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 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


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.

Read the rest of this entry »


Can cuddling up with the commercial media save the ABC from Abbott’s axe?

July 31, 2013

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.

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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

Read the rest of this entry »