Q&A producer gets formal warning over Mallah appearance

Television personality Ray Martin has been appointed by the ABC to conduct its review into Q&A. AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Executive producer of Q&A Peter McEvoy has been given a formal warning in the wake of the furore over Zaky Mallah’s appearance.

The ABC board, which met on Wednesday, said McEvoy, who has produced the program since its start in 2008, “acknowledges the failure of editorial process and judgement around this episode”.

The warning, issued under the provisions of the ABC industrial agreement, came from management and was announced by the board.

Meanwhile, former managing director of SBS Shaun Brown and long-time television personality Ray Martin have been appointed by the ABC to conduct its review into Q&A.

The board said their findings, to be published later this year, would inform its thinking as it oversaw Q&A’s performance and structure. The review was planned before the row over the appearance of Mallah on Q&A.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull – who has received a report from an investigation he ordered his department to undertake of the episode featuring Mallah, who was convicted of threatening to kill Commonwealth officers – welcomed the board’s statement.

Turnbull said it showed the directors “have met, considered the issues relating to that program in the light of their statutory responsibilities and taken some action”. He has repeatedly urged the ABC board to be more active in its oversight of the public broadcaster.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has previously said “heads should roll” over the Mallah affair.

The board said Q&A was an important program, attracting a “large, loyal and engaged audience”.

The program “should have a long future on the ABC and decisions to make any changes to its format and operational practices should be made after careful consideration”.

The review will look at 22 episodes aired in the first half of this year, scrutinising audience, panel and subject selection, and social media strategy including on-air tweets.

The board said it agreed with management that the decision to allow Mallah to appear live was wrong.

“Given his criminal background and past public statements, the live broadcast meant that the ABC was not in a position to manage unpredictable or inappropriate actions or responses,” the board statement said.

“There was inadequate consideration given to important issues around his presence in the studio, considering his previous actions, his desire for the media spotlight and some of his public comments. He should not have been allowed to participate in the program from the studio audience.”

The vetting had also failed to detect his social media comments that “should have confirmed him as an inappropriate studio guest”.

The issues involved with his appearance should have been referred up to senior management in the television division, the board said.

The board was updated on the most recent security briefing from the police. Any future advice would be considered and any security changes recommended would be implemented, the board said.

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