The need for adult supervision at the ABC

It occurred to me yesterday while Roger Franklin and I ran through a list of recent ‘mistakes’ at the ABC – speaking on ABC radio – that the ABC faces the same problem the Rudd-Gillard government faced.

A lack of adult supervision.

People who might say, “Yes, Chaser boys, your photoshopping skills are excellent and we all hate Chris Kenny but we’re not going to air with that picture”. Or they might say, “Let’s actually check the claims being made against those fascist brutes in the Navy even though we desperately want them to be true”. And so on.

This morning Mark Scott is in The Australian demonstrating that he isn’t going to provide adult supervision:

An investigation by The Australian in Kupang, West Timor, has found the ABC reports cannot be corroborated and that several of the asylum-seekers who originally claimed their hands had been severely burned as a direct result of abuse from navy personnel have now changed their stories.

Mr Scott defended the ABC reporting, however, and said ABC journalists “have pursued that story in an attempt to ascertain, to answer the questions of whether people in the care of the Australian military somehow came under some harm. I think the pursuit of that story and the raising of those allegations was in the public interest.

“I don’t think there should be any attempt to somehow suggest that because the ABC raises those allegations, the ABC are advocates for those allegations — that the ABC has acted as judge and jury on those allegations. We have raised them because they are serious, they are important and they raise questions that need to be answered, and we have put those questions.”

Here is the great Paddy McGuinness explaining why Mark Scott was never going to be that adult:

Scott is one of those who, in the old phrase, have risen without trace. And he is a guarantee of one thing. While he is at the helm, the ABC will not change its editorial culture. In fact, he is very much like a younger and taller clone of McDonald, who throughout his tenure — coextensive with that of the Howard Government — has played a purely emollient role in that organisation, carefully avoiding change and deflecting the continual assaults from those who find the ABC culture narrow and heavily biased.

The feminists, the gay-rights advocates, the ecunemical searches for the meaning of life, the anti-Catholics, the advocates of Papuan independence, the supporters of Fidel Castro and similar Third World dictators and murderers, the America haters can rest secure. So can the Howard haters, long protected by McDonald at the ABC.

Some of McGuinness’ predictions have come to pass:

ABC TV will continue to invent a need for yet more channels. The ABC octopus will grow and grow.

The ABC has a profound corporate governance problem. The management of the ABC are not accountable to the board of the ABC. In the private sector this wouldn’t be too much of a problem – the ABC would simply go broke. The ABC, however, won’t go broke for as long as the government pumps in billions of taxpayer funds. Now if there is no reason to prop up failing private sector firms, why is the government propping up the ABC – and on that topic lets have a look at their EBA.

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59 Responses to The need for adult supervision at the ABC

  1. Rabz

    Let’s also have a look at their updated salaries.

    Thanks for reminding us plebs of that, Faine, you obnoxious, vainglorious buffoon.

  2. james

    The ABC has a profound corporate governance problem. The management of the ABC are not accountable to the board of the ABC. In the private sector this wouldn’t be too much of a problem – the ABC would simply go broke.

    This is not the scary part.

    The 1.2 Billion Dollars is not the scary part.

    The scary part is trying to get a single otherwise intelligent left winger to admit that the ABC is ever so slightly biased to the left.

  3. K-Man

    A look at ABC’s enterprise bargaining agreement? Yes please.

  4. brc

    If there is a lack of proper KPIs in the ABC, I would say that an informal, groupthink KPI system has come into play. Something along the lines of ‘he who can generate the most outrageous outrage over a socialist cause gets cafeteria bragging points’.

    The only ABC production that I can think of that tries to be balanced is TripleJs accurately-named ‘Hack’ program. It routinely brings in conservative people – not to hear their point of view, of course, but to throw rotten tomatoes and conduct a show trial. Still, they actually do get to come on and airs their views. I was listening one day and some brave soul suggested the CSIRO get defunded. This, of course, generated outrageous outrage, but hey, he got his point across, using the climate council being privately funded as an example of the improvements that are made when people reach into their own pocket instead of someone else’s. Such heresy would never see the light of day on other ABC programs.

