THE CURRENT POLITICAL CLIMATE
The Australian 22 May 2013, p.2:
TONY Abbott will face growing pressure from within his party to privatise the ABC and SBS to deal with perceptions of anti-Liberal bias and to retire debt.
The Victorian Liberal Party will debate this weekend a motion calling for a review of public broadcasting in Australia with the view of either partial or total privatisation.
The party's policy-forming conference will debate the move at the same time as the Opposition Leader attends the gathering in Melbourne and prepares to fight the federal election.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said yesterday the motion came after the opposition had failed to guarantee funding for public broadcasting.
"If Malcolm Turnbull has any credibility, he should immediately rule out this extreme position and recommit the Coalition to keeping the national broadcasters in public hands," he said.
Institute of Public Affairs research fellow Julie Novak said the Liberal Party should go further than the motion and not hold a review, arguing there was enough evidence to back a sell-off. She said the transformation of digital media meant there was no need to fund a broadcaster, because of the explosion in competition.
The Liberal Party will debate whether the ABC and SBS infrastructure should be sold off as part of a Coalition government's bid to cut debt. The motion cites the fact the ABC and SBS compete with "a wide range of private media outlets" and that public ownership is counter to Coalition policy.....
DEFENDING THE ABC THEN
The Age 27 May 1970:
The Sun-Herald 31 May 1998, p60:
RICHARD Alston appears to have made little progress in his renewed effort last week to create a more docile ABC, but there is no doubt the Government and its big business supporters will keep trying.....
Not only was he busy last week telling the ABC how to rein in its producers and journalists, he also announced a crackdown on "smutty" radio and TV.
He wanted, he said, to prevent "an electronic version of Sodom and Gomorrah". This would be simply funny if presented from some pulpit in a backward country town, but coming from the man responsible for all our communications it is a bit frightening.
The Government of which Senator Alston is a leading member obviously sees itself as a kind of nanny charged with protecting Australians from too much contact with that tainted world overseas.
The deeper agenda, of course, is that the less we are exposed to naughty or subversive foreign ideas the more we will appreciate the ultra-conservative values of a wise and all-knowing Coalition......
DEFENDING THE ABC NOW
The Queensland Times 19 September 2013, p. 12:
WHEN it comes to our national broadcaster, the Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), my adoration knows no bounds.
Normally not one to slavishly hero-worship any sort of entity, I'm completely besotted with our ABC.
Conceding that I'm probably in the minority of TV watchers and that commercial channels hold the lion's share of the national audience, I nevertheless spring to the advertisement-free channel's defence.
The government we elected on September 7 is known to be business-friendly.
If something doesn't make a buck then it's more than likely to be on the chopping block of any budget cuts.
Please, please, Mr Abbott (incoming prime minister), keep your funds-slashing hands off the ABC. We ABC devotees are fiercely protective of our beloved national institution.
The thought of switching to any other channel (except occasionally SBS when it's showing something other than sex scenes) is too horrible to contemplate.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983 specifies the role of the ABC as a statutory authority with programming and operational independence from the government.
Trouble is, the government provides the cash that keeps the ABC on air.
In the 2013-14 Budget, the previous government handed the ABC an additional $30million over three years to meet the growing demand for its digital services.
The ABC was also allocated $69.4 million over four years from 2012-13 to expand its news and current affairs services.
If the government funding isn't tampered with for 2013-14, the ABC will collect $1.05 billion - a small price to pay.
It's estimated that an average of 13.8 million Australians watch ABC television each week.
Those individuals, like the Friends of the ABC, expect to listen to a media organisation that's free of government influence, commercial sponsorship and advertising.
Let's keep it that way.
Crikey 27 November, 2013:
Twitter 11 December 2013:
The Guardian 21 December 2013:
For weeks News Corp papers have been running a barrage of opinion pieces, often several on a single day, alleging a lack of diversity in the opinions available at the ABC.
