ABC chief says network is 'on the side of Australia'

ABC Managing Director Mark Scott speaks at the Australia You're Watching It screen content in the 21st century conference 2008. Source: AAP

ABC managing director Mark Scott says the network is "on the side of Australia", amid calls by Prime Minister Tony Abbott for heads to roll at the public broadcaster.

ABC boss Mark Scott has responded to criticism of the public broadcaster's editorial choices, saying the ABC is on Australia's side.

The comment was in response to remarks by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, questioning whether the ABC was on the side of Australia or its enemies, after it allowed a former terror suspect to air his views during a live broadcast.

The ABC has admitted it made an error of judgment by allowing Zaky Mallah, jailed for threatening federal government officials in 2003, to speak on its Q&A program on Monday.

In a speech tonight, Mr Scott will say it is not weak to call the ABC's decision-making in this instance "the wrong call".

"The risks and uncertainties of having him in a live-programming environment weren't adequately considered before the decision was made to accept his application to be in the studio audience," he will say.

"In any team, you can be playing on the same side, but often you will be playing in a different position, with a different role and responsibility."

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in Canberra on Thursday "heads should roll" at the national broadcaster.

The ABC initially ordered an internal review of the program, but allowed the program to be re-broadcast on Wednesday morning and made available on iView.

"Here we had the ABC admitting a gross error of judgment and then compounding that terrible mistake, that betrayal, if you like, of our country," Mr Abbott said.

The prime minister said the ABC had given a platform to a "convicted terrorist and sympathiser" and then compounded the mistake by re-broadcasting the program.

"Heads should roll over this," he said.

"We are not satisfied with an internal ABC inquiry because so often we've seen virtual whitewashes when that sort of thing happens."

Speaking to the ABC's 7.30 program, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull called the network's decision to let Mr Mallah to appear on Q&A an "extraordinary error of judgment" and said his department will conduct an investigation into the matter.

"A lot of people would say the ABC let down its own standards," he said. "Not so long ago [Mallah] nominated two female journalists and said that they should be publicly raped. Now what if he had said that again in the Q&A live audience?"

An ABC spokesman told AAP the broadcaster would co-operate with the inquiry "as required".

Former ABC journo turned MP calls for sacking of executive producer

Former ABC journalist Sarah Henderson, now a federal Liberal MP, has called for the sacking of Q&A's executive producer.

Ms Henderson says Peter McEvoy made a serious error of judgment by allowing convicted criminal Zaky Mallah to appear on the ABC TV program on Monday, putting his staff and other audience members at risk.

"This was too grave an error, the ABC has got to step up," she told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

"This was a clear and obvious stunt."

The MP's comments came as Kevin Andrews became the first federal government minister to boycott the program and encouraged his colleagues to do the same.

The ABC has admitted it was an error of judgment to allow Mr Mallah, jailed for threatening federal government officials in 2003, to participate in the broadcast.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he thought the ABC made a "big mistake" in allowing Mallah to appear.

"I wouldn't want to see the show shut down and the ABC punished forever and a day," he told reporters in Canberra.

Mr Shorten said he would be prepared to still appear on Q&A.

Source AAP

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