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 Michelle Guthrie remaking the ABC in Murdoch’s image?

December 2, 2016

It’s time to stop mucking around. What Michelle Guthrie and her band of redundancy-happy managers are doing to the ABC is a crime against the public interest. And, as Dr Martin Hirst reports, some ABC staff are already taking the NewsCorpse loyalty tests.

I wrote last Friday about the increasing levels of unhappiness with Michelle Guthrie’s leadership of the national broadcaster. I suggested that, from my reading, the relatively-new Managing Director is running out of friends and that her “honeymoon” is over at the national broadcaster.

I began my report like this:

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”.

At the conclusion of this piece I observed that Guthrie and the Prime Minister would have “mind melded” over what needs to be done to bring the ABC into line with the new conservative orthodoxy.

There will be no smoking gun on the changes in rosters and program line-ups for next year. I’m sure Michelle Guthrie’s contract doesn’t say “defenestrate all left-wing opinionistas”, but her mind and that of the Government will be silently and permanently melded on “what needs to be done”. It is a case of “Rupert, thy will be done”, rather than catering to the public interest.

I am now more convinced than before that Michelle Guthrie’s plan is to remake the ABC in Rupert’s image; this will then pave the way for it to be broken up and for parts of it to be sold to Murdoch’s News Corp.

This has been on the IPA’s planning board for a while and both Abbott and Turnbull have adopted this as their ‘to do’ list. If the ABC is sold-off, expect a wholesale purge of any “freethinkers” who refuse to drink Rupert’s kool-aid.

Only those who are able to freely express loyalty to the new regime will survive, which means that current ABC staff will have to audition for their jobs. I think the process has already started.

My column in early October, was around the time that the ABC’s political editor Chris Uhlmann was feeling the heat for his reporting of the South Australian blackouts. You might remember he went out of his way to blame the blackouts on renewable energy, rather than the failure of a number of pylons carrying Victorian coal-fired electricity into the state.

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Chris Uhlmann – Andrew Bolt’s new bestie at the ABC?

There was a backlash and a storm of protest at the time Uhlmann’s ridiculous claims were  broadcast and published. Several people complained about the bias in Uhlmann’s coverage, but he was staunchly defended in the News Corp press including by notorious denier, Andrew “Dutchie” Bolt. “Dutchie” has few principles and fewer friends, but he is big on the motto “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. In this case Uhlmann became a convenient “useful idiot” in Bolt’s daily rampage against the sins of the “Green Left” cabal he sees under every bed.

Read the rest of this story at Independent Australia


Fake news: did it help Trump get to Washington, and The Oz bash the ABC?

November 19, 2016

Did fake news help the deplorable Mr Trump get to Washington?

[First published on Independent Australia 17 November]

Much has been made of the argument that fake pro-Donald news sourced from Ukraine overwhelmed American voters leading them to put a billionaire reality TV ‘star’ in the White House.

But is it actually true? And what is ‘fake news’ anyhow?

There are two, maybe even three, main types of so-called ‘fake news’.

The first, but not necessarily the easiest to spot, is the sort of fake news supplied by The Onion, or The Chaser. This is spoof news and it is usually only the really dumb and gullible who get taken in by it.

The second is the ‘fake news’ produced during the 2016 US presidential race, allegedly on Ukranian websites and allegedly to help Donald Trump. This is a hard story to crack, but the gist of it is that Ukraine and Russia are at loggerheads and there is an undeclared shooting war going on between Kiev (the capital of Ukraine) and Moscow. The US election has been collateral damage in the media war between these Ukraine and Russia.

Trump is seen to be pro-Russian and has praised Vladimir Putin several times for his strong nationalist rhetoric. It seems that pro-Russian websites hosted in the eastern (Russian-dominated) part of Ukraine have been helping the Trump campaign. But just how successful they have been is hard to gauge.

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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.

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Trump’s Aussie friends are a bunch of deplorables

November 13, 2016

Given the US election result, you might be in the mood for a joke; it goes like this.

Set Up: Which one of Australia’s biggest media bullies who pretends to moral outrage at the use of profanities has just broken their own rules.

