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Do elites rule at the ABC?

By Peter West - posted Thursday, 29 October 2020

Is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation too focused on the interests of a relatively small group of people in the inner cities of Sydney and Melbourne? This has been discussed in the ABC and taken up by mainstream media.

In staff briefings last week, Gaven Morris, the head of ABC news, warned staffseveral times not to be too focussed on the interests of inner city 'elites'.

The notion of elites was discussed by Vilfredo Pareto, who said that usually, a small group of people had more influence over a society than they deserved. The elites became more and more insular, rendering them blind to change and liable to make harmful mistakes. We could also refer to the work of Robert Michels,who said that any organisation ended up being run by a small group.


It's this meaning of elite,meaning a small group having undeserved, harmful influence that has become popular. It's relevant to Donald Trump's cry 'drain the swamp' and his attempt in the final presidential debate to position Joe Biden as just another politician, versus his attempt to paint himself as the voice of 'the American people'. We will find the other meaning of elite as best, or wisest, or highest-achieving, not helpful in this context.

Thus we might ask: what are the interests of the elites of the inner cities of Sydney and Melbourne; and to an extent Brisbane and Adelaide? Could I suggest the following as a start: a commitment to feminism; a conviction that white Australians are racist; support for climate change; and a patronising attitude to rural Australia.

Let's take some of these in turn and check these against the issues championed by ABC news.


It isn't possible to have a clear definition of feminism which everyone can agree on. Any thoughtful male probably has sympathy for female loved ones, but any attempt to get a simple definition results in us getting caught in a swamp of different versions of what is feminism? Let's just say then that a working definition might be something like the following: a belief that women are equal to men in ability, but have been prevented from taking up the power they deserve; a belief that women are basically wise and effective and that their achievement has often been hindered by others; and that behind every attempt of women to succeed, there are forces at work, usually male, which hold them back.

Now let's have a look at ABC TV News. Issues of concern to women take pride of place. Almost anything concerning the progress of women seems to be highlighted, and women's interests are held up as deserving of urgent attention. There were many things that might have been said about the recent budget, but ABC pushed the idea that it was unfair to women. Take another example. Amid all the other pressing items of news, one issue led the news a few days ago. A small group of women were searched after a baby was found in a plane's toilet. Yes, strange and disturbing. But was it the most vital piece of information we needed to know? Discussion of prisons sometimes ends up with a discussion of women prisoners; but about ninety percent of them in New South Wales - for instance - are male. In discussion of health, women's interests are usually preferred by the health producer. Time and again, women's interest are brought forward as deserving of special attention. Why must it be so? And which women are we hearing from? The voices of women on a farm in Geraldton, or those in Launceston – or some journalists writing from Surry Hills?

When it comes to education, ABC and other media champion girls. On ABC news websites, in discussing school performance, there are more photos of girls.Girls' successes are celebrated. Boys' successes are played down. Or we hear more about boys bullying or misbehaving. I have written about all this widespread attempt to downplay boys' achievementand encourage girls elsewhere, and it's not confined to the ABC. But the language is similar: females are breaking down barriers, girls are smashing stereotypes, and so on. It all reeks of ideology, just as North Korea talks about our Dear Leader. Or Donald Trump clapping himself as they play "Americans are Free"


Female music?

One strange aspect of this has been little noted. ABC Classic FM is now playing music by female composers. Not occasionally, but daily. Why? We are getting music by women composers relentlessly pushed at us. I choose the composers listed at the time of writing on the morning of 26 October. Sally Whitwell, Louise Farrenc (played twice) and Phyllis Batchelor. And numerous others. Who are these people? Have they been lying somewhere in obscurity? A deserved one, in many cases. Do these people merit being heard alongside Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and similar on a station which calls itself Classic FM?

And then of course, we are now having women's sport pushed at us on TV, night after night. Women's Rugby League hardly seems to be widely loved, except as a novelty. But it smacks of more of 'these are women who have been neglected, while men have taken up far too much attention'. The feminist ideology, in a nutshell.

I'm hardly a sports enthusiast. I find most sport tedious to watch. Don Bradmanwas a hero to my dad, but just one more dreary sportsman to me. Oh, and I had far too much Rugby League pushed at me while growing up in the St George area in the 1950s. Rugby League heroes at school were brought up for us to virtually worship after their every success. And when the priest said "Let us pray for all the Saints" I thought he meant Norm Provan and Johnny Raper.

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About the Author

Dr Peter West is a well-known social commentator and an expert on men's and boys' issues. He is the author of Fathers, Sons and Lovers: Men Talk about Their Lives from the 1930s to Today (Finch,1996). He works part-time in the Faculty of Education, Australian Catholic University, Sydney.

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