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ABC’s balancing act

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 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.

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I think rudd is all talk. i hope & pray that he does not misgiude the australian voters...people have very short memories at how the labor party will destroy the economy...& now with world politics being fragile !! WE need a stable govt

Posted on 2007-06-10 09:36:46 GMT

This aticle misses the point, utterly superficial, and adds nought to resolving a perceived problem. .It all comes through the politics of recruitment, and its history post- Vietnam. Who is recruited? Is there a group think extant as a result? Is it a product of ideological selection? This is why the political proclivities of individuals of the Board makes no real difference. It is an operational matter, that is one left to the ABC professionals who act in true Stalinist fashion with an accompanying Messiah-like ego. Who is chosen to be a member of its commentariat needs examination. Though harder to believe, but SBS may be even worse in this regard. An an extra money stream doesn't change matters. Just watch its news and current affairs programs. Where do the clips come from? Their political slant is never challenged, but delivered as fact. And if in gross error, there is no genuine avenue of complaint. SBS messages are conveyed through a multitude of languages and voices whose stand on Jews-Israel is jaundiced to say the least.

Posted by rg on 2007-06-07 07:17:57 GMT

GO OZIE!!!! Aren't we glad that The Australian exists in the barren media landscape!

Posted by Fiona on 2007-06-07 02:50:02 GMT

What an absolutely refreshing editorial. Someone mainstream - The editors of the Australian - has the same view as ICJS. Will wonders never cease.

Posted on 2007-06-07 02:42:00 GMT

The ABC could easily be thought of as the Anti-semitic Broadcasting Corporation by the way that they are constantly attacking Israel. If the British model is anything to go by we are in real trouble. The ABC if it is to shake off its stench should be cleaned up from top to bottom. The present day profession of journalism in both Australia and Britain for the most part could be thought of as one of ill repute.

Posted by Wazza of Oz on 2007-06-07 02:08:19 GMT