ABC bosses pull Four Corners episode linking PM to QAnon figure

ABC management has pulled an upcoming Four Corners episode about the relationship between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and a supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory, a decision that could be seen as an attempt to dampen tensions between the national broadcaster and federal government.

The episode was expected to run this Monday following weeks of delays, but staff have since been informed it will not go to air following a decision by managing director David Anderson. The decision comes just days after Industry Minister Christian Porter decided to drop his defamation action against action the ABC over its reporting of a historical rape allegation.

A Four Corners episode about Prime Minister Scott Morrison will not go to air this Monday.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Multiple ABC sources told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age the episode was pulled after news director Gaven Morris failed to give it the seal of approval and referred it to Mr Anderson. However, the sources said the story did receive approval from legal and head of investigations, John Lyons. An ABC spokesperson said it does not comment on upcoming Four Corners episodes.

“All ABC content is subject to the same rigorous editorial decision making processes before being published,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The decision to publish is only made once all requirements, including editorial and legal requirements, have been met and it is appropriate to do so.”

Mr Porter dropped his defamation action against the ABC over its reporting of a historical rape allegation against him on Monday, but the settlement deal was followed by an exchange of barbs between the parties as they disputed the details. Mr Porter strenuously denies the allegations.

Mr Anderson is expected to appear before a parliamentary committee next week to face questions about the settlement of a defamation case brought by Mr Porter.

Board director Joseph Gersh said earlier today editorial decisions were made by the editor-in-chief, editorial staff, and managing director, Mr Anderson.

He said he would have preferred rape allegations against Industry Minister Christian Porter were never made but asserted it was the national broadcaster’s responsibility to hold the powerful to account.

“The ABC has to be frank and fearless in what it does, in holding those in power to account and it has to do so consistently with its charter and editorial policies, and the board can’t interfere,” Mr Gersh said. “Would I prefer a world in which these allegations were never made? Yes. But that’s not my choice. And nor is it my role as a board member to stop the ABC acting professionally in the pursuit of its obligations to the public.”

The Qanon conspiracy theory centres on discredited claims about an international paedophile ring involving politicians and celebrities.

The Guardian reported in 2019 that a family friend of Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a key follower of the movement.

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