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Itís time to privatise the ABC

By Felicity McMahon - posted Wednesday, 8 August 2007


In recent weeks, the ABC has made a case for its own privatisation. The recipient of more than $700 million of taxpayer revenue, it should be the mouthpiece of balanced, informative journalism. Instead, it’s become of the mouthpiece of the left. It is the voice of a one-sided militant campaign on a range of controversial issues. From WorkChoices to global warming, from private schools to interest rates, the ABC has shown its true colours as a biased broadcaster driven by political motivation.

It’s time to sell the ABC.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is a statutory authority governed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983 (Cth). According to the ABC website, the ABC Charter outlines that the principal function of the ABC is, inter alia, to provide services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians.

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In spite of this stated function, the ABC is far from achieving this aim. There are only a handful of shows produced by the ABC today that actually provide a balanced point of view on any issue. Insiders, and Inside Business airing on Sunday morning are two excellent news review programs which contain a panel of commentators from differing political backgrounds. They both provide insightful analysis and debate.

Unfortunately these two programs appear to be the exception to the rule at the ABC. Perhaps the Insiders programs might be joined by the new show Difference of Opinion, which appears to be somewhat balanced. Moreover, what’s unfortunate about Insiders and Inside Business, is that they air at very unpopular viewing times for the average Australian: Sundays at 9am and 10am respectively.

One could have even included Lateline in that list. But since one of the hosts, Maxine McKew, was preselected as the Labor candidate to run against John Howard in the seat of Bennelong, it certainly does not deserve to remain in that small list of unbiased ABC programs.

McKew is not alone in terms of Labor involvement at the ABC. The much-admired 7:30 Report is hosted by Kerry O’Brien, a former press secretary to Gough Whitlam, and later a staffer to Deputy Lionel Brown.

One tends to wonder, given the considerable involvement of ABC personalities with the left, what sort of impact this has on the objectivity in their reporting. And what impact it has on achieving the ABC’s aims of providing services that inform all Australians. One would expect that this purpose would include serving all Australians, even those on the right side of politics.

The ABC’s bias manifests itself more than in just the personalities hosting its programs. Its bias is a mixture of blatant overt agenda-pushing through the choice of programs it chooses to produce or air, on the one hand, and more subtle commentary suggesting a particular point of view, on the other hand. Sometimes it is dressed up as proper news. Sometimes there is even a token opposition opinion to satisfy the right. But the result is the same. The agenda that is pushed is from only one side: the left.

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The more overt agenda pushing has been seen in the last six months in the choice of programs the ABC has chosen to air.

The first that comes to mind is Bastard Boys, in May 2007. Commissioned by the ABC in 2005, the mini-series was a dramatisation of the 1998 Waterfront dispute between Patricks Corporation and the Maritime Workers’ Union. At the time of the ABC’s announcement that it would commission the mini-series in 2005,Andrew Landeryou, tongue-in-cheek, commented that he expected the mini-series to be “a dispassionate, unbiased and highly reasoned approach to the issues” which would no doubt expose the reality of rorts and corruption on the docks.

Of course, Bastard Boys, was far from that.

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About the Author

Felicity McMahon is a graduate of the University of Technology, Sydney, with a degree in Business and a First Class Honours Degree in Law.

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