A fellow ABC host says Stan Grant’s shock decision to step aside from Q+A shows the national broadcaster has been “derelict in its duty” to maintain the distinction between presenters and commentators.
Grant announced he was “walking away” from the flagship current affairs program in a column on Friday, claiming he had been the target of racist abuse following his appearance on the ABC’s coronation coverage.
The veteran journalist accused the ABC of an “institutional failure” pointing out he had been asked to appear on the coronation coverage to give his thoughts on colonisation and empire, yet “not one ABC executive” had spoken up in his defence.
But according to the host of ABC Radio National’s Between the Lines, Tom Switzer, the situation represents the failure of ABC management to “rein him in”.
Switzer told Englishheadline Australia’s Erin Molan that he has known Grant for a long time and there must have been “some pretty vile and offensive things” said on social media to drive him away.
However, he also said that Grant’s “style of journalism” had changed dramatically over the last six months as the Voice debate had intensified.
“Full time ABC staff, presenters of primetime programs – these are reporters and presenters – have a duty to be fair minded, balanced, and they strive for objectivity. And that applies especially to journalists who present high profile programs like Q&A,” Switzer said.
“However, in recent months, Stan has become a provocative columnist as well as a presenter… (he) has become something of a flamethrower in the public debate.
“He can’t be both. He can’t be both a presenter or a program pretending to be objective, and at the same time, be a flame-throwing columnist.
“So ultimately, this is a failure of ABC management to rein him in.”
In response to Grant’s column announcing his departure, ABC Director of News Justin Stevens confirmed that Grant was asked to participate in the coronation coverage and the responsibility for the coverage “lies with ABC News management”.
“He was asked to participate as a Wiradjuri man to discuss his own family’s experience and the role of the monarchy in Australia in the context of Indigenous history,” Mr Stevens said.
According to Switzer, Grant’s views reflect the “growing consensus among academics and teachers” that British colonialism was entirely negative, and ABC management shouldn’t have allowed one of its presenters to become a “flame-thrower in this debate”.
“Stan focuses on the imperialist past, that the British Empire was solely about theft of land and the exploitation of Indigenous people. Now, some of that is undeniable, and only a lunatic would be proud of it,” Switzer said.
“But is it racist to say that British settlement also led to some wonderful achievements; you know, the rule of law, liberal democracy, market economics, a justice system, a free press?
“I mean, British colonialism was central in the creation of a great country like Australia.”
“Unfortunately, in his commentary, he presented a really one-sided view and this was supposed to be the ABC’s primetime coronation coverage.”
“The ABC management should never have allowed that to have taken place. He can’t be both a presenter and a columnist,” he said.