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.
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.
The Abbott government’s political interference into public broadcasting has just got serious.
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
And the reason he thinks he can get away with it is that he did the last time.
It is simultaneously amusing and sickening to see News Limited newspapers attempting to lecture the ABC on standards in journalism.
Coming from the organisation that brought you the Abbott government, whether you wanted it, or not, it is a bit rich to complain of un-Australian, left-wing bias at the national broadcaster.
The chief stenographer at the Daily Telegraph is gainfully employed re-writing press releases and disguising advertising as news and the columnists are at the bar dictating their arid thoughts to the keyboard chimps.
Oh dear, the predictability and monotony of The Australian‘s whining about the ABC was taken to new heights this week on two fronts: firstly, the revelation that the national broadcaster has to pay market rates for its premier on-air talent and, secondly, feigned moral outrage that the ABC would cover the very newsworthy disclosure that the Defence Signals Directorate wanted to listen-in on the phone calls of the Indonesian President and his wife.
Any reasonably briefed chimpanzee would be able to write the coverage of these issues for the News Limited papers. There’s a template, a formula and a draw full of boilerplate copy that oozes vitriol, arsewipe and stinking double standards.
For fans of publicly funded broadcasting in Australia, Mark Scott’s speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia last week had some good news elements, but is it enough to save the ABC?
According to Scott, the ABC is the nation’s most trusted institution; most of us are consuming ABC products and we like it a lot, despite its critics and naysayers.
However, for Friends of the ABC (FABC), Scott’s speech sent mixed signals about the national broadcaster’s future.
The Victorian spokesperson for FABC, Glenys Stradijot is “disappointed” that Scott appears to make an argument for the ABC in “purely commercial terms”, rather than emphasising the benefits of having a “truly independent” public broadcaster. It seems to “erode the very reason that the ABC exists” she says.
Friends of the ABC picket the Victorian Liberal Party convention in May 2013 where a motion to privatise the ABC was due to be debated. The motion was not voted on after intervention by Tony #Abbocolypse Abbott
Accusations of bias and groupthink at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation are not new.
What is new is the intensity and ferocity of the attacks being mounted in the national broadsheet. The Weekend Australian‘s double-barrel blast across the bows of the ABC is a good example. That it was followed up with an editorial is either overkill or hubris.
All this from a news organisation that in 2003 successfully resisted groupthink in its line on the Iraq invasion. Only 175 of Murdoch’s newspapers world-wide backed the invasion editorially. It would be churlish to mention that this was 100 per cent of his mastheads at the time.
The latest complaint about the ABC also throws into stark relief the lack of self-reflection within the national broadsheet.
The Australian has been at war with the ABC for many years and a quick search of the paper’s own database shows a remarkable tendency to launch broadsides at the ABC and its staff for perceived bias or alleged breaches of some unwritten code of balance.
(I’m not talking about breaches of the ABC’s editorial guidelines which are rare; but an unwritten code set by The Australian in a case of “Do as I say, not as I do”.)
A more cynical person might wonder if this is not just a little bit pots calling kettles.
“I know you are, but what am I?”
“Oho!’ said the pot to the kettle; “You are dirty and ugly and black! Sure no one would think you were metal, Except when you’re given a crack.”
“Not so! not so! kettle said to the pot; “‘Tis your own dirty image you see; For I am so clean -without blemish or blot- That your blackness is mirrored in me” [Wikipedia]
At the moment the fixation of the national broadsheet is focused on the Media Watch program and the ABC’s coverage of climate change.
Accusations of misreporting (deliberate or otherwise) have been flying between the two for weeks now and frankly, despite my intense interest, I find it hard to pick a winner.
It has become a “he said, she said” war of words that has seen both sides try to overwhelm their opponent with tactics of attrition and endless arcane paper trails involving emails, an exchange of unanswered questions and perhaps deliberate distortion of timelines and events.
If you get to the bottom there is a topical easter egg surprise for loyal readers.
Over recent months many of my colleagues in the Journalism Education Association of Australia (JEAA) have attempted to get responses to The Australian’s attacks on us (over many months) published. We have had very little luck. One open letter that was sent from the association with more than 50 signatures was made available as a PDF from a deep recess of The Australian’s website,but not easily searchable and just last week I received this response from editor of Media Diary Nick Leys.
