Reblog: The Geek on ‘What Happened to our ABC?’

Just a quick reblog before Parliament resumes, to highlight one of the best articles I’ve seen on the current state of our national broadcaster when it comes to reporting on Australian politics. But first, a little background.

The ABC had a charter forced upon it by the Howard government, using the pretext that the broadcaster was consistently demonstrating a ‘leftist’ bias. The government argued that, since the ABC was a taxpayer-funded organisation, it had to be completely impartial. As such, for every interview with a ‘leftist’, there must also be an interview with someone on the ‘right’ side of politics.

In theory, it’s not a bad idea. Getting both sides of the story – and subjecting both sides to the same tough scrutiny – is rarely a wasted effort.

But then there’s the Senate Communications Committee (thoroughly populated by Coalition members), that regularly hauls the ABC onto the carpet to make it defend its actions. This can go to absurd lengths, sometimes. In 2011, some wit on Twitter decided that comments on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s Budget Reply speech should be hashtagged ‘#budgies’ (an obvious reference to the many photos of Abbott in his Speedos, as well as a pun on ‘budget’). In order to reach their social media audience, the ABC’s journalists (and every other media figure on Twitter) went along with it. For this, they were roundly abused by the Committee; at the height of the diatribe, the ABC was castigated for not forcing Twitter to use a hashtag that was ‘not offensive’.

As if any media organisation has ever been able to force Twitter to do anything it doesn’t want to do.

The result of ridiculous charges like this, though, and the constant harassment from the Coalition, has led to a parlous state of affairs in the ABC. It’s rare, these days, we’ll see a hard-hitting interview of a Coalition member (ah, remember that wonderful time when Kerry O’Brien utterly shredded Abbott’s arguments on The 7.30 Report?), let alone a balanced piece of news about something involving the current government. Opposition members virtually have the run of the ABC, while shows like Insiders regularly allow flagrantly Coalition-partisan journalists like Andrew Bolt or Piers Akerman to shout down any dissenting view.

And that’s just the background.

The Geek, over at Australians for Honest Politics, has gathered a damning collection of examples of just how this pressure from the Coalition has warped our national broadcaster. The ABC leaps to apologise if it catches a Coalition guest in a lie, or pushes them for an answer until they get worked up and complain – yet it treats the ALP (and the Prime Minister) completely differently. The list of incidents goes on and on; it’s comprehensive, and disheartening, but it’s an article that is absolutely required reading. In a country where claims that our media has a ‘leftist’ bias, this piece lays out the evidence that – if anything – the reverse is true. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

The Geek asks, quite rightly, ‘What Happened to our ABC?’ That’s something I’d like to know, and I suspect I’m not alone in that.

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