Threats against ABC staff spiral, Twitter a 'cesspool'

·2-min read
Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS

Threats against ABC staff have escalated along with online trolling, according to the organisation's managing director David Anderson.

Giving evidence at a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday, Mr Anderson said threats to the personal safety of staff have intensified, with the ABC referring more incidents to the police.

He flagged a review of whether the organisation was doing enough to support its employees and said he was worried about the ABC's public-facing staff.

"We're coming to a precipice here, particularly in the discussion around how we can protect our people," Mr Anderson said.

The concerns come in the wake of the broadcaster's coronation coverage, which led to Stan Grant stepping away as host of the Q&A program last week.

The veteran correspondent made the decision to leave Q&A after racism against him intensified following his involvement in a panel discussion about the King's coronation.

Mr Grant was invited to participate in the televised discussion on coronation day, during which he pointed out that the crown represents the invasion and theft of Aboriginal land.

That segment sparked about 1800 complaints from the public, the Senate committee inquiry hearing was told.

Hundreds of those complaints consisted of racist attacks, David Anderson said, while other complaints said the coronation discussion was worthwhile but poorly timed.

"Some of it was in good faith, quite a lot of it was not in good faith," Mr Anderson said.

He and news director Justin Stevens flagged that the organisation would review how it supported staff who were subjected to vitriolic abuse.

"I think the time for dignified silence is over, I think for our people we need to be certainly more public supportive of them as well as what we do internally," Mr Anderson said.

Mr Anderson also said he was especially worried about Indigenous staff at the voice referendum approaches.

He has previously apologised to Mr Grant while ABC journalists have rallied to support the Q&A host in newsrooms across the country.

News director Justin Stevens said there was a correlation between coverage of the ABC and its staff in commercial media and the abuse they were subjected to online.

He read out several headlines attacking the ABC's coronation coverage that had been published and broadcast by commercial media.

Mr Stevens explained that Stan Grant had been subjected to relentless racism for a long time for doing his job, but the coronation coverage led to a particular spike in racial vitriol.

"We're talking about a really large volume and torrent of racial abuse and threats to Stan and his family over the course of a number of days," he said.

The ABC is increasingly withdrawing from Twitter, which Mr Stevens described as a "cesspool", due to the intensification of trolling on the platform.