  5. Robert Crew

    So the standard that the ABC is living up to is the Glenn “I was only asking the questions” Beck standard. Even Beck now seems to be growing up and regrets that view. Good to know that the ABC copies its news standards from an opinion show on Fox News. Why doesn’t Mark Scott just let the Chaser boys produce the news – then it could be funny (or at least truthy), as well as misleading?

  6. H B Bear

    Is there is an easier way to trouser three quarters of a million dollars in salary than as MD of the ALPBC? There are child are workers supervising 3yo kids exercising greater control than the nice but useless Mr Scott.

  7. Alfonso

    Don’t blame the ABC comrades for they are as dogs urinating on a post, that’s just what dogs do. Blame the the thumbsucking Liberals who will at the end of 3 years be seen to have done nothing but pretend to fix it.

  8. the sting

    Is there any law/regulation that can be used against public servants who make false and misleading statements in the media?If so,can such a law be used against the members of the ABC who make false and misleading about our Navy?

  9. incoherent rambler

    How would the ABC report an event such as an islamic gay whale ramming a boat load of illegal immigrants?

  10. candy

    I still think Malcolm Turnbull is hiding from his responsibilities. Surely this problem is his for the fixing.

    Perhaps it’s time for him to re-evaluate where his ideals and loyalties really lie.

  11. pete m

    candy – he knows exactly what he is doing, and exactly where his loyalties lie. He will not change.

    When the NBN is sorted out they can safely remove him.

  12. Cold-Hands

    The impenetrable and byzantine internal disciplinary procedures of the ABC are ignored by the presenters anyway. When Jon Faine was found by internal review to have breached impartiality requirements when interviewing Michael Smith, he refused to accept the ruling and (to the best of my knowledge) failed to apologise. There was no further discipline- he wasn’t taken off air, suspended, fined, sacked or sanctioned in any way. Clearly the ABC’s internal processes are a toothless tiger- what the Corporation needs (if it remains in existence at all) is a watchdog from outside the organisation with the power to terminate appointments. Gerard Henderson would be the ideal choice.

  13. Leo G

    “In fact our whole story has been around allegations that have been raised, and our pursuit of a full understanding of what has gone on in the absence of a clear and complete explanation as to how these asylum-seekers came to have these injuries.” – Mark Scott in the Australian today

    But who actually raised those allegations?
    They weren’t raised by anyone who was on the boat in question. No, the allegations appear to have been raised as part of a “fishing expedition” by people associated with the ABC who wanted direct access to Australian Navy personnel for cross-examination on operational detail about Operation Sea Patrol Sovereign Borders. Those people were not interested in the truth, they were interested in presenting the account of a false witness as supporting evidence for a false allegation of their own making.
    So, Scott’s claim that the ABC’s whole story was around allegations that had been raised, was false on at least two counts. Firstly, the specific allegations broadcast by the ABC did not arise without the involvement of the ABC. Secondly, the story was primarily aimed at achieving an ABC objective concerning the secrecy provisions of Operation Sovereign Borders.
    The ABC Board must be aware of this.
    Mark Scott must either resign or be dismissed. The ABC Board should follow Mr Scott out the door.

  14. johno

    The ABC has a profound corporate governance problem. The management of the ABC are not accountable to the board of the ABC.

    Judith made a similar point on the weekend with her post on the Left’s ABC.

    The broader point is that this is a structual problem with government owned media in a liberal democracy which can not be fixed within liberal democratic principles.

    In additional to the management being unaccountable to the Board, they are also unacountable to the Minister. Under the rules of liberal democracy, Ministers are to be accountable for how taxpayer’s money is spent.

    However, if the Minister was given the power to hold management to account, then the Minister would have the power to ensure that the government owned media wasn’t independent of government. That is, it would become the government’s mouthpiece. But that is inconsisitent with liberal democracy.

    Conclusion. Government owned media is inconsisitent with liberla democarcy. Liberal democractic governments should NOT own media. Sell the Left’s ABC and SBS.

