When directors of taxpayer-funded boards start defending the indefensible you know there’s a serious problem.
In this case, the problem is deep seated, intractable and certainly real.
The organisation is the ABC and the problem is bias.
This week, Melbourne based ABC board member, multi-millionaire Joseph Gersh, made a clumsy, embarrassing and entirely inappropriate entry into the debate about bias in ABC broadcast and online content.
Questions of on-air content and employee performance are not for directors to discuss in public. These are matters for the ABC managing director and their direct reports to manage and defend as they see fit.
Given the chaotic and unaccountable nature of ABC management, these distinctions probably account for nothing. Pretty much anything goes at the national broadcaster, it seems.
That virtually all ABC television news and current affairs shows (and several ABC radio shows) carry biases ranging from overt to extreme is not up for argument.
Circumstantial and anecdotal evidence conclusively reveals the extent of entrenched leftist bias in the work of a number of senior presenters and reporters who are practiced at ‘running a line’ on this issue or that. Many see it as their central purpose to ‘tutor’ their audience in case anyone should be sufficiently misguided to make up their own mind on a given issue.
It’s beyond argument that many ABC presenters and reporters, often of long-standing and experience, have adopted the approach that their role is not to encourage viewers and listeners to think, but to ‘tell’ their audience what to think.
Call me old fashioned, but I don’t need to be told what to think. I prefer to be stimulated by online, print, radio and sometimes television offerings or by public debates, university lectures, seminars and so on so that I can decide for myself what I may think about this or that issue.
What can possibly explain this undeniable and regressive trend to hector and preach within our publicly funded national broadcaster?
The overt ‘push’ of the blended professional and personal views of highly paid presenters and reporters has been in a growth phase over the last 25 years. That this phenomena roughly parallels the global influence of the internet is not an accident.
As the space for media attention has become more crowded, those whose job it is to speak into microphones have become more strident, opinionated and dogmatic all in the name of getting noticed. These people now see their role not as informing an engaged public – but as shapers of public opinion.
Let’s face it, what’s worse than being spoken of as being biased? You guessed it, not being spoken of at all.
It’s axiomatic that people in media (especially in TV media) crave attention, adulation and simply being right more often than not. They love celebrity and need to keep being the news – not merely purveyors of it. The sheer confounding idiocy of commercial television ‘stardom’ is testament to this. But it’s happening at the ABC and those few of us who still care about dear ageing Aunty ain’t so happy about it.
Night after depressing night, presenters of possibly the lowest of low budget panel shows in the country — The Drum — pander to sectoral, ideologically left agendas, usually with the same tired Sydney faces lamenting this and that and extolling their solutions for a better world. It’s an absurd, low rent production wedded to a flawed format and embarrassingly ideological anchors. One, in particular, is partial to making statements and then adding the word ‘right’ at the end of it to underscore the point ‘we are all on the same page here aren’t we.’
That this is now ‘the’ way news and current affairs is done over at Ultimo is to the ABC’s continuing shame. Management, long ago, gave up trying to control news or the ‘flagship’ information shows. Just check the Twitter accounts of these people for an insight into their rusted-on political views.
The real debate today should be that the ABC has become unmanageable. Mr Gersh should stick to ensuring ‘their ABC’ spends ‘our money’ in a responsible and efficient way.
Gersh and his co-directors have more than enough to keep them busy on that front. In the event the directors don’t have faith in their MD to run the corporation – they should find a new MD. It is no harder or simpler than that.
In the meantime, the spectacularly unknown Mr Gersh might consider doing the job we pay him to do rather than telling us what to think.
Exactly whose ABC is it, Mr Gersh?
John Simpson is a Melbourne company director.
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