There has been a great hullabaloo surrounding Chris Berg and my book Against Public Broadcasting: Why and how we should privatise the ABC. Even before it was published The Guardian and Senator Kristina Keneally began pushing the line that this book was part on an IPA attack on the ABC. To be clear, this is the IPA view of the ABC:
Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function.
This is what Chris and I recommend in our book:
Our view is that the ABC should be given away to the ABC’s current and past employees. Again this could be done on some pro rata basis. This achieves two goals: it effects the privatisation, and vests control of the new private firm with those who have the most incentive for it to succeed. Many employees would of course choose to trade their shares and take their windfall gains. ABC employees are the people who have built up the ABC’s brand value (such as it is) and the people best placed to realise any value within the ABC. The employees as shareholders would have a strong incentive to realise efficiencies and develop and grow revenue streams.
Those two proposals are quite different. But that has not stopped the ABC from also arguing that Chris and I are simply pushing an IPA proposal. Here is the ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie (misrepresenting us on two levels):
The anti-ABC case has been crystallised in two recent developments – the launch of a tome by two people associated with the IPA calling for the sale of the national broadcaster, and last weekend’s policy motion at the Liberal Party federal council meeting in Sydney demanding the “privatisation” of the ABC.
The day before Chris had appeared on several ABC radio stations and was introduced each time as being a RMIT University staff member – maybe she gets her news from non-ABC sources. To be fair Guthrie may have been confused – after all Chris had been a long-time IPA employee, but had moved to RMIT at the beginning of 2017. Mind you, confusion doesn’t explain my situation. The ABC has me on their website as being a RMIT employee. A quick google of me reveals that I am at RMIT. While a quick google of Chris has as the 4th, 5th, and 6th listing that he is at RMIT and the 8th listing is a news report that he had moved from the IPA to RMIT.
Before I demonstrate that the ABC is not all confused – let me digress by reposting a letter I had in the AFR:
Mitch Fifield recently accused the ABC of repeating Labor talking points as facts.There is another Labor talking point that is quickly becoming a factoid – repeated by The Guardian, other elements of the Fairfax Media, and alas in the AFR.
Tom McIlroy reported Against Public Broadcasting: Why we should privatise the ABC and how to do it, written by Chris Berg and myself, as being an Institute of Public Affairs book. Chris Berg and I are full-time employees of RMIT University in Melbourne. The book was written as part of our employment, using facilities, resources, and time provided by RMIT University and subsequently published by Connor Court.
That letter appeared on June 20. So it must be with some irony that on June 25, on the ABC show Media Watch (sic) – I am reliably informed that the AFR is one of two national daily newspapers and so can be considered part of the media – that this statement appeared:
However, critics like the IPA’s Chris Berg claim the ABC does not represent all Australians and he says that’s a reason why taxpayers should not have to fund it:
Simply astonishing that the ABC then reported a quote from radio 2GB and not a quote from one of the many of its own stations that had interviewed Chris. Furthermore, when we contacted Media Watch to inform them that their affiliation for Chris was incorrect, they added this footnote to the story:
**NOTE: While Chris Beg is a senior fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs, he is also a senior research fellow with RMIT University and it was in this capacity he wrote his book on privatising the ABC.
So little care and attention to detail that the ABC couldn’t even spell his name correctly. The far, far more interesting aspect of this incident is the exchange between Chris and the ABC leading up to that clarification:
Thank you for the kind mention of my argument that the ABC does not represent all Australians on your episode “Privatising the ABC” on 25 June 2018.
However, you appear to have misstated my affiliation, and I would like the record corrected.
I am a full time research academic at RMIT University, the book was written as part of that employment, and the book which launched the debate was published by a commercial publisher. This is information widely available online.
We’re talking about ease of storytelling. We need to impart who you are to the viewer in a short amount of time. To say you are from the IPA is a correct and familiar reference point. We certainly couldn’t have ignored it, as you rightly point out with that complaint.
I accept you might have written the book on the RMIT payroll but that’s immaterial to viewers and to not say so doesn’t misrepresent you in any way, we’d argue.
We’ve had a chat about it and we’re comfortable with what we’ve put to air. But if you’re still concerned we can make a note on our online transcript. And, as you’d know but I have to mention, if you’re not happy with our response you can have Audience and Consumer Affairs review it with a complaint to them.
Hi … thanks for the prompt response.
To be honest though, I am probably a better authority about what does or does not misrepresent my role, the book, my institutional affiliation and job than you and your colleagues.
I am a full time RMIT employee in an academic role despite how hard that makes your ‘storytelling’
A correction to the online transcript will suffice.
No doubt you’re the best judge. But that’s not how journalism works.
We’ve added the note to the transcript online now.
All very polite and civil, to be sure. But just some choice quotes from that exchange:
… We’re talking about ease of storytelling …
… I accept you might have written the book on the RMIT payroll but that’s immaterial to viewers …
… that’s not how journalism works …
So there is no “confusion” on the ABCs part; putting out false facts and fake news is ease of storytelling and just how journalism works.