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Democratise and federalise 'Our ABC'

By Jai Martinkovits - posted Friday, 31 January 2014

Research indicates that the typical ABC journalist's political beliefs are well to the left of the general population. A recent survey found that over 40% support the Greens, over 30% support Labor, and just 15% support the Coalition.

Any reasonable estimation must leave Australians lamenting the way "aunty" has become so blatantly riddled with political bias - and not only in the selection of political issues, but the emphasis and persons selected to comment. Almost without exception, the ABC takes the line of the hard left.

There are numerous examples of this, including climate change, asylum seekers, same-sex marriage, and indeed almost any topic which is discussed on the farce which is Q&A. Most recently, we saw the release of information about Australia's alleged spying on Indonesia through high-profile phone tapping. Despite the fact that this was alleged to have occurred under the Rudd Government's watch, the information was released only when the newly elected Abbott Government was handling relations well with Indonesia, making significant inroads to restoring the integrity of our borders. The ABC says that it was The Guardian that sat on the information. If so, why did they chose to become the advertiser for this left-wing news outlet, giving the report the gravitas in Asia which only an official Australian TV service can?


In the case of private outlets, journalist's leanings, left or right, should not be cause for concern in itself. After all, so long as comment is clearly distinguishable from news, readers (or viewers) may, as they have done in the case of the Fairfax press, vote with their feet. However, Australians should be concerned that they are forced to pay in excess of $1bn for the left-wing propaganda they are being drip fed.

This, perhaps through pure desperation, has led to calls for the full privatisation of the ABC. I believe that would be a mistake. A prime reason for the existence of the ABC today should be to provide services which commercial broadcasting either does not or cannot provide - for example some regional broadcasting. And complementary doesn't mean politically complementary, as the ABC is not supposed to have any political agenda.

Instead, we must find a way to ensure strong editorial leadership. Of singular importance in achieving this is the office of Managing Director which, as the incumbent, Mark Scott, so correctly identifies, is two-facetted. The first role being CEO and the second role - the one which Mr. Scott is charged with failing to deliver - being Editor-in-Chief.

So much of the problem can be attributed to the ABC's legal and de facto structural weaknesses. All power is effectively vested in the Managing Director, with the Chairman and Board of Directors so constrained by the structural defects, they are demonstrably impotent in dealing with systemic bias. If the Managing Director prefers the advantages of a quiet life, he soon learns that his primary role is to defend and excuse the ABC in public and let the left-wing collectives run the joint.

I believe that the solution lies in democratising the ABC.

Firstly the Managing Director should be selected in the usual way, but crucially not have tenure. Instead, he or she should serve at the pleasure of a newly established Council (a group which I shall return to shortly). Just as in business.


Instead of a Board of Directors, effectively appointed by the government, we should rely on the common sense, good judgement and basic decency of the average Australian. Let's be a real democracy and let the people elect a Council of the ABC. To weed out the usual suspects and carpetbaggers, let them all be volunteers. And as all politicians should be, subject to a right of recall by the people. This Council of rank-and-file Australians would then elect a Board of Directors from amongst its members.

A public enquiry into public broadcasting could, amongst other things, determine the most appropriate way to conduct such elections. One such way would be an election of half the Council as and when a Federal election is held. This would result in approximately six-year appointments and would place little extra burden on taxpayers and electors. Alternates could also be elected to ensure casual vacancies are not treated as “jobs for the boys” as they blatantly are in the Senate.

Another significant problem any such enquiry must consider - one which is shared by other institutions such as the High Court - is that Canberra-Sydney-Melbourne centric view of our nation.

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Jai Martinkovits is the author with David Flint of Give Us Back Our Country (Connor Court, 2013). You can follow Jai on Twitter at @jaimartinkovits.

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About the Author

Born and raised in Sydney, Jai brings together a well balanced mix of academic, business, sporting and social interests. A well rounded person, he is respected in a diverse range of circles. Jai is Executive Director of - an organisation dedicated to preserving, protecting and defending our individual rights, freedom, and traditional values. He is also joint author with Professor David Flint of Give Us Back Our Country (Connor Court, 2013). You can follow Jai on Twitter at @jaimartinkovits

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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