Former Australian scribe defends ABC independence

2013-12-05_0036You may not have noticed, but I’ve been selective about which media stories about the ABC I would aggregate for you as readers lately.

Much of the stuff I’ve read hasn’t been TV-related in my view. But if you’ve had one eye on News Corp you’d think the world was caving in as a result of the public broadcaster.

The story on the government’s intelligence methods in Indonesia has attracted widespread comment, both here and abroad. News Corp, which missed out on the scoop broken jointly by the ABC and The Guardian, has had plenty to say -at the same time as running ABC salaries of execs and talent. Barely a day goes by when News Corp isn’t slapping the ABC over some issue.

So I read with some interest an article by former Australian media writer Amanda Meade, now writing for The Guardian, in ABC’s defence.

She advocates for an independent public broadcaster, that isn’t subjected to government interference, as you can see in these select excerpts:

The ABC is not just a news and current affairs department and a single TV station. It serves the community on every level, from emergency services to community information to reflecting and nurturing Australian culture. There are five radio networks including local stations which serve regional and rural areas and are a lifeline for isolated communities. It provides commercial-free programs for children and innovative dramas such as Redfern Now which challenge and confront.

The corporation has been a leader in catch-up TV, online news and podcasts, and mobile services. In a country dominated by one media corporation, a vital independent public broadcaster is essential for democracy.

As a media writer for the Australian for many years, I reported on the ABC. I was at times an annoyance to managing directors, including Mark Scott. I wrote about cuts to foreign bureaus and programming, the cost of outsourcing TV, staff redundancies and the exploits of one MD who was eventually to be sacked by the board, Jonathan Shier. But I never advocated that the ABC should be stripped of funding, reined in or prevented from reporting stories that may hurt the government.

Attacks from News Corp papers, in particular from the Australian, are now so frequent that there can be no pretence the paper is running anything but a campaign. Where anti-ABC material once might have been found on the comment pages, now it seems to be reported as news, despite some stories having little news value.

Monday, for example, saw the paper arguing the ABC should not be promoting Twitter and Facebook on its programs – even while the Australian’s story featured the button for sharing on social-media platforms attached to every story.

You can read more here….


  1. Murdoch’s attacks aren’t motivated by left-right politics, they’re motivated by commercial interests. Nobbling a successful competitor is the name of the game here.The ABC could turn into a govt mouthpiece and it wouldn’t stop the criticism. Free content is a serious thorn in his side when it comes to paywalls. (Ditto the attacks on FTA, the anti siphoning list etc etc).

    Pertinax – You seem to be suggesting the ABC should bury stories that are unfavourable to the govt? That’s a very scary idea.

  2. @PJs Ronin the problem is, I believe, that 99% of the population aren’t smart enough and/or care enough to realise that not everything they see on TV or read in a paper is true.

    @Aussie Austridge So you’re saying the problem is that the ABC is pushing a left wing agenda under public funding. So Ten/ News Corp et al can be right wing because the taxpayers aren’t subsidising it? I thought we had a democracy!!!

  3. Aussie_Austridge

    Nobody is saying the ABC shouldn’t exist, just that it shouldn’t be pushing a left wing agenda whilst being publicly funded. I understand why conservative Liberals are upset at dishing out millions of dollars to an organisation which does nothing but slag you off day after day on multiple platforms. And as for climate change, it seems strange that all objectivity and balance on this issue has gone out the window and the alarmist views of the chicken little brigade are always being presented as fact.

  4. Paradoxically- these orchestrated, ongoing attacks on the ABC – which DK rightly notes is now a daily assault on the corporation at every level (as if directed from the top at NewsCorp), is the most persuasive argument for protecting our ABC – both as an independent public broadcaster and as a much loved institution that belongs to all of us and serves us so well.

  5. I understand that the ABC has a lean to the left… does not concern me.
    I understand Newscorp et al have a lean to the right… also does not concern me.
    I believe I am intelligent enough to wade through the cruft and sort fact from fiction
    What will really get my dander up is if any govt thinks it has the right, or the authority, to limit these news services or my ability to read them. Conroy tried to limit the internet and damn near got tarred and feathered.
    Snowden/Guardian/ABC are an absolute wake up call to those who think they are above the law/scrutiny.

  6. Reality has a well known liberal bias. That’s the core problem. Newscorp and the right wing conservatives want to push their ideology as reality.

    As long as the ABC is there, they won’t have dominance and there for won’t have the level of control and influence they want.

    Prime example is climate change. The ABC reports the fact. They’re called a bias left wing, greenie liberal machine. When it’s reality. It undermines the non sense the conservative media promotes.

    Newscorp conflate opinion with news and have no journalistic standard as a result. The ABC as a government broadcaster has to do it’s best. Of course, this goes back to the reality and it’s liberal bias.

    Newscorp with it’s view that news should be controlled, also believes it should be monetised which is another core issue. While they want to put news behind a pay wall. The ABC or the BBC or other public…

  7. I grew up watching the ABC for news, current affairs, and quality (yes, mainly British) drama.
    The last few years we’ve also been watching SBS for news from the whole world, as the ABC seems to mainly concentrate on Australian news, especially politics.
    When you watch the news from two different sources, you become aware of not only subtle bias, but also you notice which stories are not reported at all. Yes ABC, I’m looking at you.
    As a result we record the ABC news and then fast forward though most local politics, and have given up their current affairs programs completely.
    With their quality entertainment programs being sold to subscription television channels from next year, there soon won’t be any incentive for us to watch the ABC.
    I think the rot started with Kerry O’Brien, Labor’s best friend, but Tony Jones is just a joke.

  8. The ABC can report what they like.

    Their major problem, as The Australian has pointed out, is that the ABC took $233m from the Government to run The Australia Network and promote Australia’s interests in Asia. That is a conflict of interest.

    The Australian is upset because when Rudd was going to award the tender to Sky News the Left of the ALP and Greens, backed by unions blocked the awarding of the tender and changed the rules so that the ABC would win. When Sky News still looked like winning they intervened against to force Rudd to scrap the tendering and just award the contract and money to the ABC.

  9. The Guardian has been running attacks against News for Ltd that makes the Australian’s attacks on the ABC look mild. In the UK the Guardian has been forced to retract 43 allegations against News over the hacking scandal.

    The Australian has been criticising the ABC for decades because it is a right wing paper. Media Watch and the Australian go at each other every week.

  10. All I can say is thank you David Knox! The attack on the ABC is only just beginning. For the sake a of fairness and balance in the future, we need to speak up now!

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