… not just a weed: A cancer

Ita Buttrose  gave a public lecture for the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation  – chaired by John Howard  – on the ABC, Democracy and freedom of the press.

I was able to stomach just 10 minutes and that included the three minute introduction.

Turns out that the ABC is protecting us from right-wing extremism. Taxpayers they used to be called. Also turns out that public-service broadcasting promotes democratic values according to research presented to the United Nations and the European Union. Well-known paragons of democracy the both of them.

Anyway – I just couldn’t take it anymore. A precis from the Australian is here:

“Lately the campaign against the ABC has become more strident. It appears to have gone up a notch this year. And this development concerns me,” she said.

“Recently one of our detractors said there was a need to curb the spread of public broadcasters into every technological and programming niche. ‘They should be ring-fenced into set stations, networks and roles, lest they crowd out a thousand flowers in a thousand digital niches.’

“I thought: my goodness, is the ABC being equated to a weed?

Not just a weed. A $1 billion parasite. A cancer that is metastasising and destroying local private media and public trust.

If anyone wants to read exactly what is wrong with public broadcasting read Chris Berg and my book on this very topic.

Finally, the argument that public broadcasting promotes democracy might be a good story being peddled by the enemies of western civilisation but unfortunately is not supported by the peer-reviewed literature.

We examine the patterns of media ownership in 97 countries around the world. We find that almost universally the largest media firms are owned by the government or by private families. Government ownership is more pervasive in broadcasting than in the printed media. We then examine two theories of government ownership of the media: the public interest (Pigouvian) theory, according to which government ownership cures market failures, and the public choice theory, according to which government ownership undermines political and economic freedom. The data support the second theory.

Just to repeat: Government media ownership undermines political and economic freedom.

It also crowds out private media and private enterprise.

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74 Responses to … not just a weed: A cancer

  1. miltonf

    Another tired old has been whose been around since Billy McMahon was PM.

  2. Some History

    Anyway – I just couldn’t take it anymore.

    A brave effort nevertheless.

  3. JC

    huh ha:

    University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine can be up to 90% effective, trial shows

    Can be?

  4. Entropy

    When half your tv channels are government owned I would suggest that is a problem.

  5. MarcH

    Nine newspapers, Guardian, and other left wing media would be $1billion better off if their ABC didn’t exist yet they are among its most strident supporters. Talk about shooting yourself in the feet.

  6. candy

    I still think they have about 10% of viewers and those are Greens and quite Left peoples.
    I don’t think the ABC is in any way in the rest of the population’s minds. There are no terrific comedies, Australian dramas or entertainment variety shows that would genuinely entertain the masses and that is what TV should be about, plus good up to date news and emergency situation coverage.

    The ABC could disappear tomorrow and for a day or two it might make the MSM, but for most people – forgotten. Life has too many worries to worry about some TV channel called the ABC. It’s just not relevant anymore.

  7. NoFixedAddress

    And I thought The Day of The Triffids was fantasy!

  8. Cassie of Sydney

    Their ABC makes me physically sick. I can’t watch anything on it. Whereas SBS…it still has some decent documentaries.

  9. Entropy

    MarcH
    #3668926, posted on November 23, 2020 at 8:47 pm
    Nine newspapers, Guardian, and other left wing media would be $1billion better off if their ABC didn’t exist yet they are among its most strident supporters. Talk about shooting yourself in the feet.

    Most want to move to ABC once their looks decline.

  10. C.L.

    Wow. The Ramsay Centre put up a long fight, didn’t it?
    Three years established and its throwing in the towel.
    Good work, Johnny Howard.

    Western Civilisation isn’t about reading the Great Books. It’s about waging the great brawls.

  11. Entropy

    Apparently there is yet another streamer being launched in Oz owned by the BBC and ITV. britworld or something like that. So the ABc won’t even have British sitcoms, Jane Austen serialisations and detective mysteries to brag about anymore.

  12. Squirrel

    “They should be ring-fenced into set stations, networks and roles, lest they crowd out a thousand flowers in a thousand digital niches.”

    This airy condescension is unworthy of someone who did very well, indeed, in the golden age of Australian print media – when the international competition was a flea-bite compared to what happens now. I may have missed it, but I don’t recall the ABC of the 1970s producing magazines with nude centrefolds and sex tips……

  13. Boambee John

    ‘They should be ring-fenced into set stations, networks and roles, lest they crowd out a thousand flowers in a thousand digital niches.’

    “I thought: my goodness, is the ABC being equated to a weed?

    Ith Ita so poorly educated that she did not pick up the reference to “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a thousand schools of thought contend”?