Punchline: Andrew Bolt.

Yep, Australia’s ‘most read’ columnist calumnist, who howls like an offended snowflake when anybody swears in his presence or anywhere near him, began his column on the Trump victory with this classic line:

DONALD Trump’s win is the biggest “f— you” to all his enemies — the media, the politicians and Wall Street.

Don’t be so coy, Andrew. A f—ing 12-year-old can read those dashes. Why pretend you don’t like dropping the F-bomb?

Bolt goes on to write that the ‘whole world’ and ‘our political class’ has been given ‘a shock and a warning’.

The shock is easy to register and now it’s had time to really sink in, we can begin to process the meaning of it: Donald J Trump, billionaire and reality TV ‘star’ is the 45th President of the United States of America.

But what is this ‘warning’ that Dutchie is warning his readers about?

Stop bullying and patronising the silent majority or they will rise in terrible revolt.

It’s a pity that the worst types patronising bullies are often the last people to heed their own advice.

Like all good NewsCorpse writers, Bolt is wilfully blind to his own position in the media elite. He and they have to pretend that they are not part of the establishment, otherwise their wise words would just read like hypocrisy and cant.

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Truth goes down the NewsCorpse memory hole

November 10, 2016

In a rambling and almost pointless column in The Australian on 2 November: THE MIND CODDLES, ultra-conservative Murdoch calumnist Janet Albrechtsen lamented the rise of so-called ‘political correctness’ on American university campuses and she cited an increase in administrative attempts to impose ‘trigger warnings’ on the content of some course materials to prove her point.

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Janet Albrechtsen writes opinion to order for Rupert and Boris

Albrechtsen tapped into the NewsCorpse hive mind in preparing this article. In the first instance, she borrowed the idea from an October 10th column by the Herald Sun’s Rita Panahi, whose intemperate language and abusive tone goes unchecked by her editors. Albrechtsen also returned to the ‘yoga pants man’ imbroglio that we discussed in last week’s Media Sauce.

Then, a few days after the Albrechtsen column, ‘emeritus’ (simply means unpaid) Professor John Carroll returned to the theme in an opinion piece about the evils of Section 18C of the Human Rights Act: ‘Anguish is exquisite for wielders of 18C’.

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I’ve already been down the 18C rabbit hole and will go there again later this week, but for now I want to introduce you to the News Corp methods of groupthink and pushing inconvenient facts down the memory hole.

Groupthink is easy; it is represented clearly in the way that News Corp editorial and political lines are set at a high level and then all news and opinion reproduces the lines day after day. The current and increasingly vicious campaign against the Human Rights Commission and Section 18C of the anti-discrimination legislation is a paradigm example. I have written extensively on this phenomenon over on my blog, Ethical Martini. The simple point about the memory hole is that it permits the perpetrators of groupthink to deny that they do it, through the simple act of forgetting.

So firstly, permit me a short diversion into George Orwell’s magnificent novel of dystopian state capitalism, Nineteen Eighty-four.

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Dear Grace, I’m bending over for you

November 1, 2016

It takes a lot to rile the Doc. I’m not easily offended or upset, but the rank hypocrisy of the free speech fundamentalists tends to make me hot under the collar.

Today my blood is at boiling point, thanks to an opinion piece in the Weekend Australian by Grace Collier.

It's behind a paywall, don't bother

It’s behind a paywall, don’t bother

You might remember Grace from her recent appearance on the ABC’s QandA, which is increasingly no more than a free platform for pontificating NewsCorpse hacks. On the 17th of October, Ms Collier told Australia’s more than 700,000 unemployed that they should use their shrinking benefit payments to start their own business. That’s also really helpful advice for the estimated 2.2 million working Australians living below the poverty line.

Collier’s comments were made on a night when the NewsCorpse bias on QandA just oozed from the screen. Alongside Collier were Professor Judith Sloan and the Institute of Public Affairs’ John Roskam. Both Sloan and Roskam can be found tucked up on the op-ed pages of The Australian and Weekend Australian next to Ms Collier.