  15. H B Bear

    I still think Malcolm Turnbull is hiding from his responsibilities. Surely this problem is his for the fixing.

    Turnbull deserves criticism for a lot of things. The current state of the ALPBC isn’t one of them. He could at least sound like he is trying though.

    Unless the Liberals are prepared to go nuclear on the ALPBC and have the Enola Gay parked out the back of Menzies House this ain’t going anywhere.

  16. Leo G

    Conclusion. Government owned media is inconsisitent with liberla democarcy. Liberal democractic governments should NOT own media. Sell the Left’s ABC and SBS.

    That non sequitur johno.
    You appeared to be arguing that a government-funded but independently chartered broadcaster is inconsistent with the Westminster model of liberal democracy. If so, that’s fine, I agree. But surely, you can’t conclude on the basis of those arguments that the government should not under any circumstance own a broadcaster.

  17. .

    But surely, you can’t conclude on the basis of those arguments that the government should not under any circumstance own a broadcaster.

    Well, what if I say we ought to remain a liberal democracy? Surely that predicate is enough?

  18. Gianna

    @ Alfonso and others, impatient to see change from the govt, I’m comfortable with slow and steady. It’s important to not give ammunition to those who lie in wait ready to pounce. They already distort the truth.

  19. Steve D

    How about the ABC is removed from the Communications portfolio altogether? Perhaps it could be given to Christopher Pyne or something. Turnbull can keep managing the hardware aspects of the Communications portfolio (NBN, broadcasting, phone networks) without worrying about the ABC at a ‘content’ level. Indeed it it would also make him appear more independent when dealing with commercial operators if he is not also responsible for their big competitor.

  20. johanna

    What does the ABC Board actually do? It seemingly has no role in how the ABC spends its money, who it hires or what it does. So, why are they there and what exactly are we paying them for? We might as well just have the CEO reporting to the Minister – at least then there would be some accountability.

    But, since that would be construed as making the ABC partisan (like it isn’t already!), we are left with the Rabz option.

    Shut. Them. Down.

    Fire. Them. All.

  21. Badjack

    Mr Davidson, what does your mate Mr Green think of your opinion?

  22. Gab

    the government should not under any circumstance own a broadcaster.

    Why should a government own a broadcaster/media conglomerate in the first place, in this day and age?

  23. Des Deskperson

    K-Man
    Here’s the 2010-13 agreement:

    http://www.abc.net.au/careers/documents/ABC_EntAgt2010-2013.pdf

    Haven’t had time to look at it in detail, but Cats can peruse at their leisure. You will note that the agreement nominally ends on 30 June 2013, but I can’t find a later agreement, Usually, enterprise agreements continue past their end date if no later agreement has yet been negotiated.

  24. Sinclair Davidson

    Mr Davidson, what does your mate Mr Green think of your opinion?

    I don’t know what Jonathan actually thinks – but he did invite onto the show because he knew me to be a critic of the ABC having commissioned me to write articles on this very issue when he was editor of The Drum.

  25. C.L.

    Why should a government own a broadcaster/media conglomerate in the first place, in this day and age?

    Ahahaha. To ensure extremist left-wing views are aired – which nobody is interested in – that’s why.

    Duh.

  26. james x leftie

    Turnbull? LOL. He loves the ABC and they love him. Watch any Q&A with him as a guest for proof.

    Abbott needs to grow a pair and let Pyne deal with the ABC.

  27. Leo G

    Well, what if I say we ought to remain a liberal democracy? Surely that predicate is enough?

    Just for you Dot, I’ll reframe my statement.
    You can’t conclude on the basis of those arguments that a liberal democratic government should not under any circumstance own a broadcaster.
    In fact, the ABC Charter does not guarantee independence. The so called Charter of Independence explicitly does not apply in judicial proceedings, so no ABC official can use the Charter provision of independence from government interference to shield themselves in court proceedings.
    But the Charter is inherently anti-democratic in the wider sense. It has allowed ABC advocates for political causes to claim the protection of the Charter while breaching its terms, in the expectation that the ABC Board will maintain the facade.

