Their ABC must be worried

Joe Gersh – ABC board member – has an op-ed in The Australian this morning.

Chris Kenny has been a vigorous critic of the ABC while previously “resisting calls for its privatisation or abolition”, but after last week’s Four Corners, Media Watch and Q&A he has asserted that it now “is beyond redemption”.

True – Chris Kenny has long been a critic of the ABC. But his argument – as is many journalists – has been that the ABC needs to have conservative voices. To my mind that criticism is that the ABC should employ him.

This follows similar calls from the Institute of Public Affairs and other respected organisations.

To be clear; the IPA recommendation for the ABC is:

Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function

Moving along.

I cannot agree. I declare my centre-right bias; a long-time reader of The Australian, I was appointed to the ABC board by Turnbull government communications minister Mitch Fifield.

Ah Mitch. Lovely guy.

The ABC is frequently criticised and sometimes for good reason. Even the most passionate friend of the ABC could not argue that Aunty is beyond criticism.

… and yet. Here we are.

Calls for the abolition or privatisation of the ABC (essentially the same thing) are a thought bubble for which there is no constituency on either side of politics. 

Fake news! The Liberal Party adopted a platform of privatising the ABC after the publication of Chris Berg and my book.  Mitch Fifield – yes that same Mitch – immediately stated that privatisation of the ABC was not government policy. This demonstrates the extent of Liberal politician capture – they simply refuse to implement the policies of their own party.

Each time it is repeated, it damages the ABC’s quest for the long-term, stable funding it needs and that underpins its independence.

More fake news! The ABC has stable funding of about $900 million each year for operational expenses. Then about another $120 million or so for transmission. That funding is paid upfront by the government irrespective of whether anyone actually consumes ABC content. Unlike every other media organisation, the ABC does not have to work for a living; the food is on the table when they get there.

It may irritate the critics, but the ABC remains Australia’s most trusted source of news and current affairs.

Some polling company told them that. Their viewer numbers suggest otherwise.

Who but the ABC can we rely on for emergency broadcasting, which attracted universal appreciation yet again in the most recent bushfires? Likewise with coronavirus.

There is no reason why taxpayers should pay $900 million for emergency broadcasting – that function could be tendered out for a lot less.

Add to the list rural and regional Australia, Australian drama, comedy, children’s shows, women’s sport, music, Indigenous issues and the arts.

Ah yes. Comedy. The only contribution the ABC makes is to rebroadcast quality BBC shows.

Unsurprisingly, the ABC’s political coverage attracts the most controversy. But how can it be consistent with liberal values to call for the ABC to be defunded every time a controversial story is aired?

We need to get away from this notion of judging the ABC by small-l liberal values. The ABC does not practice small-l liberalism. The ABC is infested by extremist left-wing progressives who use small-l liberalism as camouflage to destroy our way of life and civilisation. All their ‘controversial’ stories are one-sided.

Cancel culture, which conservative columnists abhor, is just as absurd when applied to the ABC.

We don’t want to cancel the ABC, we just don’t want to pay for it.

I do not share in the hysteria about Rupert Murdoch. News Corp, in my view, plays a valuable role, and if more media diversity is sought (and it should be) it can be achieved by encouraging as broad a range of competing voices as possible, including those that may require some taxpayer support.

Good to hear – yet some many individuals who work for an organisation where Gersh is on the board use organisation time and resources to bag Rupert Murdoch. Has he told them that News Corp plays a valuable role?

But I do find it hypocritical when journalists and commentators conflate issues of competi­tion with issues of bias. News Corp is well able to deal with its commercial interests.

True – News Corp is not above rent-seeking. Their campaign against FaceBook and Google has been disgraceful.

Concerns about balance at the ABC, on the other hand, are an entirely legitimate issue for debate and the views expressed in the columns of this newspaper should be heard; as should the views of others that may robustly differ.

Excellent advice – yet the ABC doesn’t seem to adopt that sort of approach.

The ABC is taxpayer funded, it does not accept advertising, and therefore it is not a commercial rival. Nonetheless, it competes for eyeballs and clicks. Some resent this.