Ms Collier’s performance was a remarkable display of arrogance and ignorance, and as I always say, there’s nothing worse than a stupid person with strong opinions. Take a bow Grace; if the shoe fits, wear it.

Collier was rude, and constantly interjected over the top of other guests, in particular Greens senator Richard di Natale and ACTU president, Ged Kearney.

I’ve taken the trouble to watch the clip again and provide a transcript of sorts, it makes interesting, if cringeworthy reading.

The exchange starts with Collier

‘Nobody has an entitlement to a job…Society doesn’t owe you a job.’

This is just classic libertarian ideology. The statement contains as much social science as an icy pole; it goes no further than being a common-sense view, too common to the conservative free market proselytisers. Collier then continues:

‘In reality there’s one person in this world that can guarantee a happy future for you, and that person stares at you in the mirror every morning.

‘Work out what you’re good at and try and make a career out of it.’

Again, we’ve heard it all before, if you’re unemployed and unhappy, it’s your fault, etc etc. The last bit of advice here is what a 15-year-old might get from the school careers counsellor – if the school can bloody afford one! It is not a prescription for solving the unemployment crisis.

Then, when Richard di Natale points out that there are more unemployed than there are vacant jobs, Collier interjects:

‘People can start businesses.’

Yep, the solution to unemployment is for all the dole bludgers to steal a second-hand lawn mower, stick a sign on a telegraph pole near their house and start a landscaping business. I told you stupid people and strong opinions were a dangerous mix.

Di Natale tries very hard to make his point and keep the discussion at a level above Collier’s kindergarten commentary, but she continues interjecting, as if repetition can make her wishes come true.

‘People can start their own businesses.’

At this point, there’s an audible groan from the QandA audience, as you might expect, seeing as it is deliberately stacked with Green Left Weekly readers and Labor Party plants (according to Mr C Kenny).

Instead of taking her cue from the obviously bored audience, Collier doubles down on the stupid.

‘Oh it’s terrible isn’t it,’ Ms Collier says sarcastically and she continues in this vein:

‘Wouldn’t it be awful to have to start your own business.’

When Senator di Natale tries to give Ms Collier a simple lesson in real world economics, she’s not having a bar of it and taunts him with this brilliant comeback:

‘Why don’t you start a business and hire some people?’

When Ged Kearney tries to jump in here and make a point, Collier continues her schoolyard taunting:

‘Go on, go on, I dare you.’

This is from a woman who claims to have some expertise in life and enough ego to think that offering advice to senators and leading trade unionists is somehow clever, smart and appropriate for a QandA panel.

Nah, it’s not clever. Let me tell you Grace it comes across as arrogant, rude and stupid.

At least Ms Collier had the decency to start her ranting and taunting with perhaps the only honest and accurate statement she made all night.

‘Oh look, I’m going to offend everyone in the room.’

Yes, you probably were, but then again Grace, you think that’s the role of a free-thinker and iconoclast. Trouble is you are neither a thinker nor an iconoclast, you are just a more simplified clone version of every other well-upholstered armchair philosopher who is given far too much space and freedom to write shite for the Murdoch press.

And that, dear reader, is how you do a segue.

Fast-forward two weeks to the Weekend Australian of 29 October 2016.

Ms Collier is leaving our shores for a little while. It seems she is off to the United States to perhaps offer some advice to presidential candidate Donald J Trump. Maybe she will get to go on one of those God-awful Fox programs and tell 92 million unemployed Americans that they should live the dream and start their own businesses. But I don’t think there are 92 million second-hand lawnmowers lying around along Route 66.

However, to the point.

Before Grace left Australia she wrote one last column for the Weekend Australian under the headline BENDING OVER BACKWARDS TO TAKE OFFENCE AT EVERY TURN (as I wrote last week, Boris uses a crayon to scribble out the headlines before the typographers compose the pages).

I was so disturbed by this column that I woke up in the middle of the night (between Saturday and Sunday) and I wrote Ms Collier a little letter. I was going to hold it over till my next Media Sauce column, but as we say here in Detox Mansion, ‘Better out than in.’ So here goes.

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