‘I am dismayed’: ABC boss apologises to Stan Grant after Q+A exit

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ABC managing director David Anderson has apologised to journalist Stan Grant after the Q+A presenter quit the show and said he felt the broadcaster abandoned him to face persistent racist attacks alone.

In his first comments since Grant made his criticisms public on Friday, Anderson announced he would review how the ABC tackles racism affecting its staff but also hit out at “sustained and vitriolic” coverage of the national broadcaster from unnamed commercial outlets.

ABC Q+A host Stan Grant has received an apology from the broadcaster’s managing director.Credit: James Brickwood

“Stan has our full support,” Anderson said in an email to staff obtained by this masthead. “And he has always had our full support. Stan makes an enormous contribution to conversations of national importance.”

Grant, a Wiradjuri man and one of the ABC’s stars, appeared on its live coverage in the hours leading up to the coronation for a panel on the contemporary meaning of the monarchy where he spoke about how the Crown had “put a weight” on Indigenous people.

His remarks triggered days of critical coverage in conservative traditional media outlets, with pundits arguing the panel was inappropriate ahead of King Charles’ crowning and a vicious social media pile-on that initially went without a public response from the ABC.

Anderson said it was the ABC’s job to reflect Australia’s diversity of cultures and perspectives, even when that was uncomfortable. “If we did not do this, we would not be doing our job,” Anderson said. “Unfortunately, it is increasingly drawing unacceptable abuse, particularly online and through social media.

“The ABC is never above scrutiny or criticism. However, the nature of the anti-ABC reporting from some commercial media outlets is sustained and vitriolic. This has real-world consequences for ABC presenters and journalists who are personally attacked and vilified.

“Stan Grant has stated that he has not felt publicly supported. For this, I apologise to Stan.”

Grant did not respond to a request for comment. The saga has drawn attention to fears that the coming referendum on an Indigenous Voice to parliament will trigger an uptick in racially charged vitriol. On Sunday, Australia’s national Indigenous broadcaster NITV abandoned Twitter to stop its staff being subjected to “ongoing and increasing racism”.

“Our thoughts are with Stan and his family as he endures this storm,” NITV told its staff in an internal note seen by this masthead. “Unfortunately, this sort of abuse is common, as many of us know from personal experience, and the upcoming referendum and corresponding public debate is generating an increase in this type of activity.”

NITV, a mainstay of broadcasting in Australia, has dropped its Twitter account amid concerns about racism on the platform.Credit: Peter Rae

Twitter, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, does not respond to media inquiries and no longer has staff in Australia. The ABC has made a formal complaint about Twitter and, on Sunday, Anderson said he had agreed with a recommendation from the ABC’s Indigenous advisory Bonner Committee to review how the broadcaster tackles racism affecting staff. Details, Anderson said, would come soon.

Karen Percy, a former ABC journalist and media section president of the journalists’ union, said ABC presenters received disproportionate criticism. “It’s great that Australians have a sense of ownership of the ABC, but that doesn’t mean they can dictate to, bully and berate ABC staff,” said Percy, who urged the broadcaster to make its workplace “safe”.

The recently established ABC Ombudsman’s Office is examining the complaints about Grant’s broadcast, but former ABC staff-elected director Quentin Dempster said he thought Grant’s contributions to the panel, as well as his criticism of the ABC afterwards, were justified. “The ABC has a sad history of what’s known as the pre-emptive buckle,” Dempster said.

In a brief statement, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said she took the situation seriously, without specifically addressing Grant’s complaints about the ABC.

“Racism is completely unacceptable,” Rowland said. “I have instructed my office to contact ABC management to ensure all available eSafety complaint avenues and support resources are being utilised.”

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