March 12, 2014 – 12:01PM
Columnist for The Canberra Times.
Of the many utterly loathsome actions of the members of this government, the attempt to besmirch, belittle and demean our ABC is among the worst.
There can be no other analysis of this concerted campaign than to say it is a determined attack on democracy; the right of reporters to ask the hardest questions; and the right of the citizenry to expect its journalists will speak truth to power.
So how disappointing it must be for those tired campaigners, boots muddied with their own indiscretions, to read the results of these reviews. These thorough investigations, by noted senior commercial journalist Gerald Stone; and by former chief adviser to the BBC’s editorial policy unit Andrea Wills, reveal the number of instances causing concern to auditors about ABC standards are insignificant, despite the intense and multiple pressures of news production in contemporary journalism.
You can see that desire for excellence at first hand every night on the ABC’s 7pm news or on 7.30, no matter whether it is Leigh Sales or Chris Uhlmann or now Sarah Ferguson, as she stills one fool after another with: “Just answer the question please.”
You can imagine, of course, how uncomfortable this must make those who lie for a living. Who cannot bear the forensics of investigation, which good reporters carry out on behalf of the nation. This is where, in the studios of Ultimo, in Parliament House, this is where and when we find out whether our future Prime Ministers have bothered to read the financial statements of the companies about which they proclaim. This is where we can, from the comfort of our couches, cheer drink every time we hear those words “carbon tax” or “penalty rates” without one whit of proof from those who claim to understand our economy. Who claim to have the ears of the ranks of C-suite around the country. Who pretend to know what horrors are being perpetrated in our names on those who seek asylum.
For the past six months – at least – Coalition politician after Coalition politician has sought to derail the national broadcaster, to threaten covertly its managing director, Mark Scott, to unsettle and derail its reporters.
And those attacks have had a chorus of approval from the fankids of the right, from Andrew Bolt to free speech musketeer Chris Kenny (with his own pet hashtag, #theirabc) to Miranda Devine.
Wrote Bolt in February: “Realise how unfair it would be to have the taxpayer-funded ABC completely in the hands of one political caste?”
And: “Being slow to report claims that don’t suit you and fast to report ones that do is actually called bias, guys.”
Miranda Devine last December attacked the prospect of Andrea Wills conducting the audit (although I can’t find a similar criticism of Gerald Stone and he praises the standards of the ABC in his report).
Devine wrote: “The ABC’s attempts to address its ideological bias are hardly reassuring. To me, the idea of bias “audits” conducted by an ex-BBC staffer is laughable.”
The idea – the main purpose – has been to plant seeds of doubt into the minds of the ordinary Australian. Surely, if the Murdoch media machine and its many cogs complain so long and loud, there must be something to complain about. This was a campaign to ensure that when the Budget’s butlers came, we ordinary Australians would be duly softened up for a shocking cut to funding. It terrifies me that ABC local radio, the heartbeat of this nation through flood, fire, epidemic and election, would take even a cut of one dollar.
Dear readers, dear listeners, don’t you love turning on and hearing someone talk about your neighbourhood in ways which prove they know it?
But, take this offensive remark made by “our” Prime Minister to a first rating radio shock jock (albeit with a declining overall audience). It’s offensive because it wilfully misunderstands what journalism is about. He said: “It dismays Australians when the national broadcaster appears to take everyone’s side but our own and I think it is a problem.”
Or this piece of undergraduate snarkiness from Federal Attorney-General George Brandis in February on Sky News:
“When I want to know what’s going on in politics I don’t watch the ABC.”
He said: “It’s almost become a cliche that the ABC has a particular point of view when it comes to public affairs and the coverage of current affairs, which is a centre-left, Labor-Greens, bias point of view.”
He claimed that the lack of diversity of opinion was the principle concern. He then claimed: “It’s fair to say that there is a level of concern shared, not just by the government, but by the community at large, of the performance of the ABC.”
A cliché, Senator? Perhaps in your circles, that pale elite of Cabinet ministers and CEOs.
The community at large? The rest of us love our ABC.
That’s according to Newspoll. According to Essential. Far and away, the ABC rates much more highly as a reliable news source than any of its competitors. Any of its competitors. That includes your mob, Mr Kenny.
It’s our ABC. Not yours.
Follow me on Twitter @jennaprice or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Source : The Canberra Times