  28. Squirrel

    Adult supervision – hear! hear! The content produced by the ABC too often has the tone of a smug, self-satisfied, self-centred, privileged undergraduate – clever, up to a point, but still with a lot to learn about life, and too fond of playing to a like-minded gallery.

    One honourable exception I would make to this broader observation is Ticky Fullerton’s The Business which, in my view, typically takes a balanced, no-nonsense, “grown-up” approach. On occasions when The Business and the preceding Lateline cover the same story, the contrast can be most interesting and illuminating. There, of course, exceptions to the rule with other programs, which can occasionally surprise (on the upside) and even delight, when they give the hobby-horses a rest – pity they don’t do that much more often.

  29. johanna

    Ticky Fullerton? You mean the Ticky Fullerton, who, as Wiki reminds us, presented this:

    “A 2004 broadcast on Four Corners, Lords of the Forest received criticism for alleged political bias towards logging protestors.[3] The Australian Communications and Media Authority upheld some of these complaints.”

    The ACMA report is here.

    And believe me, for ACMA to find the ABC guilty of pro-greenie bias is proof in triplicate.

  30. “Well, what if I say we ought to remain a liberal democracy? Surely that predicate is enough?”

    I would argue that we’re not a democracy and ask what standards of liberalism/libertarianism are you willing to accept?

    We can agree that the idea that the government owning and operating an enormous media conglomerate runs the real risk of the government owning and operating an enormous propaganda conglomerate. So, such a thing should be avoided. But, the counter-argument is, in Australia the largest opponent of this very large media/propaganda conglomerate is just another large media/propaganda conglomerate run by someone with an American accent and doesn’t mind using his media/propaganda conglomerate to peddle his world view. Thus it is important to retain a viable opposition to this. Which we both know is a nonsense argument but that is the argument those on the left raise whenever you point out that the ABC is biased and probably has out-lived its used-by date.

    That leaves the easiest argument for the government to make in curtailing the ABC an economic one, they have to make the case that it is in the best interests of people like Fairfax and those within that political sphere that the ABC either withdraw from news and current affairs (leaving the station a cultural entity only). Those on the left may need it explained to them (repeatedly, as they’re quite dense) that the ABC is cannibalising their side of politics to their detriment, as those on the left are left with fewer options those on the right still retain some plurality to their benefit, simply because the further to the left the ABC goes to accommodate its target market the more of the middle it alienates, leaving them only the Murdoch press to turn to. And the left wouldn’t want that…

    So, perhaps trying to reason with their self-preservation instinct might be worth a try…

  31. Des Deskperson

    The first thing to note about the ABC’s EBA is that it only applies to the grunts. The highest salary payable under the EBA is $106,027 pa, about the equivalent of an El1 middle middle manager in the APS. The agreement does not cover:

    a. employees covered by the relevant ABC Retail Agreement;
    b. employees covered by the relevant Actors Etc. ABC Radio & Television Award or
    relevant ABC Actors Agreement; and
    c. employees classified as Executives and Directors.

    Clearly, therefore, it doesn’t cover the presenters and opinionistas (executives and directors?) who clog up TV and radio and who presumably must be covered by individual contracts. It tells us nothing about how these people are expected to perform and behave or how their salaries and other rewards might be apportioned.

  32. Gab

    I don’t think there should be any attempt to somehow suggest that because the ABC raises those allegations, the ABC are advocates for those allegations — that the ABC has acted as judge and jury on those allegations.

    Their ABC raised these allegations without seeking comment from the Navy or the government. The ABC reportage clearly judged Navy personnel guilty as charged by the “asylum seekers” who were speaking exclusively to “the ABC”. After about a week of constantly reporting that Navy personnel were torturing asylum seekers – and firing live ammunition on illegal boats – all across Asia Pacific, only after a backlash did the ABC then decide to seek comment from the Navy in a childishly executed manner, after the fact.

