Public Broadcaster Apologises for Navy News Video After Allegations of ‘Deceptive Editing’

April 15, 2021 Updated: April 15, 2021

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has apologised for editing footage of a naval ceremony that made it appear as if leading dignitaries watched a modern dance troupe perform.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison criticised the ABC for misreporting the event, while the dance group has accused the public broadcaster of “deceptive editing” and filming the performance from provocative angles.

On Sunday, the Sydney-based 101 Doll Squadron, a modern dance group, was hired to perform at the official commissioning ceremony of the HMAS Supply, a naval replenishment vessel.

The ABC report showed select shots of the dancers performing before cutting away to show footage of Governor-General David Hurley, along with the Chief of Defence Angus Campbell and Chief of Navy Michael Noonan.

It was later revealed by a defence department spokesperson that only the chief of defence was present. Hurley and the chief of navy arrived after the performance.

“I am disappointed that this event was so misreported. I think that was disrespectful to the performers,” Prime Minister Morrison said.

“To suggest the governor-general or others were in attendance in that way, I think was very dishonest,” AAP noted.

The dance group released a statement panning the ABC, saying it not only engaged in “deceptive editing” but shot the dance from very specific angles to “sexualise” the performance.

“The 101 Doll Squadron members have been under personal attack on all media platforms since the weekend, and we now feel unsafe,” Group Director Maya Sheridan said. “The media which purports to support women (the ABC) have been the most virulent.”

“We are very disappointed at the ABC’s deceptive editing of their video piece, which cut to guests and dignitaries who were not in attendance and shooting from angles which could not be seen by the audience,” she added.

“We found this very creepy and reflects more on the ABC’s camera operator and their need to sexualise these women and their dance piece for their own gratification.”

On Thursday, the ABC issued an apology and correction to the controversy saying, “Our reporting team initially believed they (the governor-general and chief of navy) were present both because they were shown in footage of the event and because a government MP had said that they were present.”

“The video should not have been edited in that way, and the ABC apologises to the governor-general and the chief of navy, and to viewers, for this error,” it continued.

The news package was later amended and updated for the evening news bulletin.

However, the ABC stood by its video reporting of the performance, saying, “The ABC’s footage of the dance performance was shot in a standard manner, from the same position as other parts of the ceremony.”

The incident comes just a week after the ABC was forced to apologise to Alice Springs Deputy Mayor Jacinta Price after broadcasting views of her that were “false and defamatory.”

The public broadcaster is also defending a defamation action from former Attorney-General Christian Porter, who is suing the ABC over reports that he was involved in a historic rape allegation.