Flat White

The ABC of politics 

19 June 2020

12:01 PM

19 June 2020

12:01 PM

I have never really understood all the criticisms of the ABC and their biases.  It is as if people think that the ABC is a media organisation with some sort of obligation, professional or otherwise, to be balanced and neutral. 

The ABC is not a media organisation that does a bit of politics.  The ABC is a political organisation that does a bit of media. 

Just have a look or listen to their content.  They do not present information or opinion for the purpose of allowing consumers to come to their own conclusions.  The ABC runs agenda; agendas seeking to shape and reshape public policy.  Take for example the ABC’s position on climate change. 

Let us accept that the climate is changing, after all the climate has been changing for thousands of years.  But having accepted that the climate is changing, there are a variety of policy choices available to governments and parliaments.  This includes doing nothing.  The absence of a policy is actually a policy. 

On the doing something front, it may shock ABC listeners and readers to know, but there are options other than a “price on carbon” or 100 per cent renewable energy target.  Shocking as it may be for them to hear this, but it is true. 

Yet presenting information and options is not what the ABC does.   A “price on carbon” and a 100 per cent renewable energy target is the house policy preference of the ABC, and the ABC is campaigning to have these policies implemented. This is not journalism.  This is politics.  This is advocacy. 

Yeah.  Alright.  There are other “media” organisations that may do the same thing, but do not dare say that the ABC is just a bulwark against that.  The ABC is a publicly funded body and with that funding comes certain responsibilities and obligations.  Underneath the various enterprise and legislative arrangements, the ABC is a government agency and its employees are public servants. 

Consider the public and political response where the following scenario to occur.  Imagine if the Treasury had a house position on climate policy.  It probably does, but that is a separate matter.  Now imagine the Treasury advising the government not on how it can best implement its (the elected Government’s) policies but rather what its policies should be.  And to make sure, Treasury officers made public speeches and purchased television advertisements to campaign for these policies.  Policies which conflict with those of the elected government.  How would people react? 

Such conduct would not be considered frank and fearless advice but rather unaccountable advocacy.  We would not accept this from any other public sector agency so why would we accept this from the ABC? 

The ABC will argue what they are doing is journalism, public interest journalism.  But journalism, public interest or otherwise, is about reporting, informing and educating.  The ABC, in between these tasks, is campaigning, advocating and influencing.  This should not be the role of a public broadcaster. 

The ABC model of public broadcasting as anathema to democracy.  If governments want to support public interest journalism, there are many other delivery models available other than the ABC.  However, if the ABC wishes to engage in politics, it should be stripped of its public funding.   

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