  14. Dot

    The ABC and SBS have no basis to exist given the ubiquity and low cost of internet connectivity and smart devices.

    Just turn off the electricity and terminate the lease, make everyone redundant.

  15. H B Bear

    The Revolution will be subsided.

  16. C.L.

    The ABC and SBS have no basis to exist…

    Correct.

    All of their platforms and stations should be abolished. Maintain a national weather and emergency station only. Things like Classic FM could be maintained provided enough subscribers paid for it.

  17. Bronson

    Who gives a flying duck what Ita thinks? She only did what Packer told her too without that direction she’s useless.

  18. candy

    Actually I forgot about good documentaries. That is something an ABC could do beautifully but if becomes just about climate change, hating Trump, anti Christianity, climate change, hating the Military, it becomes boring. It has to be factual and interesting and draw people in, and encourage discussion not alienate folk.

    They have lost the knack of appealing to a wide audience.

  19. chrism

    Why people should be called on/forced with threat of jail to pay tax to pay for English TV shows to be shown free to air without ads is a mystery to me. How can that be justified?
    Making people pay for music on FM is also mysterious. And sport – why? It might be good for some , if so put it out to tender so 7, 9, 10 and SBS could put their hands up.
    Emergency broadcaster … well, ok, but once again put it out to tender, and make the deciders of who is awarded the contracts randomly chosen from the electoral roll.
    News services … ditto.
    Australian content …. ditto and offer R&D type tax incentives for others to compete against the cloistered few from Ultimo.
    And the real reason they’d die in a ditch to defend their ABC … political content … ok make the federal political parties fundholding with $25 per voter per year, (increased by private sector wage % increases), and allow them to fund shows/content that they consider of value, and allow them to put it out to tender.
    The ABC should be like the NBN – it is a means of transmission – the content should be like Reddit : from every sector.
    Defunding it is a pipe dream: aim to partition and move to a competitive funding model and separate transmission from production and thereby foster many new producers

  20. nb

    Has the campaign to rid us of the ABC gone up a notch, or is it just that the ABC has descended by a couple of notches. The ABC is a frightful embarrassment. Yes, here we have the cream of Australian journalism, and this is the best they can do!!! Laughable.

  21. cohenite

    Does she still speak with that irritating lisp.

  22. Davey Boy

    From page 101 of the Good Book of Sinc:

    “In short, individuals driving a personal agenda within an organisation represent an organisational failure.”

    Money quote.

  23. Neil

    Turns out that the ABC is protecting us from right-wing extremism. Taxpayers they used to be called

    Looks like lots of people think anything to the right of Karl Marx is a right wing extremist

  24. Fred

    Democracy existed in Australia long before the ABC came along.

  25. MarcH

    Comments about retaining ABC classic FM always make me laugh. So us rock and roll loving plebs should subsidise a few tossers what like their Mahler symphony 5 or Dvorak’s No.8. Good grief buy the bloody CD FFS!

  26. Dot

    C.L. did say the LARPing Muppets ought to pay a subscription.

  27. Dot

    Any mention of a whirlwind fuck of a cherubic 14 year old girl or a collector of young boy’s virtue?

    Oh and pie. Lots of lots of pie.

  28. MarcH

    Dot, Spotify sub will get you Mahler and then some… Classic FM utterly irrelevant.

  29. Lloyd

    Compared to defunding police defunding public broadcasters ought to be a doddle.

  30. Dot

    The ABC staff meddled in child abuse.

    The ABC staff medalled in child abuse.

    Both are correct.

  31. Jannie

    I once thought that the ABC was a leftist stronghold because it is government owned and a tool of their staff Union. But these days most privately owned media outfits are also tools of the left. “Left” including the biggest private information monopolies on the planet. Merely privatising it may not make a difference to its insufferable bias.

  32. Astatine Jones

    And here was I thinking that the peer-reviewed literature (albeit the single citation provided here) is just academics ensuring the continuation of their own gravy train of self-interest aligned with an over-arching Leftist New World Order conspiracy. Wait a minute…that’s only when it’s related to Anthropogenic Global Warming isn’t it?
    More to the point though, aside from the occasional Left bias from some of its commentators (that even a Centrist recognises), the ABC promotes and supports an abundance and diversity of information, discourse, visual art and music that is unequalled by the commercial media sector. For instance, the promotion of Australian music (rock, pop, metal, punk, hip hop, electronic, dance, folk, you-name-it) over decades by Triple J and, more recently, Double J is unparalleled by commercial radio and has helped build the Australian music industry to become the juggernaut that it is. And does anyone really think that commercial media interests would give a white noise hiss about Rural Australia?
    If you don’t like the ABC, don’t watch/listen. Campaign to get a tax break if you don’t want to fund it. The majority of Australians who either support the ABC or have too many other important things to do to really give a fuck either way will happily cover the small minority whose sensibilities are so offended by its very existence.

