The ABC has rejected an extraordinary attack by Indigenous leader Noel Pearson who accused the ABC of being a “miserable, racist national broadcaster.”
According to The Guardian, at a book launch for a biography on Paul Keating, Pearson said the ABC was “willing the wretched to fail.”
“They need blacks to remain alien from mothers’ bosoms, carceral in legions, living short lives of grief and tribulation,” he said. “Because, if it was not so, against whom could they direct their soft bigotry of low expectations, about whom could they report misery and bleeding tragedy?
“Between (online magazine) Quadrant’s hard bigotry of prejudice from the right, and the ABC’s soft bigotry of low expectations on the left, lies this common ground of mutual racism.”
The claims come despite ABC TV having a dedicated Indigenous department which has commissioned such titles as Redfern Now, Cleverman, The Gods of Wheat Street, Black Comedy and 8MMM. The Warriors is currently in production in Melbourne and Blue Water Empire, documenting the history of the Torres Straits Islands, is due in 2017.
In a statement ABC said:
The ABC provides more coverage of Indigenous issues and has a broader Indigenous staffing profile than any other Australia media outlet.
It has given an extended platform and broad audiences to a range of Indigenous commentators including Noel Pearson, Josephine Cashman, Marcia Langton and others to canvass issues like welfare dependency, alcohol abuse and violence against women.
With its 60 locations across Australia, the ABC covers the everyday experiences of Indigenous communities and provides a range of programs to give voices to Indigenous Australians and to showcase their achievements.
The ABC has also been at the forefront in recognising Indigenous talent. ABC Radio, ABC TV and ABC News have set up Indigenous units to better reflect Indigenous culture in staffing and in story-telling. These initiatives have delivered programs including the award-winning series Redfern Now and Gods of Wheat Street and the recent hiring of journalist Stan Grant, whom Mr Pearson has described as “speaking for black Australia”.
ABC recently appointed filmmaker Kelrick Martin (Prison Songs) as its new Head of Indigenous and hired former NITV presenter Stan Grant to head up its Indigenous Affairs and host a new Friday night current affairs program.
ABC Director of Television Richard Finlayson recently told TV Tonight ABC had made significant strides in addressing diversity, with more to come.
“What we have focussed on is Indigenous representation, and Sally Riley has changed the way we see Indigenous Australians on TV. And she’s built and entire production community that is really now starting to be amongst the best in the field,” he said.
“(Diversity) is something we’ve been working on for a while, but we do realise we have a long way to go and we will be working hard to bring the industry along with us to make sure we are properly reflecting the world we live in.
“It’s an issue that Michelle (Guthrie, managing director) has put a stake in the ground on.”