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In praise of our ABC

By Loz Lawrey

ABC radio grew my mind. I mean it.

Each working day, throughout my career in the building industry, I listened exclusively to one of our public broadcaster’s fine radio stations as I toiled at my trade.

While my body performed familiar routine activities on this physical plane, my mind travelled the world, sharing the experiences of my fellow humans. I was sensing the zeitgeist, glimpsing the light of our potential, expanding my horizons, growing my understanding.

I heard sweet music. I heard the war of ideas. I developed an awareness of both world affairs and our own domestic political landscape. I felt informed enough to cast a well-considered vote at election time, proud to be a conscious contributor to our social democracy.

This is what a public broadcaster can do for a citizen and, by extension, society at large:

It can inform, educate and entertain. It can reflect the public consciousness and the nation’s conscience. It can help us grow into better people, both individually and communally.

At the end of the day, the ABC, at a cost of few cents a day from each of us, makes our society a better one. That is an absolute pittance if we acknowledge that its social value is beyond measure.

Where do we turn when bushfires rage in our regional areas? Whether in politics, sport or current affairs, the ABC is the source Australians look to for up-to-the-minute information.

So when I see the Turnbull government’s typical conservative agenda to use “financial unsustainability” or “unaffordablity” as reasons to erode services, reduce coverage, sack journalists and generally dumb down this fine national asset I get upset. Very upset. In fact, I’m “mad as hell … etc”.

When government policy development is premised on the financial “bottom line”, social impact and benefit projections are often ignored.

The ABC is intricately entwined with our nation’s history and social fabric, but when conservative politicians see a public broadcaster, their neoliberal instinct is to destroy it.

They see a “socialist” organisation that empowers people and challenges their own elitist authority and sense of entitlement. Their unthinking response is to break it up and dismantle it, in a gradual process of attrition achieved by continual cost-cutting.

The worship of predator capitalism and the preferencing of “the market” ahead of people and our society blinds conservative governments to the social gifts that can flow from an independent public broadcaster such as the ABC.

And this is precisely why Turnbull and Co. must be brought to heel. The arrogance of this government with its blatant agenda to dilute and undermine the people’s broadcaster is astounding.

When former PM Tony Abbott accused the ABC of not being “on the side of Team Australia”, he missed the point, absolutely: “Team Australia” is we, the people. Not some temporary government of the day our democratic process has thrown up.

Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp has driven, over many years, an attack on good journalism globally, sending the quality and depth of reporting in a downward spiral into mediocrity.

Let’s face it, the Murdocracy does not encourage thought and consideration.

Murdoch’s presence on our planet has been, and continues to be, a brake on human evolution. His media empire has had a regressive impact on our social development.

After a lifetime of profiteering from divisive and often racist journalism, Murdoch has much to atone for: Spreading the hateful, anti-social tenets of neoliberalism through dumbed-down opinion pieces; demonising every social minority from welfare recipients to Muslims and publishing cartoons that vilify native Australians.

The Murdoch legacy will never be one to celebrate.

So now that a former Murdoch minion has been installed as the ABC’s new managing director by the Turnbull Trickle-down Team, those of us who value the ABC and wish to see it retain some semblance of its former glory are rightfully concerned.

So much damage has already been done. How much more will be done before Australians find themselves without a national broadcaster which operates unconstrained by the frenzied imperatives of profit-making, which rely on hysterical headlines trumpeting hatred, fear and division?

The Abbotts and Turnbulls of this world believe that once in power, every public asset they touch is theirs to do with as they wish, whether that means to sell it, privatise it or close it down.

Our public broadcaster should be off-limits to the barbarians of elitist entitlement.

Who do Turnbull and Co. think they are? Do they truly believe their (imaginary) “mandate” entitles them to ravage what is to most Australians a national institution?


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  1. Phil

    Wholeheartedly agree with you. You clearly never did any building work in the vicinity of my home over the past 25 years – all I have ever heard was the anguished falsettos of teen female singers, shock jock ranting, and commercial claptrap from the builders radios around me.

    I too am getting angrier by the day at the arrogance of the LNP ideologists rubbing the ABC nose into the dirt – I know they enjoy it too.

    Anti-intellectualism again raises its ugly head with the return of the conservatives, and the new senate of motley racists, bigots and denialists. To the past three wasted years, Australia must now anticipate another three years of bitter in-fighting, political self interest, manufactured class war and social disharmony. Just how far will these political jerks shove Australia into the mire of mediocrity before people take a stand against their bullying?

  2. Freethinker

    I share your anger and I just wonder if the next ALP government will restore the ABC to the former glory or just leave it as it is.

  3. jim

    I agree the Liberals have distorted “our” ABC and our lifeline to sanity take the 7.30 report now it is the Liberal party report totally unwatchable what will it be like after another three years of this LNP , play school the LNP way I wouldn’t be surprised one bit.

  4. mark delmege

    The local product can be good, indifferent, crap and sometimes even brilliant. I can wear that. But their foreign news coverage is rubbish. Just watch or listen – their early morning coverage is the worst. Its as if intelligence spies or paid for stoolies are setting the news at the start of the day – which infects all other programming one way or another. In that regard we are little more than a well indoctrinated US colony. If you don’t understand that you really need a wider net for your news.

  5. Peter F

    Absolutely agree.Keep in mind that it costs us more than just a ‘few cents a day’ to pay for the commercial claptrap. All money paid by business who advertise is tax deductible business expense.Yes, you got it, we subsidise commercial radio and TV by forgoing tax.

