12 December 2013

BBC to audit the ABC's bias. Good grief!

From The Australian, December 12, 2013, by Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor
THE ABC is lucky to have Jim Spigelman as its chairman. Distinguished, plausible, generally well-liked, he is the most convincing face the ABC can present.
Yet his defence of the ABC yesterday concerning revelations of Australian intelligence intercepts of Indonesian politicians was woefully unconvincing.
Surely it is almost beyond parody that the ABC intends to prove it is not biased in its news and current affairs by appointing a BBC journalist to conduct an audit.
The BBC? Good grief.
Interestingly, Spigelman did concede that episodes of bias occur in ABC news and current affairs, but he claims the problem is not systemic. That, frankly, is ridiculous.
Surely no one seriously contests that the culture across almost all ABC radio and TV programs remotely concerned with politics is centre-left and beyond.
If not, perhaps Spigelman could point to the two hours a night of national radio broadcasts by a centre-right figure to match Phillip Adams. Or he might inform us of the centre-right presenter of Media Watch to match all the centre-left presenters? Or the centre-right equivalent of Jonathan Green and all the others. The question of the ABC's political culture is relevant to the spy story because in justifying the ABC's partnership with left-wing British newspaper The Guardian and its Australian website, and the ABC's decision to publish unredacted intelligence documents on its own news website, the ABC made foolish and offensive arguments.
For example, ABC managing director Mark Scott equated the story to the revelations a few years ago that officials of the AWB allegedly had paid kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq to secure wheat sales. And the ABC's director of news, Kate Torney, characterised the story as being about an "abuse of power" by Australian intelligence agencies.
In a fascinating piece in last Saturday's Weekend Financial Review, Christopher Joye quoted an unnamed but "very senior" Australian defence official as saying:
"The ABC continues to report that routine and lawful Australian Signals Directorate operations are a scandal. One of the most significant outcomes of Snowden in Australia might be the delegitimisation of the ABC and a growing consensus to reform the organisation."

...there is a real debate to be had about the ABC's handling of this acutely sensitive national security story. But that debate certainly won't be had on the ABC or in most of Fairfax. For that, we are the poorer.