May 8, 2015
Former SBS journalist Marion Ives lost her job on May 1. Photo: Facebook
In a fortnight in which SBS has been mired in controversy, a journalist from the network has lost her job after sharing an article on Facebook that was critical of the broadcaster.
In an email to colleagues, Marion Ives said she was “not given any concrete reasons” for the decision, but was told “budget constraints and reviews of staff” meant she would no longer be given shifts.
Ives, 34, had been working at the network on a part-time and casual basis for seven years.
When contacted by Fairfax Media, Ives said she was called into a meeting with management on Friday, May 1, the day after posting the article to her Facebook timeline.
She said she had been given no previous warnings, and was given no reasons for the decision other than that management had reviewed staffing requirements. May 1 was also the date of her son’s third birthday.
SBS would not comment on the matter other than a short statement from a spokesman.
“As I’m sure you can appreciate, SBS is not in a position to discuss employment information about individuals,” the spokesman said.
“Like any organisation, SBS regularly reviews its workforce to ensure it meets the needs of the business.”
The article in question was written by former SBS Dateline presenter Helen Vatsikopoulos and discussed SBS’s decision not to permanently hire an Iraqi-born cadet, Widyan Al-Ubudy, upon the completion of her cadetship late last year.
According to an earlier report in The Australian, that decision was also made because of budget constraints.
The Vatsikopoulos article did not accuse SBS of wrongdoing but implied the network might be failing to adequately employ people of diverse backgrounds. The piece was titled: “Whitewash? That’s not the colour of the SBS charter”.
Ives shared the article on Facebook without adding her own commentary. But her senior colleague Steven Wilson – chief producer at SBS World News – reportedly commented negatively on the Facebook post, which Ives has since deleted.
Wilson denied telling senior management about Ives’ post but told New Matilda he had “possibly” discussed it with people of an equal or lower level in the office.
There was no evidence that Ives was removed from the casual roster because she had shared the Facebook article.
Ives told Fairfax Media she had been “inundated with messages of support from colleagues” but would not offer any further on-the-record comment.
Friends and acquaintances posted their commiserations on Ives’ Facebook page.
“You’ve given so much to SBS over the years,” said former colleague Yalda Hakim, now at the BBC. “Those of us who spent years working with you appreciate your commitment to the network.”
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance chief executive Paul Murphy said the union was concerned at the way media organisations were using social media policies.
“Journalists are under increasing pressure to be active on social media, to promote their stories in order to promote the brand of their employer,” he told Fairfax Media.
“But social media policies that we see in play at the moment are being used almost exclusively in a punitive manner against individual journalists when there’s a controversy that arises.”
This was not a concern that was particular to SBS, Mr Murphy said. He said the MEAA was providing assistance to Ives but would not comment in detail.
SBS has been in the headlines for two weeks since the sacking of former sports journalist Scott McIntyre and the premiere of controversial documentary Struggle Street.
McIntyre was fired after he posted a series of tweets critical of Anzac Day and Australian soldiers, which SBS argued was in breach of its code of conduct.
Western Sydney residents and Blacktown City Council demonstrated outside SBS headquarters on Wednesday to register their objections to the Struggle Street trailer.
The firing of McIntyre sparked public debate about nationalism, the Anzac legacy and free speech.
On Friday, an SBS spokesman stressed there was no connection between the dismissals of McIntyre and Ives.
“The two matters are completely unrelated,” the spokesman said.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au