    That is not balanced reporting. It is judging and Mark Scott is encouraging it.

  33. Empire Strikes Back

    So, perhaps trying to reason with their self-preservation instinct might be worth a try…

    Sensible idea Sed, but doomed to failure.

  34. Pedro

    Reading this post made me think that the Libs might actually prefer the ABC the way it is. There is no evidence that the ABC shifts votes to the left and it might well be providing the valuable service of (unwittingly) making the left look as bad as they really are.

  35. egg_

    Abbott needs to grow a pair and let Pyne deal with the ABC.

    +100

    Aunty is in dire need of adult supervision.

  36. Rabz

    Clearly, therefore, it doesn’t cover the presenters and opinionistas (executives and directors?) who clog up TV and radio and who presumably must be covered by individual contracts. It tells us nothing about how these people are expected to perform and behave or how their salaries and other rewards might be apportioned.

    Des, that’s why the presenters and opinionistas were so outraged when their salaries were ‘leaked’ – by the ALPBC itself, BTW!

  37. .

    Pedro
    #1176250, posted on February 3, 2014 at 12:21 pm
    Reading this post made me think that the Libs might actually prefer the ABC the way it is. There is no evidence that the ABC shifts votes to the left and it might well be providing the valuable service of (unwittingly) making the left look as bad as they really are.

    We have always been at war with Eastasia. Now, a live broadcast from Eastasia…

  38. Squirrel

    johanna

    #1176233, posted on February 3, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Ticky Fullerton? You mean the Ticky Fullerton, who, as Wiki reminds us, presented this:

    “A 2004 broadcast on Four Corners, Lords of the Forest received criticism for alleged political bias towards logging protestors.[3] The Australian Communications and Media Authority upheld some of these complaints.”

    The ACMA report is here.

    And believe me, for ACMA to find the ABC guilty of pro-greenie bias is proof in triplicate.”

    Most interesting – I don’t recall seeing that Four Corners, and certainly didn’t know about the ACMA report – but I do appreciate the point you are making. Perhaps, though, this is a case of actually learning from experience? – some years on from that Four Corners (for a period of which, I thought, Ticky was employed elsewhere(?)), I find her hosting of The Business a breath of fresh air, to the point that it is now just about the only ABC news/current affairs programs I bother watching with any regularity.

  39. egg_

    How about the ABC is removed from the Communications portfolio altogether? Perhaps it could be given to Christopher Pyne or something. Turnbull can keep managing the hardware aspects of the Communications portfolio (NBN, broadcasting, phone networks) without worrying about the ABC at a ‘content’ level. Indeed it it would also make him appear more independent when dealing with commercial operators if he is not also responsible for their big competitor.

    Simply put Pyne in place; Turnbull needn’t be the cabinet’s erstwhile Telco ‘guru’ – Ziggy Switkowski and many other decent advisers can ably assist the incumbent Minister of the Crown.

  40. johanna

    It is not realistic to separate the ABC from the Communications portfolio. The hardware/software distinction disappeared a long time ago in communications.

    The Department has a substantial Division dedicated to broadcasting. Among other things, it advises the Minister on all aspects of broadcasting policy, including legislation and the interaction between the ABC and private providers in radio, TV, and online.

    It would be like putting the Snowy-Hydro Corporation under the Minister for the Arts.

  41. boy on a bike

    How would the ABC report an event such as an islamic gay whale ramming a boat load of illegal immigrants?

    “The Navy done it!”

  42. candy

    That is not balanced reporting. It is judging and Mark Scott is encouraging it.

    It started with the Navy being accused of using profane language, then kicking and punching, then shooting at the boats and then finally torture by burning.

    I reckon he was promoting the lies all those weeks.

  43. Des Deskperson

    A key area of interest in any public sector EBA are the arrangements for managing under performance.

    The ABC EBA (clauses 23 and 24) mirror the arrangements in most other Commonwealth public sector EBAs in that it involves a long process with a focus on ensuring that the underperformer is given a ‘second chance’. These types of protections are well in excess of the requirements of the Fair Work Act and make it almost impossible to terminate an underperformer.

