ABC Board “stacked” after Turnbull appoints Minerals Council chairwoman

March 22, 2017

Walkley Award-winning reporter and writer Quentin Dempster says the decision to appoint Minerals’ Council chair Vanessa Guthrie to the ABC Board was a “direct ‘political’ choice” that is “provocative and revealing”. As Doc Martin reports, it seems to many like a return to the bad old days of political stacking.

THE MOVE to appoint Vanessa Guthrie, against the advice of an “arms-length” process, follows years of “arrogant disregard” by the major political parties to complaints about “stacking the ABC Board with political partisans,” says veteran reporter Quentin Dempster.

Dempster also told Independent Australia that Guthrie “misunderstood” the importance of being an effective lobbyist for the national broadcaster in front of Parliament and the Government.

Quentin Dempster is a former ABC staff representative on the ABC Board and now an outspoken critic of successive governments cutting funding.

He hopes the plight of the ABC and SBS will become a major issue at the next federal election.

“All Australians who want our public broadcasters to contribute to a sense of national identity and multi-cultural cohesion will have to stand up for these institutions.”

The well-loved broadcaster and journalist says Michelle Guthrie “stuffed up” in her role as managing director of the ABC in front of the Senate Estimates Committee at the end of February.

Traditionally, the public role of a managing director has been “to build bridges with the government and the parliament and specifically with the Expenditure Review Committee to secure additional funding,” Dempster says.

Failing this, Dempster says, the MD should “at least try to diminish Treasury’s claw back tactics.”

Quentin Dempster in 2014 condemning ABC budget cuts

Read the rest of this story at Independent Australia

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Why bother watching the ABC

February 13, 2017

I have been loyal to the ABC for my entire adult life. I worked for “Aunty” too, in radio current affairs, at Radio Australia and for Triple J before it became a kid’s music station.

But now, to be perfectly honest, I can’t be bothered. I’ve given up on ABC News, I find that 7.30 (what kind of postmodern nonsense name is that for a TV current affairs show?) just makes me furious and shouty, and the flagship Q&A is just troll-bait and right-wing apologia interspersed with lectures from pontificator-in-chief Tony Jones.

 

I tweeted this on Monday night and I’ve been surprised and slightly chuffed at the response I’ve had. Over 130 retweets and 144 likes, which is a lot for me. It seems to have struck a chord with people who are as fed up as me with the ABC’s blatant shift to conservatism over the past few years.

I’ve written previously in this column about how Michelle Guthrie is reshaping the ABC to be more Murdoch and Coalition friendly, much to the chagrin of ABC Friends and some staff.

This week, we’ve seen more decisions that confirm this direction with the appointment of yet another #IPADrone to yet another rote-formula radio panel show, showcasing conservatives like the entitled Georgina Downer.

I’ve also given up almost entirely on ABC radio. I’m usually in the car during the day when I listen and, after listening to Jon Faine for years, I’ve finally had enough. He is pompous and pretends he’s progressive, but it is only a layer nano particles thick. When given an opportunity to really stand up for something that is truly progressive, he gets cold feet, lest he come across as *too* leftwing.

Like Leigh Sales on 7.30 and Fran Kelly on RN Breakfast, Faine attacks real lefties and gets all faux tough on ministers. The afternoons on Radio National are no better, with Amanda Vanstone, Patricia Karvelas and Tom Switzer dominating the day. Vanstone is a former Howard-era Liberal minister, while Karvelas and Switzer are both still on Murdoch’s payroll as well as being paid by the ABC. Karvelas even has her own show on Murdoch’s “Fox Down-Under” network.

I’m pleased that my time has been freed up now that I no longer feel the ABC has to be constant background noise in my life. I’ve also stopped reading The Australian entirely too. I don’t even bother with the weekend edition any more.

There’s plenty of alternative sources out there. I’m still a news junkie, but I tend to follow stories more selectively than I used to.

What’s your view?

I’m keen to know what IA readers think of the ABC these days. Please share your thoughts in the comments thread. I will jump in for a chat and perhaps write another column pulling your suggestions for improvements together.

You can read more by IA’s political editor Dr Martin Hirst on his blog Ethical Martini and follow him on Twitter @ethicalmartini.


The ABC still has friends

December 2, 2016

A LONG-SERVING ABC staffer has told IA that the “clock is ticking” on Michelle Guthrie’s “honeymoon period” as managing director of the ABC.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the senior producer says that “rogue managers” have “tasted blood” and “enjoy” the process of making people redundant. Our source also believes that the ratio of production staff to managers has been skewed and that the decision to axe up to nine producers from the science program Catalyst is a “tragedy”.

Under these conditions, our source believes, the ABC will be unable to deliver the promised 17 one-hour science specials under the revamped format.

Many people are concerned about the future of the ABC under a Turnbull-led Coalition government and, now that a former Murdoch executive has taken the reins as managing director, there is disquiet both inside and outside Aunty at the direction the national broadcaster is now taking.

