Flat White

The ABC needs reforming – and fast

27 June 2018

5:50 PM

27 June 2018

5:50 PM

While the government has ruled out the privatisation of the ABC, the almost 2:1 vote in favour of doing so at the Liberal Party federal council should have sent a strong message.

A message to which the response should’ve been conciliatory and seeking to understand why the overwhelming view within the party that attracts the most primary votes in Australia has this view. Instead, we get the predictably sad full force of the taxpayer-fuelled broadcaster seeking to justify itself.

Its determined denial of glaring bias and its belief it is untouchable for fear the whole fabric of Australian society would collapse if it were accountable is just the beginning.

The ABC’s self-protection racket is not the behaviour of a model broadcaster.

When the ABC’s senior political journalist had a finding made against him by the Australian Communications and Media Authority for using pejorative language in his commentary in the 7.00 pm news, instead of making the finding public, the ABC closed ranks and kept the finding quiet.

And when one of its former staff is convicted for child sex abuse whilst on engagement with the ABC there is in the “independent” view of the ABC no need to broadcast this hideous behaviour on the national news.

What’s more, the ABC employed lawyers and waited until conviction before reaching out to the victim. And not a single ABC journalist believes this is worthy of reporting!

And when a former ABC journalist made a complaint about bias his complaint was refused because of the language used – such as “supine” “duplicitous” and “mouths a pitifully distorted tale” and “the organisation he slavishly serves”. Robust? Yes. Offensive to warrant dismissal of the complaint? No.

Yet ABC presenters are allowed to ask “Does Peter Dutton wake up every morning with a hard-on for abusing refugees?”.

That’s allowable. That’s not offensive according to the ABC’s ‘balanced approach’. The ABC is completely blind to its double standard and sees no difficulty in defending the log in its own eye whilst seeking to expose an alleged speck in a critic’s eye.

Whilst brave resolute Iranian women are fighting the oppressive hijab – facing arrest, imprisonment and separation from family, their ABC produces at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars a programme promoting “fashionable” hijabs.

It’s like promoting diamond studded, gold plated handcuffs – they might look good but they still deprive liberty.

So the ABC spends our money promoting the “fashionability” of the hijab instead of standing in solidarity with the brave freedom fighters in Iran. Go figure.

And when it comes to the ABC’s flagship – the main evening news bulletin, we will no longer be given “a list of what happened today” according to the ABC’s head of news. They will now engage in “impactful storytelling” and analysis because the poor little lesser beings in viewerland can’t be trusted to make up their own mind from the presentation of facts one assumes.

Indeed the internal ABC document tells us “viewers of the 7 PM news should … have complex issues of the day explained to them.” Such as the difference between turnover and profit, one presumes.

Given the vast array of media platforms and sources many of the ABC’s services roles have been overtaken by the marketplace – and indeed the ABC spends $2 million a year in advertising on Facebook and Google to try and take people away from the commercial media market.

That is why the Federal Council motion reads:

That this Federal Council calls for the full privatisation of the ABC, except for services into regional areas that are not commercially viable.

The community service obligation and regional areas clearly need a service especially in times of emergency, and programs like Country Hour and Landline to name a few.

The ABC should be self-aware enough to identify the issues and to have avoided such a strong sentiment from all over Australia. The fact that things have now got to such a situation is entirely the ABC’s own fault by paying too much attention to the Ultimo bubble.

The fact that criticisms of the ABC come from one side of the road and it is cheered on by the other is telling.

Instead of working themselves up into a lather, the ABC should take a serious look in the mirror and seek to overcome the highly significant issues that have been identified to ensure the national broadcaster is something that all Australians can look to and see real value.

Eric Abetz is a Liberal Senator for Tasmania.

Illustration: ABC TV iView capture.

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