ABC management has knocked back an upcoming Four Corners episode by prominent journalist Louise Milligan 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 the federal government.
Four Corners staff were expecting the episode to run this Monday following weeks of delays, but staff were informed on Thursday it would 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 defamation action against the ABC and Ms Milligan over the 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 blocked after news director Gaven Morris upwardly referred it to Mr Anderson for final approval. The sources said the story was originally set to run in May and had been approved by the companys legal department and head of investigations, John Lyons. Questions about the episode were put to the Prime Ministers office earlier in the week.
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 the Prime Minister is a key follower of the movement. The Age and Herald has not seen any evidence of a relationship between Mr Morrison and a QAnon supporter and does not suggest that one exists.
An ABC spokesperson said the public broadcaster does not comment on upcoming Four Corners episodes.
The ABC did not pull a story from broadcast. Any suggestion to the contrary is misleading and mischievous, the spokesperson said. All ABC content is subject to the same rigorous editorial decision making processes before being published. 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.
The episode could still air at some point in the future.
The ABC sources, who spoke anonymously because they were not authorised to comment publicly on the matter, said the decision was made days after Mr Morris received a call from the Prime Ministers office. The call was about a range of matters including Four Corners episode about Mr Porter and the upcoming episode about Mr Morrison, the sources said. A spokesman for the Prime Minister declined to comment.
Another ABC source told the Herald and The Age that the Four Corners team had asked political editor Andrew Probyn to question the Prime Minister on their QAnon story at his press conference in Canberra on Thursday. When contacted, Mr Probyn declined to comment. At the press conference, Mr Probyn did not ask about Qanon, but instead about the Victorian lockdown.

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