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SBS apologises to Warren Mundine after breaching impartiality standards during Voice interview

Callan Morse -

Nyunggai Warren Mundine has received a formal apology from taxpayer-funded broadcaster SBS after the network televised a heated debate surrounding the Voice to Parliament which was found to have breached the organisation's Code of Practise.

The segment, aired on the night of the Voice to Parliament referendum, featured Mr Mundine, a prominent No campaigner and former SBS board member, Yes advocate Marcia Langton, and Indigenous journalist Narelda Jacobs as host.

During the interview on SBS' The Point program, Ms Jacobs openly sided with Yes campaigner Professor Marcia Langton, labelling her a "national treasure", before criticising Mr Mundine's dismissal of Ms Langton's assertion that Australia was a racist country.

"I'm not going to take any comments from a person that we are a racist country and that we are racist people," Mr Mundine said at the time, referring to comments made by Professor Langton from earlier in the year where she suggested if No arguments were deconstructed they would be formulated on "base racism".

In response, Ms Jacobs said: "Well, we're not going to sit here and take you abusing a national treasure like Marcia Langton who never said that Australians were racist, and her words were twisted."

"I'm going to stop you there, Warren. I think, well, we've just seen who Warren Mundine is."

In his complaint to the SBS, Mr Mundine said he was referring to 2017 comments made by Professor Langton from years previous.

"In 2017, Ms Langton said 'Of course, Australia's racist. It's a horrible racist country.' I was, in fact, quoting Ms Langton's exact words," Mr Mundine wrote in his letter of complaint.

Following investigation, SBS ombudsman Amy Stockwell found Ms Jacobs acted partially in favour of Ms Langton whilst conducting the interview with Mr Mundine.

"The character observation in the closing statement (by Ms Jacobs) gave the impression one perspective had been unduly favoured over another in a way that was inconsistent with the impartiality provisions of the Code," the SBS ombudsman said.

Through his complaint, Mr Mundine also noted his microphone had been switched off as Ms Langton criticised his business ventures, preventing him from mounting a defence.

The decision by SBS to silence Mr Mundine came after he supported the idea of an audit of funding for Indigenous services.

At the time, Ms Langton "called for a specific audit of 'hundreds of thousands of dollars' of public moneys that were awarded to your (Mr Mundine's) private company for a television program, as well as "seven million dollars and more (you) got from the Coalition Government," a statement to which Mr Mundine was unable to respond due to his microphone being off.

Ombudsman Stockwell found this act to also be in breach of SBS' Code of Practice.

"The timing and communication about the deactivation of your microphone combined with the time taken to return to you for response to a significant claim meant you and the audience did not receive the benefit of your reply," she said.

The Ombudsman said preventing Mr Mundine from defending his business ventures failed to see the standards of a balanced presentation of news and current affairs.

The two-month investigation concluded with Ms Stockwell apologising to Mr Mundine in a near 2000-word letter, confirming SBS was wrong on both counts.

"SBS apologises for these breaches," Stockwell wrote in conclusion to Mundine.

"The content will not be rebroadcast."

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