  33. H B Bear

    Campaign to get a tax break if you don’t want to fund it.

    You don’t know much about tax do you Asinine Jones do you?

  34. vlad

    The majority of Australians who either support the ABC or have too many other important things to do to really give a fuck either way will happily cover the small minority whose sensibilities are so offended by its very existence.

    Make it a subscription service, then, and it will be win-win, won’t it.

  35. vlad

    The Alinsky Broadcasting Corporation benefits from the same paradox that benefitted same-sex “marriage” plebiscite.

    Most people aren’t interested; a minority are passionately in favour; a smaller minority oppose it – and so that middle group gets its way.

  36. thefrollickingmole

    Jjj promotes Austfailian hip hop.
    That alone is reason enough to dynamite the whole place. With everyone inside.

  37. Astatine Jones

    H B Bear:
    Only that I pay it.
    Never suggested you’d be successful with said campaign. But doing something better than just whinging about it.

  38. Astatine Jones

    Jjj promotes Austfailian hip hop.

    That must be that hybrid Aussie-rasta mix involving lots of weed, heavy bass and Pacific vibe ;>)

  39. Dave in Marybrook

    Have You Been Paying Attention, on Ten-
    Round the Grounds, where state premiers get all chummy (and for Sneakers McGowan, head tossy and lispy) and ask dorothy dixers to the panel of comediennx to crack funny about what they been doing so well, you know, quarantining and shutting down society and solar powering.
    What a crock. Politicians should live in fear of comedians.
    The media-political complex is baked in to this once intelligent nation.
    Stick a fork, etc

  40. tombell

    anyone with half a brain new Turnbull was a complete wanker. Abbott a turn the other cheek freak with an obsession for 16th century regalia. ScoMo an oleaginous weed of a man. But the man who takes the cake is John Winston Howard. Regaled as the greatest “conservative” PM of the last half century. But the canker at the heart of modern conservative politics in Oz started with him. Period…

  41. Merely privatising it may not make a difference to its insufferable bias.

    All privatising will achieve is a circa $1.2B saving to Australia’s budget.

  42. Herodotus

    Thanks vlad – Alinsky Broacasting Corporation!
    I used to think classic fm was ok, but they are now so PC as to have lost me, and as has been said above, you can get any classical music you like via Spotify – the range is astonishing.
    How Ita can spout that gibberish is also astonishing, unless you remind yourself that leftists tend to say things are the opposite of what they really are, and accuse conservatives of what they do themselves.

  43. Igor

    I lasted 10 seconds into Ita’s whatever it was…..
    Start with the ‘acknowledgement of country’ and you know everything else will be woke rubbish.

  44. Neil

    But the man who takes the cake is John Winston Howard. Regaled as the greatest “conservative” PM of the last half century

    The Howard govt is the only govt since 1972 to reduce govt debt. Through a combination of asset sales and surplus budgets the man saved $200B in just 11 years taking govt debt to ZERO. Also unemployment fell from 8% to 4%. Howard is also the only govt since 1972 to reduce unemployment.

  45. Herodotus

    Last week’s Landline program was illustrative of the lurch to the left over the years. It used to be a fairly honest show about all things farming – twenty years ago. But now it seeks out stories which suit their ABC sensibilities – which no longer includes the national interest.
    A lengthy segment about a cattle station owner (lady) who keeps complete records of everything that’s done to every animal in order to prove they are looking after the beasts in a fully responsible way led to this amazing statement by the ABC person: meat is the new coal.
    Landline is apparently, we might conclude, headed towards shutting down the meat industry, or at least getting ready to do to it what the ABC did to live exports a few years back: demonise it; the cattle trade was shut down overnight, a kneejerk reaction by a Labor minister who probably shouldn’t have been in such an exalted position.
    Australia minus mining and agriculture exports certainly can’t afford the ABC, either financially or philosphically. Our economy is of less consequence to these ideologues than their fight to save the planet from climate change.

  46. Herodotus

    Howard critics are in effect saying he was not perfect.
    The fact is that the Howard-Costello government was about as good as it gets.
    Politics is never perfect.

  47. Mother Lode

    Protecting us from the far right?

    Simple enough to look at what that involves.