The generally agreed thesis advanced by these opinion writers – most of whom live in Sydney and Melbourne – is that too many ABC opinion-makers live in Sydney and Melbourne, and that this contributes to their “green-left” worldview.
This “green-left” worldview, News Corp writers contend, contributes to “biased” reporting and political interviewing on the ABC and infuses its wider programming as well, including – according to Piers Akerman at least – the “weird feminism” evident in Peppa Pig and the “left sludge” he hears when he tunes in the Triple J. (Does Akerman really tune into Triple J?)
Bias is, by definition, in the eye of the beholder, but to my eye it’s more evident when I tune in to, say, Ray Hadley and hear him ask “questions” like this one during a conversation with prime minister Tony Abbott about how to handle the Palmer United party when the new Senate sits from next July:
“... and you’re going to have to be even better than you were at the beginning of the election. You won’t be taking my advice and saying listen Clive, stick it up your jumper. You’ll have to be even more diplomatic than you were in Indonesia.”
The attacks on you are astonishing. Have they forced you to change your media strategy, which until a week or two ago was to say little and let your deeds speak for themselves?”
The ABC’s critics argue that the public broadcaster has a particular responsibility to show even-handedness because it is funded by the taxpayer, and the ABC agrees.
In his recent address to the national press club, ABC chairman Jim Spigelman responded to the allegations of editorial bias with a new system of external audits, starting with an analysis of the impartiality of all radio interviews with the-then prime minister and opposition leader during the 2013 election campaign.
“I do not accept that [bias] is systematic, but I do accept that it sometimes occurs,” he said, noting the complaints were usually about programs that represented less than 1% of the corporation’s program hours, but which “happen … to interest the political class most”.
You’d think the ABC’s critics would have been pleased with this response to their complaints, but if you thought that, you’d be misunderstanding the real reason for their attacks....
In other words, as the ABC sought to address the criticisms about bias, the underlying concerns of its critics became more transparent – that the ABC is a taxpayer-funded competitor to their own commercial activities in an increasingly difficult media market, and that over time this could mean the ABC gains influence as they lose it....
I’m happy to pay my 10 cents a day for so much of what the ABC does,......
FROM THE TRENCHES........
The Sydney Morning Herald 15 December 2013:
It's a grim Christmas here in the ABC trenches. Ordnance whistles overhead, and the whine of the air-raid sirens has become a normal feature of daily life.
One minute it's Miranda Devine strafing Behind The News. The next, it's a devastating artillery assault centring on the fact that Kerry O'Brien was paid - PAID! - to do his interviews with Paul Keating.
And our wartime ears are already normalising The Australian's loud editorials fulminating about the evils of subsidised broadcasters. (In The Australian's defence, these editorials need to be loud. Otherwise, how could they be heard over the terrible cries of the hacks from the News tabloids, toiling below decks to generate sufficient cash for their unprofitable national sibling to keep a small band of readers relentlessly apprised of the ABC's failings?)
But on Friday, News Corp's Piers Akerman opened up a radical new front. He got The Pig involved.
The column started as a perfectly ordinary light-to-medium ABC-gumming on the usual theme of organisational leftist propaganda and generalised wickedness. But then, this: "Even the cartoon character Peppa Pig pushes a weird feminist line that would be closer to the hearts of Labor's Handbag Hit Squad than the preschool audience it is aimed at."
This is a serious allegation. Of all the programs watched on the ABC's iView platform, Peppa Pig is the most popular by a long straw. Between January and November this year, the show was watched 25 million times. That is correct, 25 million times; impressive, even when you factor in the possibility that several million of those might have been Mr Akerman, monitoring the cartoon piglet round the clock for signs of latent man-hate.....
If Liberal-Nationals wingnuts would stop baying for ABC blood long enough to think, they might realize that this email (below) clearly demonstrates that no government of the day is immune from paranoia about our national broadcaster and its journalists and that political parties across the spectrum are capable of reacting badly to perceived public criticism.
So they need stop blaming the national broadcaster for their own collective inability to face legitimate questioning concerning political decisions.