A right-of-reply @leysie style
Some of the attacks have centred on Dr Matthew Ricketson who was engaged to assist with the Independent Media Inquiry. The Australian‘s coverage of this issue has been appalling and one-sided, but when Matthew tried to defend himself he was not given space, instead Nick Leys cobbled together a piece from second-hand sources. It is what The Australian‘s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell would call “four or five out of 10” journalism.
Editor in chief of The Australian Chris Mitchell questions the journalistic credentials of those passing judgment on the industry. “Ricketson, Simons and their mate Andrew Dodd (Crikey contributor and Swinburne University of Technology journalism course convener) all worked for The Australian and you would give them barely a pass mark as journalists,” he says.
“Seriously. People who I would score four or five out of 10 are trying to determine the future of media regulation in Australia. Everyone in the business knows it is a self-serving joke and these people are dupes for Conroy.”
Chris Mitchell quoted approvingly and at length in his own newspaper. A cosy club Chris – you’re the patron
As the national association representing journalism educators and academics, you might think that the JEAA would be given some space to respond to criticisms and abuse hurled at us. For some reason, we are not considered worthy of space in the paper’s letters pages, let alone to write a column.
We have been accused of being a “cosy club” prone to “groupthink” even though there are many disagreements among us. It is a puzzling charge and one that The Australian rejects when it is levelled against them.
It is puzzling because the op-ed pages of The Australian display a remarkable and consistent commitment to groupthink. Its columnists all sing off the same conservative songsheet with the libertarian soloists taking center stage all too often.
However, it might come as a surprise to readers of our national broadsheet that this same groupthink is also displayed in the letters pages.
For example, Mr Brenton Minge, of suburban Bulimba in Brisbane, must be one of the luckiest writers of letters to the editor in Australia. A Google search shows up a Brenton Minge who it seems has a bent for letter writing, particularly on topics of religion, science and the “Leftist” ABC. Maybe this is why he so popular with The Australian‘s letters editor.
Mr Minge has had nine letters published in The Australian’s Talking Points column since May 2011, for a total of around 1400 words. He is not the only one.
Update, September 4, 2011 ~ This Post started out as something else, but, over the last week of August, 2011, it morphed into a major, running, UpDate on developments in Fiji, several currents of which seemed to coalesce with very worrying speed and intensity. Most of it was written over August 27 – 31, with some tweaking and a few extra links added, until September 4.
I also know this Post has been read in Fiji, as well as more widely.
I won’t update this Post again, but will link to it as relevant in any future Posts on the general topic of Fiji, of which there will be more when events there suggest it and I decide I have something useful to contribute.
Of course, the Comments section remains active and I welcome any comments, which will not be censored (aside from normal, journalistic, editing as to clarity, legals, and taste).
Original Post continues –
I started to compile a more comprehensive wrap on recent developments in Fiji – more attacks on unions, the media, the Methodist Church – but then things started moving so fast on several fronts that I gave up, and will get to the bits and pieces, with much more context, in due course.
Scroll down for material on More Fantasy and Nastiness in Fiji, traversing the latest round on the Fiji regime throttling the Methodist Church, more on how media freedom is also throttled in Fiji, how the University of the South Pacific throttles academic freedom, continuing raids on the Fiji National Provident Fund, and insights into Fiji’s justice system under the military dictatorship.
Why Civil Resistance Works
A long anticipated and exceptionally valuable study, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, by American scholars, Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, has landed on my desk. This is formidable and very thorough scholarship of the very first order which assembles and analyses a vast amount of historical and contemporary data to show, about as conclusively as this kind of research can do, that nonviolent direct action is much more effective at removing dictators, supporting democracies, and challenging domination than armed resistance or terrorism. That’s a huge claim, to be sure, and their work deserves a very close read, which I’m doing now.
But, Memo to the always terrifying ABC Standing Committee on Spoken English (SCOSE) – Please come for Correspondent’s Report presenter, Elizabeth Jackson, for two broadcasting sins. Firstly, she mispronounced the name of the place ~ Kiri-bas ~ and not Kiri-bati. Secondly, she did so twice, in the introduction to the story, and again in the backannounce, clearly demonstrating she didn’t listen to the story she was presenting, in which the reporter pronounced the name correctly. Back in my days at the ABC, we’d be flogged in the car park for such gross violations of SCOSE directives!
