Bias: Is “The Drum” Right Wing?

A study of panelists on the ABC discussion programme The Drum appears to reveal an extraordinary bias has developed in favour of the Liberal and National parties.

It is a revelation that contradicts the perennial claims of critics that the ABC’s news and current affairs offerings are left-wing. 

Educator and businessman John Frew conducted a personal study of panelists appearing on The Drum after he became concerned at the lack of opposition or alternative views on the show.

He wrote an article on the subject for John Menedue’s Pearls and Irritations public policy journal.

John Frew said:

…in recent times The Drum astonishingly abandoned an impartial approach to their reporting and disregarded any opinion from our major opposition parties, the Labor Party and the Greens.

I have recently become increasingly disgruntled about what I regard as an unashamed right-wing bias in the selection of panellist for the Drum.  Being aware of a potential confirmation bias on my part I sought hard evidence that would forensically examine what I presumed.  To achieve this I went back over past episodes, identified the panellists, investigated their allegiances and assigned them to groups that shared a common feature of their values.

Mr. Frew reviewed The Drum programmes through May, June and July this year, and found that the only Labor Party-linked panelist was Emma Husar, who left the party some time ago.

That compares to 21 panelists from the coalition and none at all from The Greens.

Mr. Frew says he has made a complaint to the ABC about the situation.


The criticism of The Drum is in marked contrast to an internal ABC review of the 2019 election which was released to the public by coalition parliamentarians. 

That review looked at five episodes of the programme (far fewer than Mr. Frew’s study) and found that the panelists had had a bias toward the ALP.

The same review found ABC News had presented completely unbiased coverage of the election.



In the story published by Pearls and Irritations, Mr. Frew said that he had not received a response to his complaint.

Subsequently, the ABC did respond to him.

In part, the response said:

The Drum is a destination for dynamic and vibrant discussion on the issues of the day. It provides diverse and robust commentary from some of the country’s leading thinkers, exploring issues from a wide range of views, so that audiences are better equipped to make up their own minds. 

While some panel members are identified with particular organisations or bodies, all panellists comment on the topics of the day in which they may or may not have particular expertise.

The Drum selects guests from a huge and diverse range of backgrounds, and political affiliation is only one consideration