibility values and skills, across print as well as all visual and audio mediums, so that content in any form can by enjoyed by all Australians.

Audio descriptions (AD) were launched across ABC TV in late June 2020, with an AD programs weekly schedule added to the EPG on audiences' televisions.

Appreciation from social media included:

"I was pleased to watch Bran Nue Dae, in an Australian accent"
"I told all my friends about AD"

And from feedback sessions with Blind Citizens Australia:

“Thank you for the kids programming - it allows them to be a part of the social conversation.”
“AD includes us in the culture of our society.”

In 2019-20, captioning functionality was added to programs housed online such as Catalyst, Compass and short-form science content, and video content produced for the Media Literacy website had subtitles and closed captioning added. ABC Health on Instagram prioritised accessibility by using alternative text on all images, choosing high-contrast colours for images and ensuring hashtags were screen-reader friendly. The Play School COVID-19 Facebook Live and ABC iview special in April 2020 featured live Auslan translation.

The ABC NEWS app was named Accessible App of the Year and Government App of the Year at the Australian Access Awards. The app has been designed for use by everyone, including audiences with impaired sight, hearing, mobility and cognition, and is fully operable with an inbuilt screen reader, making it accessible for people who are blind. It also revolves to suit user needs (landscape or portrait mode) for people with limited mobility.

 David May
Leigh Sales for live coverage of the budget announcement. Image: David May

Protecting young or vulnerable audiences

The ABC takes seriously its role of protecting young or vulnerable people from harmful content and practices.

The ABC’s Editorial Policy framework sets out guidelines to protect vulnerable audiences such as children. Advice and training in the ABC Editorial Policies is delivered on an ongoing basis. See Capability, development and training Upward referral – a key concept within the policies – ensures complex decisions are not made in isolation.

All television programs other than news, current affairs and sporting events, are classified and scheduled for broadcast in accordance with the ABC’s Associated Standard on Television Program Classification. The ABC ensures that graphic or distressing news content is preceded by a warning, to give readers, listeners or viewers the opportunity to avoid the content if they choose.

triple j has strategies in place to ensure its younger audiences are protected from harm. Editorial content which is likely to cause harm or offence to younger sections of the audience is scheduled in appropriate time periods such as later in the evening. Warnings are given before playing music containing language or content that is assessed as likely to offend the triple j audience and prior to other types of content which risk causing harm to vulnerable audiences.

Content created especially for children and available on ABC iview or apps is accompanied by classification advice and warnings where appropriate. As with broadcast, children’s content on digital properties is restricted to G and PG. Classification has progressively exhibited heightened sensibilities with respect to editorial concerns in children’s programming, which has led to a significant increase in the number of episodes being referred for review. There is far greater oversight of children’s programming in terms of the content’s compliance with non-classification matters, such as ABC Editorial Policies.

Both the ABC KIDS iview and ABC ME apps, along with the main iview service, include a parental filter so parents can control their children’s viewing boundaries. The ABC’s websites and apps for children follow strict protocols to minimise risk to children and protect their privacy.

The ABC believes online protection of children and young people under the age of 18 is a shared responsibility between the ABC, the parent or guardian, and the child, and aims to ensure that children and young people who engage with the ABC’s online spaces understand the possible risks they face and how to minimise them.

Contact the ABC

The ABC welcomes feedback on the 2020 corporate responsibility report or any part of the ABC Annual Report. Comments, questions or other feedback can be addressed to:

The Annual Report Coordinator
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
700 Harris Street
Ultimo NSW 2007
Ph +61 2 8333 1500
http://www.abc.net.au/contact/contactabc.htm