  6. E White

    Thank you for your passionate defence of the ABC – a national treasure to be defended to the hilt against the forces of anti-intellectualism and mediocrity

  7. Ella

    I agree , the ABC and us ARE “Team Australia”. Without the ABC the real news would be a rare commodity.
    The sad thing is we are preaching to the converted. Sadly the Australian public at large has a way to go before they are able to accept and listen to a diversity of opinion.
    May “the force be with you” ABC.

  8. Troy Prideaux

    I generally like what I see and hear on the ABC, but I also feel it’s an incredibly inefficient organisation full of overpaid presenters (generally well within the top 10% earners in Australia) whom all would present less than 100 days each calendar year – an even cushier job than a modern day brigade firefighter IMHO. I’m not saying this doesn’t occur in commercial MSM (I don’t know) but I much prefer the ABC of yesteryear which tended to provide us with more objectivity, less opinion and was significantly leaner – no I don’t need flashy productions to keep me entertained and informed. This is a management issue. There is a leftist bias with the content (not so much the presenters) and I suppose there always has been and that’s not necessarily a bad thing – probably a good thing. However, there does appear to be very little representation of the old working class Australia which is very unfortunate especially if there are issues involved that might stray on the wrong side of the latte-sipping elites sensitivities of subjects like migration, globalisation and economic rationalism. Anyway most would disagree with me, but that’s my 2c observation.

  9. Ricardo29

    I don’t think the old ABC was significantly leaner. When I joined in 1968 it had about 8000 employees. I don’t know the current number but think it would be sugnificantly lower. In those days the ABC ran two (city) radio networks, a bunch of regional radio stations and one TV network. Look at the breadth of offerings today and I would suggest its leaner today. Sadly though, a lot of skills have been lost with the closure of local TV production, the outsourcing of much other production, but more significantly from my pov, the cowing of the organisation as it caves in to the relentless pressure from the conservative government and its boosters in the Murdoch media. Witness he appointment of a former Murdoch employee as MD, the stacking of the board with people who actually hate the organisation and look at the not so subtle changes in reporting. As a former employee I am saddened by what I see as declining standards of reporting as well as a trend to the commercialising of news coverage. The former MD also had a commercial media background so perhaps that’s not surprising. With redundancies and retrenchments there is a loss of corporate memory occurring and I fear the ABC is being commercialised by stealth.

  10. Harquebus

    Today’s ABC is nothing more than a government propaganda service. It under-reports, misreports, omits and skews all stories to support a directed narrative.
    Shame ABC shame.
    With all of the resources available to it, the ABC actually produces very little and acts more like an information and propaganda clearing house.

  11. Troy Prideaux

    Ricardo, I hear ya and there’s a lot of truth in what you say but I’d be reluctant to point the finger at the dollars thrown at the ABC as the cause – current budget $3.1B or thereabouts? That’s a LOT of spondulas even for a corp with a payroll of 8000. I wouldn’t be kicking up such a fuss if I saw these mega-paid presenters actually work even the same amount of days a typical teacher does, but it’s more like half that or even a 10th in some cases. That in itself reeks of gross mismanagement IMHO.

  12. Susan

    I agree wholeheartedly ??
    In regional Australia our link with the world was our ABC my only hope is that Labor will restore it to pre liberal cuts.

  13. Ruth Lipscombe

    We constantly read about the short working hours of AbC presenters.
    I would love to hear the facts from one of them regarding the hours they actually work per day.

  14. guest

    Looking at programs which have been dumped one can see the deliberate suppression of facts and opinion by their omission.
    Fact Checker, The Drum on line and the transcription of interviews are notable exclusions.

    And, yes, money is part of the problem because ABC funding has been reduced. So we get a large number of repeats of programs, sometimes not long after they were first seen. Sometimes it is perpetual cycling of some programs.

    A national broadcaster should not be at the whim of commercial interests.

  15. jimhaz

    [A national broadcaster should not be at the whim of commercial interests]

    (a) the Corporation shall take account of:
    (i) the broadcasting services provided by the commercial and community sectors of the Australian broadcasting system;

    Take account in my view means their charter is to provide what the commercials do not provide – educational information of a HIGH STANDARD. None of the ones sided Murdoch media sources provide non-opinionised information. One sided opinions are not “high standard”, nor very educational. This also actually means their charter is to provide more objective and even left leaning viewpoints whilesoever the commercials do not!

    Another part of the charter is to:

    (c) to encourage and promote the musical, dramatic and other performing arts in Australia.

    So we should be providing more home grown entertainment – not
    The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, not The Hoarder Next Door or Highway Through Hell or Tattoo shows.

  16. Rotha

    Anyone who complains about the ABC, knowing their funding problems is one eyed. Left and Right what are they really? All the other Medea have perforce, their own agendas. Advertising Campains dominate, and news unfriendly to them is deleted or placed small in obscurity in the back pages.
    The ABC suffers pressures from the receivers of cyclic funding to Governments, the best advertising being from trusted lips. Thanks to the Libs cyclic funding, a bag which keeps giving public money, is the realised ambition of every multi national and national company. This and not corrupt parliamentarians is real malaise.
    For example Senator Ian McDonald’s environment legislation gives Monsanto/Syngengta a mainline to public money, the environment and the number of threatened spieces since 2006, when the legislation passed
    Is alarming, but the act says nothing about ongoing monitoring. Only Worlds Best Practice, which is written by
    Monsanto’s green side. The USA Federal Government has not passed a budget in 20 years…we are moving in the same direction.

  17. Rhonda

    Thanks, Loz. Ditto…and v affirming of my own “relationship” with the ABC. Your commentary is both beautiful and sad – ’tis a worrisome state of affairs.

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