Big Issues

The Fallout From Stan Grant’s Resignation Is Only Beginning

stan-grant on Q&A ABC

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Wiradjuri presenter and journalist Stan Grant presents his final episode of Q+A tonight after announcing he’s resigning from the ABC on Friday. Grant explained he’s “had enough” of the racism he endures from social media, that the ABC failed as an institution to support him against the vitriol, and that “the media sees only battle lines, not bridges”.

So, What Happened With Stan Grant And The ABC?

Last Friday, Grant published his final column for the ABC. In it, he wrote that he would be stepping away from the broadcaster and media.

This comes in the aftermath of the ABC’s coverage of King Charles’ coronation earlier this month. As part of the live coverage, the broadcaster hosted a panel discussion program on the legacy of the monarchy called The Coronation: A discussion about the Monarchy in 2023. Along with Grant, guests included Australian Republic Movement co-chair Craig Foster, writer Kathy Lette, and constitutional law professor Anne Twomey, among others.

On the program, Grant explained the dark legacy the British monarchy holds for First Nations peoples. “The Crown is not above politics to us, because the symbol of that Crown was, it represented the invasion, the theft of land, and in our case, the exterminating war which next year will mark 200 years,” he said at the time.

The backlash Grant received for his statements was severe and racially charged. Viewers threatened to boycott the ABC over Grant’s “despicable” statements, and The Australian Monarchist League as well as Liberal MP Julian Leeser — who also appeared as a guest panelist on the program — both encouraged people to submit complaints to the ABC.

Support for Grant came from many First Nations commentators and public figures, but not from the ABC. Grant addressed this in his column on Friday, saying, “no one at the ABC — whose producers invited me onto their coronation coverage as a guest — has uttered one word of public support”.

In fact, on last week’s Media Watch, Paul Barry seemed to frame his own employer’s coverage of the coronation — specifically, the discussion Stan Grant contributed to — as disrespectful, reading out the disgruntled comments of “loyal ABC viewers” and at one point even responding to the ABC’s defence of their coverage with the words: “Sure, but what about the timing?”

How Did The ABC Respond To Stan Grant’s Resignation?

Since Grant announced his resignation, the ABC has ordered an investigation into the complaints. In a statement from ABC news director Justin Stevens, Stevens stood by the segment, Grant’s contribution, and criticised the right wing press’s targeted smear campaign against Grant.

“It is part of the ABC’s role to facilitate such important conversations, however confronting and uncomfortable, and to reflect the diversity of perspectives,” the statement read. “The responsibility for the coverage lies with ABC News management, not with Stan Grant. Yet it is he who has borne the brunt of a tirade of criticism … Reporting on his contribution to the panel discussion has been unfair, inaccurate, and irresponsible. It has contributed to fuelling horrendous personal and racial abuse.”

In a staff email obtained by The Guardian, David Anderson, managing director of the ABC, also apologised to Grant for the ABC’s lack of support. “Stan Grant has stated that he has not felt publicly supported,” Anderson said. “For this, I apologise to Stan. The ABC endeavours to support its staff in the unfortunate moments when there is external abuse directed at them.”

Despite official statements of apologies and support for Grant, the damage appears to have been done. According to reporting by Crikey, Grant’s departure has lowered morale, particularly among those staff from culturally diverse backgrounds.

Staff of the ABC have staged a gathering in Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney offices to show solidarity with Grant. Many of them hold signs with #IStandWithStan and #WeRejectRacism.

A Bigger Issue Than Stan Grant’s Recent Experiences

Racism and lack of cultural safety in Australian media is far more wide-reaching than Stan Grant’s recent experiences. According to investigations authored by The Conversation and commissioned by Media Diversity Australia between 2020 and 2022, First Nations journalists and other marginalised reporters are the main targets for online abuse.

The Online Safety of Diverse Journalists report also reflected, as with Grant’s statement, that marginalised reporters are often not provided with support. Rather, they were expected to endure it as “part of the job”.

Grant’s sentiment is also shared by NITV. The Indigenous network, which sits within SBS, released a statement on Sunday announcing they would no longer be active on Twitter due to “racism and hate”.

“We’ve had enough of the racism and hate that we see and experience every day on this platform,” the statement read. “It’s just not a place we want or need to be, particularly during a time when things are heavy enough.”

Image credit: Stan Grant on Q&A, ABC