    As I said above, we don’t know what performance management arrangements (if any) apply to senior ABC people outside the EBA – can one measure the performance of a celebrity, many of whom are contracted through their own companies rather than in an ‘employment reltionship’? – but if arrangements for managers mirror those of the Commonwealth Senior Executive Service, than they would be for all practical purposes impossible to sack.

  44. Habib

    Beyond salvation and use-by date. Flog it off if some mug can be found to buy a broadcast provider.

    The more these treacherous maggots carry on with their blatant agenda-driven idiocy, the easier it will be to get rid of it. They’re seriously pissing off a lot of people, especially those who provide its wherewithal.

  45. johanna

    Onya Des for wading through that agreement.

    And yes, sacking underperformers under the standard Commonwealth arrangements is almost impossible, as I well know from my time as a manager there.

    Interestingly, there has been a series of articles at Quadrant online about the ABC recently, including some great historical perspectives. One of them (sorry, can’t remember which, as there were several including links to older ones) mentioned that when Alan Ashbolt and his acolytes became active in the ABC, one of their main activities was taking over the various staff association branches and unions. They instigated procedures which made it almost impossible to sack anybody – at a minimum it took years, via endless appeal processes.

    I wonder if this is still the case? And when is the last time the ABC sacked anybody for anything?

  46. johanna

    Oh, and as for giving people a “second chance” – by the time someone in the APS is in line for sacking for underperformance, they have already been given many, many chances.

  47. Viva

    The left have shown they are prepared to think the worst of the navy before this – children overboard, not rescuing sievx in the early 2000s etc. While as a journo you shouldn’t give anyone “the benefit of the doubt” – you don’t reflexively go for the jugular either!

  48. duncanm

    I’m with Johanna – what purpose does the board serve?

    They should have pulled Scott in a long time ago and given a good dressing down.

    After the latest charade, he should have been sacked.

  49. johanna

    I wonder if the ABC Board even has the power to sack Scott?

    My guess is that if he was found buggering a dog on national television, they might be able to, but only after paying out his contract plus generous penalty clauses.

  50. J.H.

    Adult supervision….. and a naughty chair with restraints and a spit helmet. The Socialists are definitely in need of some time out in the Naughty chair. They are just freakin’ losin’ it.

  51. Des Deskperson

    Johanna

    All the ABC Act says about termination is that the MD (who is a member of the Board) “holds office, subject to this Part, on such terms and conditions as are determined by the Board.”( S 13(3)).

    I can find no information on what these terms and conditions might be.

  52. boy on a bike

    All the ABC Act says about termination is that the MD (who is a member of the Board) “holds office, subject to this Part, on such terms and conditions as are determined by the Board.”( S 13(3)).

    I can find no information on what these terms and conditions might be.

    Of course you can’t. That information is highly sensitive, and cannot be disclosed under any circumstances. If Edwards Snowden is seen anywhere near Ultimo, the ABC guards have orders to shoot to kill.

  53. JC

    When is Mark Scott’s time up as,per his contract?

  54. Des Deskperson

    ‘When is Mark Scott’s time up as, per his contract?’

    Dunno, but as I read the Act, he can be reappointed for any number of five year terms!

  55. Cold-Hands

    He was last reappointed Managing Director for a five year term from 5 July 2011.

  56. egg_

    My guess is that if he was found buggering a dog on national television…

    For $750kpa he could afford chin(less) reconstruction surgery, even if not in a role in front of the camera.

  57. johanna

    egg – tell it to Mark Kenny, who was depicted buggering a dog on national television.

    Trouble is, if he successfully sues, it will be taxpayers who foot the bill.

  58. Bons

    But but, Lucy promised her dinner guests that Malcolm would keep the barbarians from the door.

  59. Noddy

    The ABCs reporting on the Australian Navy and the ‘illegal invasion’ is detrimental to national security so why isn’t it treated as treason?
    It appears treason is no longer a crime!

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