    Endless degradation of Australian traditions. Endless accusations of racism. Endless humiliation of Just one of the mainstream parties – which can hardly be called far-right – scarcely right at all. Endless skewering of working class success. Endless harping against the private sector.

    And so on.

    But here is the kicker: None of this is directed to the ordinary people supposedly in need of protection. It is directed solely to the closed community that already agrees with it. They aren’t trying to benevolently warn Australians. They are kids in a little clubhouse.

  48. Nighthawk the Elder

    What is their greatest (and most irrational) fear with being privatised, that Murdoch would sweep in, buy them out and the ABC become far right? As has already been point out numerous times, 7, 9, and 10 have all crept to the left in recent years and now that Murdoch junior is being given the keys to the empire, we’ve already seen their mast heads go that way as well. Only a matter of time for Sky to go full left. Ita need not worry as “right wing media” doesn’t exist in Australia.

    Maybe I’ve got it wrong, maybe their greatest fear is accountability. Maybe they fear they can’t spend taxpayer money on whatever artistic indulgence or cause du jour that takes their fancy. Maybe they have to make a business case and justify the spend. Maybe they fear they won’t be able to make outrageous slanders against high profile individuals with whom they disagree and will no longer have the protections of the taxpayer funded legal organs of the organisation to hide behind (we’re looking at you 7-Nillagain).

  49. Bruce of Newcastle

    Protecting us from the far right?

    More gaslighting, which they do all the time. Climate change. Covid-19. Kulaks. Dare I say J ews in the 1930’s? So now they’re pointing squirrel towards the VRWC as class-enemy for the daily two minutes hate on the ABC day in day out.

  50. Mother Lode

    For a billion dollars can’t we at least call out that they are not reaching a commensurate size part of the population.

    Most people who think the ABC is good are people who were told as kids that it has cultural and current affairs programs, but who have never been enticed by its scarcely known offerings enough to watch it.

  51. David Brewer

    Unlistenably bad from the off.

    Fails to distinguish between critics of “public broadcasting” as an idea and critques of the ABC’s actual performance in this role.

    Conflates public broadcasting with “a free and independent media”.

    Makes numerous unsubstantiated assertions about the ABC being a bastion of Australian democracy, with no attempt to meet well-evidenced charges of its rampant bias and exclusion of non-Left views.

    Repeatedly claims that “public broadcasting” combats “right-wing extremists”, “right-wing global terrorism”, “far-right policies across Europe” etc., thus guaranteeing democracy.

    And so on. In short, the speech is a sophomoric attack on the ABC’s detractors, and displays exactly the sort of political bias and childish oversimplifications that those detractors complain about.

  52. Terry

    ‘All privatising will achieve is a circa $1.2B saving to Australia’s budget.’

    No, that’s not “All”.

    An annual saving of &#8773 $1.2B is not insignificant; it is a great start. We’ll take it.

    However, more than just the cash, it grants immediate satisfaction to the principle of not extorting monies from taxpayers to fund partisan agitprop which actively works against their own interests, welfare, and happiness.

    Further, the active and deliberate suffocation of private media (in whatever form evolves in the aftermath of the Legacy Media’s destruction) ends, and the industry/marketplace recovers (or begins to, probably more globally focussed).

    All of our other institutions, entirely captured (most of them) or under sustained political attack under the watch of Australian Pravda, are released to recover and renew their mission in service of the Australian people and only in their interests, or are dissolved to prevent them from acting against those interests, without any whining about “undermining democracy” (code for removing largesse and taking away “our” toys).

    Maybe then, adequate scrutiny of our self-appointed political class can return, our citizens are exposed to a more diverse critique of their treachery, and we can commence the very long task of removing them from holding any power over us and holding them account for declaring open warfare on those they were meant to serve.

  53. Mick Gold Coast QLD

    From Squirrel at 9:03 pm:

    ““They should be ring-fenced into set stations, networks and roles, lest they crowd out a thousand flowers in a thousand digital niches.”

    This airy condescension is …

    … reminiscent of Aristotle Blấnçhétte’s sermon of 2010 on the vital work of people who do dress ups and talk about themselves a lot:

    “We change people’s lives, at the risk of our own. We change countries, governments, history, gravity. After gravity, culture is the thing that holds humanity in place, in an otherwise constantly shifting and, let’s face it, tiny outcrop in the middle of an infinity of nowhere.”

  54. Karabar

    What were they thinking when they put Isa Buttcrack in that position in the first place?

  55. duncanm

    “Lately the campaign against the ABC has become more strident. It appears to have gone up a notch this year. And this development concerns me,” she said.

    but no, the problem is not the ABC, its the critics.

    The ABC is the triffid. Looks harmless enough in the bottom of the garden until you turn your back.

  56. calli

    “Lately the campaign against the ABC has become more strident. It appears to have gone up a notch this year. And this development concerns me,” she said.

    Boo hoo.

    Has she bothered to ask herself why there might be a campaign against the ABC and whether there might be any substance to it?

    Silly question. Tax hoovers never hear anything above the sound of their own suction. Someone pull the plug.

  57. Cassie of Sydney

    “Terry
    #3669236, posted on November 24, 2020 at 7:55 am”

    Great comment Terry.

  58. jupes

    Nine newspapers, Guardian, and other left wing media would be $1billion better off if their ABC didn’t exist yet they are among its most strident supporters. Talk about shooting yourself in the feet.

    More like they are sucking up to them for the next job that pops up. Nepotism being the standard ABC employment path, they have to suck pretty damn hard to get to the front of the queue.

  59. Spurgeon Monkfish III

    Lately the campaign against the ABC has become more strident. It appears to have gone up a notch this year

    This monstrous campaign has even resulted in new variations of the Mantra™:

    Shut it down
    Fire them all
    Out of a cannon
    Into a wall …

  60. egg_

    The ERT Athens of Straya?

    The Greeks tried to give it the heave ho!

  61. Mother Lode

    Without the influence and the disproportionate clout of the ABC, Australian society would be more harmonious and better centred.

    Would we have this insane crusade against reliable energy if it was left to Fauxfacts? Would every arrival from overseas be so resentful and entitled if the ABC was not stoking the ‘racist Australia’ and ‘you do not have to adapt’ fires? Would SSM have been as divisive, and the referendum as suspect, if it had not been turned into an attack by the gasbags on the ABC?

    Look at the acceptance of gays. Is it the result of progressive campaigns? Or simply working with and socialising with them. It is the ordinary gays and ordinary straights that accommodated each other. Not the barking orators compelling them. They likely made it worse by depicting gays as hostile and extreme.

    But the ABC has one real power. They do not reach much of the public, but politicians are strangely obsequious. When the ABC – perhaps one of their programs like 4-Corners, or Q&A – is cited in Parliament, it is treated as if what was said is true. No one says ‘That is a nonsense. I will be speaking to the head Butt and demand a retraction’. Yet they could save themselves all sorts of ridiculous contortions that the ABC deliberately puts them through purely to frustrate them.

    Defund the ABC and Australia can finally be itself again.

  62. thefrollickingmole

    All privatising will achieve is a circa $1.2B saving to Australia’s budget.

    Fake news.
    Work out the long term costs of the cattle ban debacle and redo your sums.

  63. Roger

    Next up at Ramsay: Noel Pearson.

  64. egg_

    Isn’t there declining patronage of this steam meeja juggernaut with the intarwebs?

    Probably why there’s increasing criticism of its relevance?

  65. Neil

    Howard critics are in effect saying he was not perfect.
    The fact is that the Howard-Costello government was about as good as it gets.
    Politics is never perfect.

    Twice in the lifetime of Australians the Commonwealth was debt free, in 1972 and in 2007. When Whitlam trashed the budget in the early 1970’s govt debt kept increasing until it reached 18% of GDP 1996. Within 12 months of being elected Howard was running surplus budgets and reduced debt to zero by 2007

    Then Rudd trashed the budget and govt debt is now back up to 18% of GDP with years of budgets deficits to come. Those who think govt debt is not a problem are about to find out

    Shows how great Howard/Costello were. The only govt since 1972 to reduce govt debt

  66. Dot

    If John Howard is as good as it gets then mainstream politics is just theatre and the LDP, PHON etc can go home.

  67. Roger

    I thought: my goodness, is the ABC being equated to a weed?

    Erm…yes, that would be consistent with the metaphor.

    And yet she still fails to grasp the point of her critic.

    Whatever sharpness Ita once had has clearly long since faded into sensescence.

    Not an inspired choice.

  68. Lee

    If you don’t like the ABC, don’t watch/listen.

    The condescending ABC types such as you, Astatine, can get stuffed.
    If lefties like you want it, pay for it yourselves.
    Meanwhile, the rest of us shouldn’t have to pay for the blatantly far-left partisanship which is the ABC.

  69. chrism

    +1

    Lee
    #3669590, posted on November 24, 2020 at 3:50 pm

  70. Ubique

    ABC radio ratings in Perth plummet to new record lows. This is the only market signal the ABC gets. Dismal return for our $1 billion of taxpayers’ hard-earned.

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