The alarm at 6am every morning awakens me to the ABC news. It has been that way for as long as I can remember. Before I retired I listened to AM on my way to work. I have an ipad now and what a remarkable instrument of technology it is. I read what attracts me on the ABC web site. Then I paste a couple of thoughts into Facebook, peruse THE AIMN and other blogs. Lastly I do a quick headline appraisal of the Fairfax, Murdoch press and some American sites.
My wife and I are avid viewers of the ABC. On the political front we watch Insiders, Media Watch, Q&A, 7.30 and The Drum. For News we are in the habit of watching Channel 10 5PM nightly news before switching to The Drum, ABC news at 7 and then 7.30.
From that you might conclude that I am biased toward the ABC. You would be correct. I am attracted to a lot of other ABC programs. There are flirtations with other channels such as Sevens Sunday News and programs that feature music or entertainment in particular.
I am attracted to the ABC for two reasons. Firstly in relation to News and Current Affairs it is unsurpassed. Be it the written word or visual media. Secondly their programing (in the main) avoids an American influence. I might even be the only Australian who has never watched an American sit com. I have been part of and watched the Americanisation of Australia all my life and frankly I detest it.
Oh sorry, there is a third. It’s called, an alternative. Let’s take a look at them. In my news reading my alternative is either the Murdoch Press or Fairfax. I was once an avid reader of The Age. Even to the point where to miss a day would result in me thinking that my day had been greatly devalued. It is no longer the world class paper it was. With writers like Henderson, Costello and Vanstone and the influence of the large lady, it has taken a turn to the right. The Herald Sun is Australia’s largest selling newspaper but to call it a newspaper is tantamount to calling a toilet roll a glossy magazine. Their top 10 stories usually includes 6 of a sporting nature.
Personally I think that all Murdoch newspapers are where the truth goes to die.
Similarly the visual media offers very little in quality balanced Current Affairs. There is Meet the Press (A News Ltd production.) Or The Bolt Report where his dreadful journalism is transformed into visual bile. Where even people like Henderson are taken aback by his blatantly loaded biased questions.
I haven’t mentioned talkback radio because where I live we don’t receive Melbourne radio. However, when we lived in Melbourne I listened to Jon Faine. Melbourne Radio is fortunately devoid of the hatred of the likes of Jones and Hadley.
In short I don’t always agree with what I read see or hear on the ABC but for me it is overwhelmingly the fairest and most balanced of all Australian mainstream media.
The ABC has periodically had to withstand attacks from individuals and vested interests. (I remember Keating and Hawke saying it was biased when it suited them.) None however as brazen as the current one. I have read many articles on the subject in support of the ABC. And they are to be commended for doing so.
However, none address motive.
This current attack was started by the Australian Newspaper (known in the trade as the official newsletter of the Liberal Party) a couple of weeks ago. It centred on a perceived bias the ABC allegedly has. Personally I struggle with that perception. Under their charter they are obliged to give a balanced view. Even when the force of evidence is heavily weighted to one side.
Fancy the most biased media outlet in Australia complaining about the bias of another.
At one stage they were so hysterical they were arguing that the ABC should not be promoting Twitter and Facebook on its on line sites while at the same time featuring a social media share button on every story on the page.
Then The Australian came into procession of a leaked document revealing the salaries of a number of ABC staff members and wet themselves with delight. They produced story after story about no one else’s business. In the end we found that collectively a few ABC employees got a combined annual salary equal to what Kyle Sandilands earns in one year.
In the last election the ABC gave limited coverage to the Labor Party in terms of policies where it could be argued that they were competent but battered them in terms of politics where they were abysmal. Climate change is another example of the Charter working against Labor. 98% of the world’s scientists say it is real yet the ABC has to give equal billing to those who say it is not. How silly is that?
I even take issue with the frequency of appearance of Peter Reith on The Drum. He must be the most nauseatingly biased former politician ever. And when Q&A can’t get enough right wing audience members they go to the Christian Hillsong Church for bums on seats.