A tad disingenuous. Media companies are platforms – they have to compete on two fronts; for paying customers (advertisers) and consumer attention (eyeballs). The ABC competes on neither front.

Freed of the obligation to satisfy advertisers or a proprietor, the ABC is able to do things others cannot do; things that may not have a commercial return but that have profound civic benefit.

I’m going to have to break up that sentence into three parts.

Freed of the obligation to satisfy advertisers or a proprietor

As I said, the ABC does not compete on any margin. This is the first problem.

the ABC is able to do things others cannot do

That is the second problem.

things that may not have a commercial return but that have profound civic benefit.

For example?

The case for public broadcasting in today’s disrupted media environment and the era of “fake news” is stronger than ever.

Well? Let’s hear it then. That is simply an unsubstantiated comment. A large proportion of the Australian population thinks the ABC is a source of fake news.

I accept that some people were uncomfortable with Four Corners on Monday night last week.

So what is he doing about it?

Four Corners often does that.

So, um, nothing.

By its nature, long-form investigative journalism can make those under investigation feel exposed. 

I can only imagine the horror George Pell must have felt. A tad more than ‘exposed’.

That goes with the territory. To demand intervention by the ABC board is misconceived.

Yep. Doing nothing. I suspect being an ABC board member comes with a salary and they put on a nice lunch. Actual corporate governance? Not so much.

The role of the board is to ensure that the ABC conforms to its charter, and it does so via its editorial policies as explained clearly by ABC managing director David Anderson at Senate estimates last week in an extraordinary exchange in which he was asked to justify a program that had not yet gone to air.

Here is another sentence I’m going to have break up.

The role of the board is to ensure that the ABC conforms to its charter

Any time you’re ready …

and it does so via its editorial policies as explained clearly by ABC managing director David Anderson

Perhaps an example could clarify our understanding …

at Senate estimates last week in an extraordinary exchange in which he was asked to justify a program that had not yet gone to air.

How dare those pesky politicians ask questions? Was David Anderson feeling exposed? Estimates often does that.

Critics often portray the ABC as a “conservative-free zone”. 

Fact Check: True.

Yet Kenny’s greatest criticism of Q&A was the heated exchange between Malcolm Turnbull and Paul Kelly, two leading, respected men I would describe as conservatives. 

Two guests on a show? That covers that particular criticism? Anyway, nobody serious would describe either Paul Kelly or Malcolm Turnbull as being ‘conservative’. They are both small-l liberals.

Agree with either, or neither, but what sin has the ABC committed in putting these important issues — climate change and media diversity — to air?

‘Media diversity’ is ABC code for that evil monopolist Rupert Murdoch and how they – the ABC – need even more money for nothing from the taxpayer.

Kenny’s throwaway line, “Sorry Ita, we had high hopes for you”, apart from being inappropriate and patronising, fails to appreciate some of the bold and strategic thinking adopted under the leadership of Ita Buttrose and Anderson during a time of financial challenge.

Chris Kenny is a nice guy. I had no expectation that Ita Buttrose would make any impression on the ABC. Nobody else ever has.

This board has adopted a five-year plan to decentralise the ABC. Three-quarters of content-makers will be outside Ultimo headquarters by 2025 and enhanced recruiting guidance will encourage greater diversity on and off air.

Oh dear god. There will be even less managerial oversight than there currently is. Define ‘diversity’.

These are not “woke” words. 

‘I am not a racist, but … ‘. Seriously?

They represent a fundamental shift to make the ABC more representative of today’s Australia.

Like actual Liberal voters? Or net taxpayers? Patriots? You know, people who actually love Australia. Who take pride in the nation. Is the ABC going to employ those people? They sure as hell can’t seem to find any for the Q&A audience, how are they going to find any to employ?

People in different parts of the country and from different cultures and backgrounds see issues differently.

Ah yes. Post-modernism. There are no facts, only social constructs.

In a measured and thoughtful way, this plan addresses the “unconscious bias” at the ABC that Buttrose identified early in her tenure.