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Over the past week, IA has contacted nearly a dozen current ABC staff. They are reluctant to comment on the record as those still at the broadcaster are fearful that being outspoken will cost them their jobs. This alone is a sign of the “chilling effect” of the managerial style adopted inside the ABC. Our source says that production staff find the situation “stressful” as they busily upskill to meet the challenge of digital disruption.

The whole place gets the need for change,” IA’s mole reveals, “it’s the management who are the Luddites.”

According to a report in The Guardian this week, ABC staff have been warned not to speak out and not to adopt a “defensive mindset” about the changes that continue to come:

‘Staff were angered by an earlier warning from the ABC Radio director, Michael Mason, who told them they had to accept change because “a defensive mindset and a belief that the ABC will flourish regardless of the industry and competition will not work”’.

Read the rest of this story at Independent Australia


Putting criticism of the ABC into perspective

December 2, 2016

The Doc doesn’t disappoint; I wrote a week ago that Michelle Guthrie’s honeymoon is well and truly over. And this week, ABC staff affected by cuts at Radio National have met to pass a no confidence motion in senior management.

I’ll get to allegations that Aunty is racist, and why the ABC got Fairfax to take down a story about Radio National from The Age and SMH websites in a minute, but first I had a long chat with an old friend from my ABC days this week. She’s still at the national broadcaster in a senior capacity and while her worries about “business school thinking” in management circles are very real, she still believes that the ABC is streets ahead of its commercial rivals.

That’s a good and important point to make. My friend points out that ABC journalists are among the best in the country and are still breaking stories despite the “constrained resources”.

To make things easier, I’m going to give my friend a name. Let’s call her Hermione Jones.

Ms Jones says that the issues facing the ABC today are the same ones facing all global media, particularly broadcasters:

  • Ageing demographics.
  • Teenage disengagement from “appointment media”.
  • The need to chase audiences into online spaces and to have mobile, downloadable content available.
  • Rising production costs and a shrinking revenue base.

The difficulty for the ABC, Hermione suggests, is that attempts to appease the corporation’s political masters and its critics will only hasten Aunty’s demise, reduce her independence and give succor to her enemies.

Read the rest of this story at Independent Australia

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Is the honeymoon over for ABC chief Michelle Guthrie?

November 19, 2016

In a week when more cuts to the national broadcaster have been announced, Dr Martin Hirst reports that Friends of the ABC is just one group concerned about the direction being taken by the corporation’s new chief, Michelle Guthrie.

[First published on Independent Australia 18 November]

A long-serving ABC staffer has told IA that the “clock is ticking” on Michelle Guthrie’s “honeymoon period” as Managing Director of the ABC.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the senior producer says that “rogue managers” have “tasted blood” and “enjoy” the process of making people redundant. Our source also believes that the ratio of production staff to managers has been skewed and that the decision to axe up to nine producers from the science program Catalyst is a “tragedy”.

Under these conditions, our source believes, the ABC will be unable to deliver the promised 17 one-hour science specials under the revamped format.

Many people are concerned about the future of the ABC under a Turnbull-led Coalition government and now that a former Murdoch executive has taken the reins as Managing Director, there is disquiet both inside and outside of Aunty at the direction the national broadcaster is now taking.

Read the rest of this entry »


Hands off the ABC – Turnbull should resign his commission

June 25, 2015

The Abbott government’s political interference into public broadcasting has just got serious.

Very serious.

Heads should roll

Not content with going beyond his ministerial brief and ringing Mark Scott in the middle of the night to demand answers, the Duke of Double Bay has now decided to politicise his department by demanding senior officers conduct an inquiry into the ABC’s editorial decision-making.

The ego of this merchant wanker seemingly knows no bounds.

Everybody who ever watched Play School or an ABC news bulletin should be outraged and demanding Malcolm Turnbully resign his commission.

Turnbull has breached his ministerial guidelines with this move, but he’s gloating about it.

The jumped-up, smug little Napoleon has gone well beyond what is acceptable in a system that relies on the separation of powers.

Turnbull’s inquiry is blatant political interference.

How else can you explain his “instruction” to his department — which we can presume knows little to nothing of news judgment and editorial decision-making.

Turnbully's instruction: fuck-up the ABC, but make it look like an accident

Turnbully’s instruction: fuck-up the ABC, but make it look like an accident

And the reason he thinks he can get away with it is that he did the last time.

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Zaky Mallah, bluster and bullshit from the PM and his #Newscorpse drones

June 24, 2015
Don't apologise to me, unless it's for your craven backflip

Don’t apologise to me, unless it’s for your craven backflip

Seriously, what is the fucking fuss?

A fomer jihadi wannabe, who says he now hates ISIS, goes on one late night talk show and confronts a Liberal politician who is desperately trying to keep his head in the sand and “La, La, La” his way to the next election.

Liberal MP Steve Ciobo would rather be on television  shouting “Look over there, a #TERRORISMs” instead of confronting difficult questions about the disasterous policy porridge that his Dear Leader is foisting on the country.

But, an outrage such as a Minister being confronted by a young articulate Muslim asking embarrassing questions cannot go unpunished.

Read the rest of this entry »