You know what: we think it’s tough fending off the Wellydogs and Dribblejaws when it comes to National Radio. And there’s a certain element of truth in that.
But, take heart, we are not alone. If Ruper Murdoch’s News Corporation had a bigger presence in New Zealand, it could be a lot worse.
After a year or more of sniping, bitching, biting and barking, Uncle Rupe’s dogs of war have had a substantial victory in the UK.
The BBC – the paradigm example of public service broadcasting – has trimmed its own wings, rather than have them ripped off by a Tory government. According to a recent piece the The Guardian, the BBC has cut 600 million pounds from its expenditure and is reducing its online presence in response to whinging, money-grubbing complaints from commercial media (led by Murdoch) that the BBC was stifling its profit potential.
You know what, these free-market shysters should shove their own medicine where the sun-don’t-shine. They want to live an die by competition, yet when a service is popular and actually out competes them they bleat on about how it’s unfair that the BBC is so successful and has licence-fee money to spend.
The market is a failure and for the losers to whine and cry till they get their own way is pathetic.
Murdoch has now set his sights on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. News Limited columnist Mark Day is spear-heading Murdoch’s down under, low and dirty under the table kneeing in the groin attacks on the ABC.
In a piece just yesterday [1 March] Day makes a direct link between the BBC’s pre-emptive self-kneecapping and what he thinks should happen to the ABC.
It is time we had a full debate about the role of the ABC. It was established in a vastly different media landscape as a taxpayer-funded entity designed to, in part, fill in the market niches not served by the commercial sector. Now, thanks to pay-TV and the digital revolution, those niches are hotly contested. [Day 1 March 2010 redefine ABC]
The man has no shame when it comes to doing Murdoch’s bidding and some people still wonder why we fight so hard for public broadcasting. This is a totally self-serving argument that ignores the reality and history of the market and clearly serves Murdoch’s interests.
So far the ABC is standing firm and Managing Director Mark Day Scott [tx Rob] has responded to the shot across the bows.
But it seems the vigorous pursuit of commercial agendas by some of our media rivals is allowing the facts to be sidelined in pursuit of a good story.
There is a concerted attempt to portray the ABC’s role in the media as solely that of a niche provider- participating only in sections of the market not served by the commercial sector.
This “market failure only” portrayal ignores the history: Australia has been richly served by a dual system of public broadcasting working alongside commercial media. [Not for sale]
Don’t lose sight of the fact that this is a global trend. The media industry is in trouble and public service broadcasters are actually doing OK. We tend to trust them more; they’re reliable; they’re staffed by people who care about good journalism; and they don’t have greedy shareholders sucking the life out of them.
Now the greedy slugs and layabouts want a slice of our pie too.
We need to tell them to “piss off” in no uncertain terms.
This is the fight we are now joining in terms of Radio New Zealand.Murdoch may not have any direct influence here, apart from Sky TV, but there are plenty of stalking horses in the commercial media. Whanganui’s mayor is an obvious early starter.
I have been tracking the various speeches by shady members of the Murdoch clan. You can read all about it on the following links:
The state broadcaster robs taxpayers of $38 million a year to, essentially, provide two radio options. The ironically named National Programme (when its politics is ostensibly liberal Labour) and the leech-like Concert Programme.
At a time when your radio dial is replete with choice – from Radio Rhema to The Rock – public policy has decided that two types of listeners require direct subsidy. Actually, three – but that is another scandal.
The whistle is blown, the hounds are baying; they smell blood.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) correspondent, Peter Lloyd, is now facing three additional and, as yet, unspecified charges following a brief court appearance in Singapore today [Friday 25 July]
Peter was arrested last week and charged with trafficking about a gram of methamphetamine (ice). According to media reports he looks worried, gaunt and like a “broken man”.
And who wouldn’t. Facing 20 years in a Singapore jail and up to 15 lashes with a heavy rattan cane, would make even the staunchest crack addict blanche.
What troubles me more though, is the way this case is being used to attack the ABC and dog whistle Australian racism.