Ha! The bias is ‘unconscious’. Hmmmmm, no.

The ABC does not require redemption; it accepts constructive criticism but needs support and stable funding. 

Here is the thing: The ABC cannot be redeemed. It does not take on, or even ever recognise, constructive criticism. It has stable funding already. That is the problem.

Believers in a robust media would benefit from dial­ling down threats to its funding and continuity.

ABC Delenda Est.

This entry was posted in Shut it down. Fire them all.. Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to Their ABC must be worried

  1. Robber Baron

    ABC funding will increase.

  2. LBLoveday

    The Australian rejected this comment of mine – I was not trying to defend either Gersh or the ABC in general, just fed up with misleading “clickbait” reflecting the opinion of the headline writer, not the author of the article.
    *******
    The “clickbait” is “Calls to defund Aunty… are nonsense”.
    .
    No where in Gersh’s article does he use the word “nonsense”. Rather he responds to the “Calls to defund Aunty” with a polite “I cannot agree” followed by his reasons. Ascribing words, especially abusive words, to people that they did not say is a common occurrence in The Australian, and it is wrong to do so on a number of levels

  3. Bruce of Newcastle

    Each time it is repeated, it damages the ABC’s quest for the long-term, stable funding it needs and that underpins its independence.

    Long term stable funding of $1 per year sounds about right.

    Meanwhile in the UK the population are voting with their feet.

    BBC delaying legal action as 1.3million over-75s refusing to pay licence fee (16 Nov)

    Why pay for something which you don’t want and which is worthless? As an ABC non-watcher I ask myself this whenever I have to do my tax return.

  4. MACK

    Last night’s 7.30 was yet another full-on Coalition-bashing exercise. Meanwhile, Danny Andrews wastes $50 billion on a rail loop no expert supports, with no ABC criticism, and the CFMEU continues to be fined week after week with not a mention on the ABC. Joe has no idea what he’s talking about.

  5. Tezza

    Well argued, Sinc. That was a pathetic article by Gersh.

  6. Suburban Boy

    “… profound civic benefit …”

    Has there ever been a more inapt description of the ABC?

  7. H B Bear

    And now we see how the staff are able to operate with complete impunity.

  8. HGS

    Emergency Broadcasting. Is there such a thing?

    What Tezza said is correct.

  9. Rex Mango

    Anyone interested in setting up a single issue political party, something like ABC Privatise Now Party would be good a way to get into the Senate. You would get plenty of free publicity and a sizeable chunk of votes.

  10. H B Bear

    Another Lieboral warrior.

  11. stevem

    The ABC management knows full well the extent of its bias. Why else would the only programme on the ABC not wholly captured by the left call itself Counterpoint and describe itself as “Counterpoint examines a range of social, economic and cultural issues in Australian life—challenging some widely held assumptions, and introducing some new and some seldom-heard commentators.”

  12. Des Deskperson

    ‘Who but the ABC can we rely on for emergency broadcasting, which attracted universal appreciation yet again in the most recent bushfires? ‘

    The ABC is currently and relentlessly flogging this line in its TV advertisements for itself. It needs to be confronted.

    In my experience in both the pre-Christmas bushfires around Braidwood and the NYE blaze around Moruya, by far the best sources of information and warning were the local commercial and community radios that had contact with locals actually fighting the fires.

    The ABC’s coverage, by contrast, was both tardy and hyperbolic. An unkind person might suspect that the ABC had an ideological interest in exaggerating the situation.

    During the 2003 fires in Canberra, who all hell had broken loose at about 2.00pm on the Saturday, the local ABC station was still relaying some sports event from Sydney – maybe women’ curling.

  13. Honest Ian

    Seems to me that the ABC reporters have a basic problem in counting , the Trump supporters non violent march in Washington numbered 100,000. ABC figures around 2,000 also no mention of the B.L.M. mobs violent reaction. I agree with Mark Latham ” Waste of taxpayers money, shut em down ”

  14. EllenG

    The ABC won’t be privatised because the commercial media don’t want an advertising competitor with national reach. Regional mps won’t support it because their voters don’t get much from regional tv or radio. ALP won’t support it. So it’s never actually going to happen.
    What is possible is the abc might undo the stupid decision of Mark Scott to allow opinion to be published online by reporters previously constrained by policy that limited comment. He opened flood gates of poor reporting and intrusive preferences.
    The second way to impose on the abc a better value for dollar is to restore a broader coverage – especially of events and issues outside the big cities. The abc doesn’t need any more token talking heads. It needs people working on reporting things that concern all Australians and not a bunch of undergraduate obsessions.

  15. Spurgeon Monkfish III

    Ah Mitch. Lovely guy.

    One of the most utterly useless individuals to have existed in human history, which makes him perfectly qualified to be a gliberal MP.

    ABC Privatise Now Party

    No. The “Shut it Down, Fire Them All Party”, whose sole policy could also be applied to about 97% of the federal bureaucracy.

    Sell off all the ALPBC infrastructure and nuke whatever toxic leftovers remain.

    There is no longer any excuse for the ALPBC to exist.

  16. Colonel Crispin Berka

    The only contribution the ABC makes is to rebroadcast quality BBC shows.

    I gotta admit if they had any new quality comedy shows today I wouldn’t know about it because I don’t watch FTA TV. So this next isn’t a rhetorical question, write the answer in if you know.
    What good comedy has the ABC produced after The Late Show of 1994?

  17. Spurgeon Monkfish III

    some seldom-heard commentators

    If the ALPBC didn’t exist, they would deservedly remain so.

  18. thefrollickingmole

    Anyone like to do a back of the envelope calculation the damage the ABC has done or costs incurred during any of its hundreds of crusades against miners/ cattlemen/loggers/ business in general?

    The billion a year is chicken feed compared to the economic damage they cause.

    While they were all over Johs white shoe brigade like a fat chick on bucket of KFC they somehow managed to miss Nifty Wran and his accumulation of wealth.

  19. Old Lefty

    I assume this got through ABC censorship because the Scouts are imperialist, racist, genocidal etc etc

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-17/90000-sex-abuse-claims-filed-in-boy-scouts-america-bankruptcy/12890210

    Just don’t ask about ABC producers, presenters etc. Or state schools. Or male childcare workers and their boyfriends ……

  20. duncanm

    Kenny’s throwaway line, “Sorry Ita, we had high hopes for you”, apart from being inappropriate and patronising, fails to appreciate some of the bold and strategic thinking adopted under the leadership of Ita Buttrose and Anderson during a time of financial challenge.

    There are none so blind as those who will not see.

    The hopes for Ita had nothing to do with financial management, nor ‘bold and strategic thinking’ (whatever that is), you dimwit.

  21. Old Lefty

    The ABC is occasionally known to attack the ALP- but only ever from further to the left. Its news and current affairs (so called) might as well be a wholly owned subsidiary of the Rhiannon Stalinist wing of the Greens.

  22. vlad

    Ambit claim: shut down the Alinsky Broadcasting Corporation.

    What one would privately hope for: a total ban on news/current affairs/political content on their ABC.

    What I’d settle for: the sacking of Louise Milligan.

  23. Bronson

    What Gersh is really saying, ‘please don’t take my board position away from me’. He is just further re-enforcing what is wrong with the ABC – a board that is useless and has no control over a organisation that does what it wants with public money. Break it up and sell off the parts!

  24. Roger

    Emergency Broadcasting. Is there such a thing?

    There certainly is and those who live outside of the urban cocoon rely on it during floods, bushfires & cyclones.

    However, it could be contracted out.

  25. Simon Morgan

    Malcolm Turnbull and Paul Kelly, two leading, respected men I would describe as conservatives.”

    -There’s that old socialist left taqiyyah at work.

  26. Perfidious Albino

    Clearly he has been carefully selected as the current ABC Board member most likely to seem to be / appeal to those with a centre-right mindset, which tells you everything you need to know about the ideological diversity of the ABC Board.

    But of course, he also has a personal motivation to ‘defend’ the institution to protect his own reflected self-perception.

    5-year plan, cut their funding by (at least) 50% after year 1, but sized to cover transmission and a minimum level of TV, radio and online service. Commonwealth $1 for $1 matched funding of genuine individual / household annual subscriptions for each subsequent year up to the level of current funding. Matching winds back over the period ($1, $0.66, $0.33) and then ceases altogether. Emergency broadcast ‘cost’ is market tested via ANAO immediately and then commercially tendered after 5 -years.

  27. areff

    Complaining about bias at the ABC is a dead end. In the end, it is entirely subjective, and any effort to define the broadcaster for its naked partisanship is bound to fail. Witness countless Estimates hearings where ABC creatures are confronted, shrug, then promise to return with what is inevitably a slather of sophistries about ‘most trusted’ etc.

    No, the way to bring down the ABC is focus in hard on its management practices.

    Why no competitive tendering for production of shows? (ie., how come the Chaser crew keep scoring deals, how big are they, who awarded them after what evaluation process?)

    The remarkable coincidence that so many spouses/lovers/partners get taxpayer-funded jobs (Benjy Law/Scott Spark, Scotumface, Russell and Virginia …… literally scores of bedmates)

    Efficiency compared to commercial stations. ABC Melbourne has an entire floor of radio studio after radio studio after radio studio, most seldom used. 3AW has two, each staffed on a typical day by the compere, producer and an engineer. At the ABC at least two extra warm bodies are deemed necessary.

    Why does the ABC buy original artworks to hang on its HQ walls?

    I could go, but won’t. If a few mid-priced flash watches can get the Postmistress fired, the ABC’s profligacy amounts to a plea for a sharp knife: ‘Here’s out vulnerable throat. Cut it for us’

  28. Mother Lode

    He seems to think that only a government funded media entity can be trusted to give us the truth, and that private sector ones will lie to their audience because that is what their audience want to hear.

    That is his opinion of audiences. They are afraid of truth.

    It is an inescapable fact that the ABC is the left-most outfit. When media wants to make money they have to be closer to the centre to net more of an audience – is that a weakness.

    And what is there in the ABC that would make it more reliable than a private network? Are they somehow more objective? More skilled in analysis? Do they have some access to higher truths that are beyond the reach of the rest of us? Can government bake these faculties in and guarantee them?

    And this guy says he is left of centre – that can only be by ABC standards.

  29. Des Deskperson

    ‘What good comedy has the ABC produced after The Late Show of 1994?’

    For decades, ABC comedy has been premised on sneering at ordinary Australians, people without the financial or educational privileges of most of the Corporation’s ‘stars’.

    Ordinary Australian may or may not be risible, but even so, the way the ABC writers and director depict them is always sort of weirdly dated and out of touch.

  30. areff

    Des, re emergency broadcasting. The Teague RC after Black Saturday found that the ABC had failed miserably as the designated emergency broadcaster. Hours after Marysville was gutted, the ABC was still reporting the town was OK.

    Teague & Co., concluded commercial broadcasters did a much better job of keeping their listeners up to date on the fire fronts and where they were heading.

  31. wal1957

    Love your work Sinc!

    This is one of your best.

  32. Roger

    I declare my centre-right bias; a long-time reader of The Australian, I was appointed to the ABC board by Turnbull government communications minister Mitch Fifield.

    Of the same ilk as John Hewson & Amanda Vanstone, who regularly appear on the ABC as representatives of the “centre-right” so the ABC can pretend to be inclusive.

  33. Mother Lode

    I declare my centre-right bias

    This is what the ABC lerve.

    He is their token ‘conservative’ who, when he concedes to their arguments, they can strut about and say their points are so valid that even [insert name here] agrees, so any other conservative who disagrees is just a crank.

    Yet they still bend over backwards to keep other non-approved ‘conservatives’ away from their little patch.

  34. One of your best keep it up As 74 year old who was an ABC man for years no longer watches not even the repeats of Vera

  35. Spurgeon Monkfish III

    Hendo used to note that at one point the ALPBC actually had two “conservative presenters” (both funnily enough, on graveyard shifts), Vanstone and Tom Switzer.

