Margo Kingston

Margo Kingston

Co-publisher and editor-in-chief at No Fibs
Margo Kingston is a retired Australian journalist and climate change activist. She is best known for her stint as Phillip Adams’ ‘Canberra Babylon’ contributor and her work at The Sydney Morning Herald and #Webdiary. Since 2012, Kingston has been a citizen journalist, reporting and commenting on Australian politics via Twitter and No Fibs.
Margo Kingston


February 4, 2013

Mr Mark Scott,
Managing Director

Dear Mark,

Re: ABC apology to anonymous complainant and reprimand to Jon Faine over his interview with former shock-jock Michael Smith 

I write to seek information on this matter and express my concerns at its process.

I first learned of it through a strongly worded protest by ABC political editor Chris Uhlmann published on Twitter at @CUhlmann:

The ABC’s finding that Jon Faine is guilty of a “lapse in standards” in 2 interviews on the AWU slush fund is absurd.

Jon challenged two journalists to defend claims that the Prime Minister acted improperly in her former career as a lawyer.

Jon believes that, based on the publicly available evidence, the Prime Minister did no wrong. To date, the facts support that view.

The interviews, which so shamed the ABC’s correctness commissars, were robust exchanges between a broadcaster and two journalists.

Jon pressed them to lay out the key allegations and provide evidence to support their claims of wrongdoing. In short, he did his job. Well.

Jon is one of the jewels of local radio’s crown and I am proud that I was once his producer. I await a robust defence of him from management.

While on the topic. I also think it’s high time we fell in behind our peerless political commentator Barrie Cassidy.

Naturally I was interested to find out more.

Chris’s link was to an OZ paywall story. I found a short piece at Fairfax. I found nothing at all on the ABC media platforms or on its corporate website.

Luckily, former ABC broadcaster Peter Clarke sent me the result of his in-depth search, a very buried, very brief statement of the decision with no background or reasons.


To my great surprise I got more information from Mr Smith’s website, because he published the ABC email to the anonymous complainant, who appears to be one of  his fans. See ‘Jon Faine – will you resign?

As I write, I can find no media release by the ABC and no news story on the apology, reprimand or Mr Uhlmann’s call for ABC management to back Mr Faine and withdraw the finding.

The day after the finding, a listener who had heard Jon Faine comment on air, reported

                    FAINE NEWS: @MsMountebank reports that during ‘Wrap’ segment today Jon Faine said he                   wasn’t happy with the ABC decision against him and had asked for a review.

However, he said he had conflicting advice whether it was possible to get a review.

Faine also noted that within minutes of receiving the decision it was online at The Age, which did not ask him for comment. This was despite the fact that one of the people in the interview complained of was Age journalist Mark Baker.

Editors note: The Age needs to be asked if Faine’s allegation is true, and if so, to explain its poor form. I would also love to publish an interview with Mr. Faine in Any takers?

Mr Faine’s comments were not reported by the ABC and ABC Melbourne radio did not reply to my request for audio of his remarks. The Australian reported them behind a paywall and Crikey also reported behind a pay wall. Michael Smith reported them here. Fairfax, despite the criticism by Mr Faine of its actions, was silent. I tried in vain to obtain from Melbourne ABC radio an audio or transcript of Mr Faine’s remarks.

To be blunt, I was horrified by the process, the failure of transparency by corporate ABC, the apparent censorship by ABC news platforms, and the lack of respect shown to Mr Faine’s listeners. I also believe it is wrong not to publish the background to and reasoning behind such an important decision. It is unfair to Mr Faine, contemptuous of his listeners, and inimical to transparency in what will be an extraordinarily fraught election year.

I tweeted the following into the ABC void:

Mark, I find myself in agreement with Gerard Henderson at The Sydney Institute website:

As ABC managing director and editor-in-chief, Mark Scott is paid substantially more than the Treasurer Wayne Swan.  When there is a complaint about a senior ABC figure like Jon Faine, this clearly is a matter for the public broadcaster’s editor-inchief to resolve.  However, nice Mr Scott delegates such key matters to middle level ABC bureaucrats based in Canberra.

Please explain.


Margo Kingston


Audio of the 2 Jon Faine interviews in question: Jon Faine Interview with Mike Smith and Mark Baker 23 November 2013

AFHP Archive for Jon Faine apology 

Selected tweets from working journalists concerned at the implications of the Faine decision: