A bipartisan approach is unlikely to put an end to bias KEVIN Rudd's proposal to seek bipartisan support for the appointment of the ABC chairman and for board members to be selected by an independent panel is laudable in its intent. Mr Rudd has said that his policy, which is modelled on a British system used to make
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KEVIN Rudd's proposal to seek bipartisan support for the appointment of the ABC chairman and for board members to be selected by an independent panel is laudable in its intent. Mr Rudd has said that his policy, which is modelled on a British system used to make senior appointments to public bodies such as the BBC, is intended to put the ABC beyond the reach of frontline culture warriors of any political persuasion. The trouble is that to a large degree the ABC is staffed by cultural warriors who are hardly influenced by the comings and goings on the board.
The ABC board has been the creature of the ruling government of the day for many decades. Under the Hawke and Keating governments, Labor appointees to the board included former Labor pollster Rod Cameron and former South Australian Labor premier John Bannon while under John Howard conservative columnist Janet Albrechtsen (who writes for The Australian) and conservative historian Keith Windschuttle have been given seats at the table. What is remarkable, however, is that regardless of who is appointed to the board, the perspective that dominates the ABC tends to be that of the newsroom collective. From the environment to international affairs, the ABC slant seems to be more in tune with Bob Brown and Kerry Nettle than any mainstream political party, either Labor or the Coalition.
The Australian regularly criticises the persistent ABC bias, which is a betrayal of the vast majority of Australian taxpayers who resent funding programs that reflect the views of a small minority. But in some ways, the failure of the ABC to be true to its charter has had an even more devastating effect. The ABC's responsibility to provide incisive and relevant current affairs coverage is particularly important in regional Australia. The decision to pull back on state coverage of current affairs in key programs such as The 7.30 Report has had a significant impact in states such as South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland. It always seemed an odd priority to spend taxpayers' money on a show like The Glass House while neglecting coverage of news and current affairs in Adelaide or Hobart. The ABC should give primacy to excellence in current affairs coverage rather than frittering away funding on quiz shows and comedies that are readily funded by the commercial sector.
To be blunt, it is time Aunty grew up. The main task for the ABC board is to encourage the ABC to embrace the challenges of the modern media landscape and free itself from a centralised public service culture more suited to the middle decades of the last century. SBS has shown that an imaginative public broadcaster can tap revenue from the private sector without falling captive to it. The ABC hardheads must adjust to a world that is focused on wealth creation instead of wealth redistribution.
Original piece is http://theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21856385-7583,00.html?from=public_rss