    I must say I did enjoy the footage of the Waffles Turnbuckle/Paul “is wrong, again” Kelly contretemps on Q&A, no doubt for all the wrong reasons.

  36. Roger

    I declare my centre-right bias…

    Stating that your political outlook is a bias is putting yourself on the back foot from the start.

    It concedes that the polity that made Australia one of the most successful democracies in modern history was based on prejudice rather than principle.

  37. TFX

    Des Deskperson. You may find this article interesting on the failure of the ABC as an emergency station network and the possible working alternative.

    https://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=20768

  38. RJH

    Spot on Bronson! Having lived in a number of diverse rural/regional areas around Australia over the last 25+ years I have never once felt the need of ANY of the so-called broadcasting services their ABC purports to offer in those regions. Most regional areas are well catered for by LOCAL commercial outlets who both live in & support their own communities, unlike their ABC.

    I am also yet to be convinced as to why I need to subsidise the viewing/broadcasting habits of others/spongers in the 21st Century when there is now a worldwide plethora of outlets to choose from? If as the supporters of their ABC suggest there is such a huge demand for its services, in these ever so woke times they should have no problem with privatisation by putting their hands into their own pockets and making a contribution to such a “worthwhile” organisation? Only then will we know/see “the true worth” & backing of their ABC?

  39. Habib

    Turnbull and Kelly “small-l liberals”? Hilarious. Socialist-statist ideologues. Otherwise pretty much on the rouble.

  40. Megan

    He seems to think that only a government funded media entity can be trusted to give us the truth…

    There is his first mistake. Every else is built on this false premise and cannot hold.

  41. Cassie of Sydney

    My Oz sub still has a few days to run. I read the Gersh article and thought it was the biggest load of codswallop I had read in years. With individuals like him on the board….no wonder their ABC is now so far gone, it is irredeemable.

    But the coup de grâce of the turgid Gersh piece was his description of Malcontent Turdbull and Paul Kelly as “conservatives”. I’m not usually lost for words…as my Cat friends can attest….but that statement left me speechless!

  42. Herodotus

    The ABC’s coverage, by contrast, was both tardy and hyperbolic. An unkind person might suspect that the ABC had an ideological interest in exaggerating the situation.
    It’s their signature style and modus operandi.

  43. Herodotus

    The only thing which makes Kelly look “conservative” is how far left the Labor Party has drifted.
    He’s an old school Laborite, not a conservative.

  44. TFX #3662161, posted on November 17, 2020 at 12:04 pm
    Des Deskperson. You may find this article interesting on the failure of the ABC as an emergency station network and the possible working alternative.

    It’s not restricted to bushfire country, ABC “Tropical North” has a somewhat shameful record of going off the air during a cyclone.

  45. steve

    Murdoch, Murdoch, Murdoch. It is interesting to look at the collapse of Fox News ratings in the US. Calling Arizona early, cutting away from the Press Secretary, refusing to accept that Trump denounced extreme right wing groups, a tweet from junior’s wife when Biden was called as victorious in the press “we did it!”. It goes on and on and who is getting the blame for this move to the left by Fox? James and Lachlan Murdoch, since Dad stepped down. While here in Oz the Murdoch’s are the cause of all that is conservative in the press. Crazy!

  46. jupes

    It may irritate the critics, but the ABC remains Australia’s most trusted source of news and current affairs.

    If you relied on the ABC for your news you would literally be dumber.

    Climate Change, Pell, Russia hoax, Bat flu … the list goes on.

    Nothing but fake news and propaganda.

  47. Squirrel

    “This board has adopted a five-year plan to decentralise the ABC. Three-quarters of content-makers will be outside Ultimo headquarters by 2025 and enhanced recruiting guidance will encourage greater diversity on and off air.”

    Green/Left propaganda in an Akubra is still Green/Left propaganda.

    Abolish the ABC, give half of the annual funding back as a saving to the Budget, and put the other half of the funding into support for local broadcasting in under-serviced regional and remote areas and into contestable funding for local content program-making by the free-to-air TV and radio networks.

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