On Thursday, the ABC celebrated the 100th anniversary of its inaugural radio broadcast on what is now called ABC Sydney 702. The previous evening, Jess Malcolm reported in The Australian that some 5000 ABC audience members have signed an open letter to the public broadcaster’s leadership and editorial team expressing “grave concern” about “the ABC’s portrayal of the Israeli-Hamas conflict”.

What’s of special interest in the ABC letter turns on the fact that one of the signatories is Ramona Koval. Currently an honorary fellow at Deakin University in Victoria, Koval is well known to ABC listeners for her role in presenting The Book Show on Radio National, The Ramona Koval Program on Radio 774 in Melbourne and more besides. Also, she was the ABC staff elected director on the ABC board from 2002 to 2006.

It is normal to hear political conservatives criticise the ABC being a conservative-free zone. But Koval does not belong in this camp and it is fair to portray her as a considered person of the left. Put simply, Koval and her thousands of supporters believe the taxpayer-funded public broadcaster has not been balanced in its reporting of the Israel-Gaza war, which commenced on October 7 when Hamas broke a ceasefire and invaded southern Israel.

Israel retaliated shortly after with the aim of defeating the Hamas dictatorship that has ruled Gaza since 2007. In sections of the Western media, Israel’s retaliation in what is a just war has been publicly opposed by not only Arabs who support the Palestinian cause but by many Muslims and the green left.

In Australia, this has led to the worst-ever examples of blatant anti-Semitism, as I documented in my column last week.

As Michael Gawenda, a long-time member of the Australian left and a former editor of The Age newspaper, pointed out in his address to The Sydney Institute last Monday, the leading media outlets in Australia have been broadly hostile to Israel. He named The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald and, yes, the ABC.

Gawenda told his audience: “I am an Australian Jew. I am a lifelong Australian social democrat. I edited a left-liberal newspaper for seven years. But let me tell you this. Every morning I read The Australian and nowadays I thank goodness for it.”

Koval told The Weekend Australian the ABC is “very slow” to make corrections. She added that it “jumped immediately” on the allegation that the al-Ahli Arab Hospital had been bombed by Israel, which “turned out to be an own goal by Palestinian Jihad”. Koval also commented that the public broadcaster exhibits a reluctance to believe information from the Israel Defence Forces but shows “no reluctance to broadcast Hamas claims”.

And then there is the recent meeting of more than 200 ABC journalists who objected to its coverage of the war. The majority of the staff collective that is the ABC expressed the view that the public broadcaster was not sufficiently critical of Israel. Koval urged ABC reporters to decide whether they want to be journalists or activists.

Gawenda also said he found this meeting disturbing in that journalists demanded “the ABC change the language” used to describe what is happening in Gaza. The attempt was to get all ABC journalists to use such charged words as “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” as criticism of Israel.

Gawenda was surprised that ABC executives said at the meeting they would have another look at the guidelines. His position was that David Anderson, the ABC’s managing director and editor-in-chief, should have said that no such guidance as to word usage was going to be mandated and that journalists should stick to their basic job of reporting. In the event, the request was rejected. Gawenda’s point was that this should have been done on the spot.

ABC management is wont to go into denial with respect to criticism. It says, for example, that the public broadcaster is attacked by both Coalition and Labor governments – but fails to acknowledge that ABC journalists tend to criticise both governments from the left. However, when the likes of Koval and Gawenda are critical of the public broadcaster’s coverage of the Israel-Gaza conflict, responsible management would be well advised to look at what they have to say.

And then there is the case of Josh Szeps, who announced on Wednesday he would be stepping down as presenter of his successful ABC Radio 702 Afternoons program.

Like Koval and Gawenda, Szeps is no political conservative. He has described himself as follows: “I’m a misfit. I’m a child of refugees but I’m a white Australian. I’m a gay guy but I hate Mardi Gras. I have Holocaust survivor grandparents but I’m conflicted about Zionism. I’m an ABC presenter but I don’t like kale.”

Apart from his current ABC contract, Szeps is a semi-regular guest on The Fifth Column podcast in the US, hosted by Michael Moynihan and others, which has a libertarian inclination. Szeps also has his own podcast, Uncomfortable Conversations, which is crowdfunded through the Substack website.

As mentioned in my Media Watch Dog blog on October 7, Szeps told Moynihan recently that an unnamed ABC journalist had complained to ABC management about his use of incorrect language. His resignation followed not long after.

On Wednesday, Szeps said he loved the ABC, but added that he was “too spicy” for the public broadcaster and “having truly national bullshit-free conversations about controversial issues is too risky these days”. He declared he does not “want to be at a Christmas lunch where everyone talks in ways that are designed to reassure everyone else that they are on the correct side of worthy issues”.

And that is the essential problem. The ABC was established by Joseph Lyons’s conservative government to report news and not advance causes. Over time, many conservatives have come to recognise it is not complying with its charter. And now the criticism has been embraced by members of the left.