The attack was quickly taken up by Bolt with cries of outrageous bias while at the same time ignoring his and his Masters behavior during the recent election. In Australian political history there has been nothing like the bias shown by the Murdoch Press. How is it possible to accuse the ABC of bias when two outlets own 85% of the print media and three of the four TV channels are commercial?
Unashamedly the attack was then taken up by the government. It accused the ABC of poor judgement in doing a joint story with The Guardian about phone tapping in Indonesia. Unprecedented were the words used to describe Tony Abbotts attack on the independent broadcaster. Others joined in. Cory Bernardi went on AM and to show their fairness the ABC gave him an undeserving 15 minutes of which Fran Bailey took the Tea Party sympathizer apart. The speaker Bronwyn Bishop had her say in the party room. Why was the speaker even involved in the debate if she is independent and unbiased? Malcolm Turnbull and Ian McDonald then followed suit.
So why all the dislike of Aunty? After all it is a much loved, trusted, and well run institution which in some areas is technologically streets ahead of its commercial rivals.
In fact it could be argued that Aunty is very much woven into the fabric of Australian culture.
Is it because conservatives don’t like successful public enterprises? Like the Clean Energy Finance Corp. It is making around $200 million a year. It got a stay of execution last Tuesday. What sort of Government would ditch a company making that sort of profit? Ideology gone mad I would suggest.
Bernardi insists that the ABC should take advertising. He seems to overlook the fact that it is the lack of revenue from this source that is killing print media. That and deplorable content. And he wants Aunty to also take a slice. On top of that he reckons we should pay for online content. When Fran Kelly asked if we should pay twice he didn’t answer. He did indicate though that there was virtue in commercial media because it was ‘’funded by advertising revenues”, while “the ABC is funded by the taxpayers”. Bernardi’s main gripe seemed to be that the ABC was encroaching on online media space again ignoring the fact that Aunty just happens to be light years ahead of the commercial outlets. And they don’t like that of course.
A recent study found that among Australian adults, 64 percent regard ABC radio programs as “good” while only 51 percent give a “good” rating to commercial radio. (The “bad” ratings are 11 percent for the ABC, 35 percent for commercial radio.) The contrast for television is even higher – 78 percent “good” for the ABC comparing with 44 percent for commercial stations.
Similar differences are found for trust. For coverage of the recent election campaign, the ABC was highly trusted, followed by the Fairfax media, and the Murdoch media came a very poor third.
The IPA (The right wing think tank) is influential in Coalition ranks and has the same aim as Murdoch. They both want to see the ABC defunded or commercialised. In doing so they want to eliminate what they see as left wing political bias and increase their own.
It is estimated that editorially Murdoch gave the conservatives about 30 million dollars’ worth of free advertising in the last election. Now he wants his pound of flesh. We have seen the first salvo shot at the ABC. I wonder what they will take aim at next.
As it stands the Prime Minister is making a mess of everything he touches at the moment so it may not be politicly astute to bury the ABC just yet but I’m sure it’s in his head to do so.
But I also think there will be an uprising when he tries it.
This statement by ABC Managing Director Mark Scott pretty much sums it up:
“We have come under concentrated attack from News Corp,” he said. “Some aspects seem quite obsessed by us and I think there are some who have an ideological opposition to public broadcasting. I think there are some who think they would make more money if the ABC wasn’t what it is today.”
To quote Amanda Meade of The Guardian:
With those remarks Scott got to the heart of the issue. The newspaper is ideologically opposed to a public broadcaster. It believes the ABC is taxpayer-funded competition for an already stretched commercial media, and has expanded far beyond its original remit with ABC Online, digital channels, a 24-hour news channel and an overseas channel, Australia Network, which should – News Corp believes – rightly be run by Sky News.
There are three areas of motive. The competition motive. The power motive or the ideological motive. One or all could be at play here but because Murdoch spends $25 million annually to prop up The Australian I think I will settle on a mixture of all three.
It is not often we see two entities, a government and a commercial news outlet the size of News Corp, combine to manufacture a reason for the demise of a government independent body.
Then again Tony owes him one.