It seems that hardly a day passes without Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) becoming the eye of a media storm. The latest controversy involves the media itself, both old and new.
State-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has apologised for allowing the words ‘AbbottLovesAnal’ to be broadcast during an episode of popular TV program Q&A, in which a panel of public figures answer questions from the audience. The ‘offensive’ phrase was a Twitter handle; the program, which is broadcast live, features an onscreen feed of tweets from viewers who participate under the hashtag #qanda.
The tweet itself read:
i prefer ones twitter feed to their biographies #qanda
In June, the program came under fire for having controversial figure, Zaky Mallah, in its audience. He told the panel that politicians were causing Australians to leave and join the Islamic State.
Mallah was charged in 2003 under Australia's anti-terrorism laws but found not guilty. The earlier episode involved Mallah's question to a parliamentary secretary (junior minister) about his case. In June 2015 Prime Minister Abbott asked “Which side is the ABC on?” adding that “heads should roll” because the ABC had rerun the program without censorship.
— Kobi J A VanBennekom (@kobijv) August 24, 2015
#AbbottLovesAnal I have nothing to add I just want this to continue trending.
— Keegs (@keegs) August 25, 2015
A detailed analysis is beyond the scope of this post, so please explore the links.
Meanwhile the offending Twitter account has been removed. At this stage it's not clear whether it is an unlikely case of self-censorship or action by Twitter itself.
ABC management seems to have learnt a political lesson from the earlier controversy. It did not remove the tweet from its program repeats or online iview version, but blacked out the contentious twitter handle.
Satire site The Shovel mirrored what was happening in realpolitik but joked about the futility of attempts to muzzle the media:
After a terse phone call from Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the ABC has agreed to remove the offending tweet from repeats of the episode, to ensure those who watched the live broadcast are the only people to see the tweet.“I think through our swift actions we’ve managed to stop this from growing further,” a Government spokesperson said.
If the old cliché about all publicity being good publicity is correct, then the Abbott government should easily win the next election.