Flat White

Virtuous ABC’s parallel universe

18 March 2022

9:00 AM

18 March 2022

9:00 AM

ABC Managing Director, David Anderson, has devoted his entire career to the national broadcaster. It shows.

In a recent extraordinary eighty-seven-page ‘love letter’ to the organisation (published to mark the broadcaster’s ninetieth birthday), Anderson revealed he started at the ABC at the tender age of 18.

Now 51, he got the top job ‘accidentally’ following the calamitous tenure and acrimonious departure of his predecessor, Michelle Guthrie, in March 2019.

Anderson’s excruciating essay Now More Than Ever – Australia’s ABC oozes self-congratulation while underscoring the myopic ‘world view’ held by so many who derive their livelihood and their sense of self-worth, from the public broadcaster.

Anderson has never been tested in the wider world beyond the taxpayer-funded billion dollar ABC. He’s never worked for a commercial broadcaster. Never worked directly for another public broadcaster and never worked off-shore.

The Anderson epistle invites readers to make a series of ‘illuminating’ deductions about the ‘parallel universe’ occupied by the taxpayer-funded organisation and the people very well paid to run it.

The first inescapable deduction is that the ABC is entirely virtuous. Anderson’s narrative records the ABC is utterly without flaw or defect. Everything the ABC produces is for the betterment of humankind and the unquestioned improvement of our minds. Areas for improvement? Forget it. There are none.

All who occupy a desk or studio at Ultimo (Sydney – of course) or in ABC bunkers across the country – are devoted solely to the delivery of virtue. Every journalist, presenter, researcher, technician, manager, and board member is driven by a powerful, almost mystical, sense of duty and mission to the Australian public.

Secondly, the ABC’s much-lauded independence provides cover for all the organisation says or does. Independence is a shield, an impenetrable steel barrier protecting the mothership from scrutiny, bureaucratic inquiry, or even just constructive criticism from those who would dearly love to see the ABC improve its output, standards, and integrity.

Thirdly, the ABC is the rock upon which our democratic traditions are formed and preserved says Anderson. ‘A powerful, unifying element in any democracy is a sense of shared values and historical memory,’ he says. Anderson, without a moment’s hesitation, leads the reader to the view it’s the ABC that is the ‘powerful, unifying element.’

On citizenship, we discover that it’s the ABC that is at the pumping heart of what it is to be Australian. ‘We are the only broadcaster trusted by education experts around Australia to sit side-by-side with them in the delivery of our children’s education,’ exclaims a highly animated Anderson.

Despite this deluge of insight, it’s not until Anderson gets to the slippery subject of ‘trust’ does he shift gear into a universe that positively exceeds the limits of all human experience.

Here Anderson’s reasoning becomes strained to breaking point, stating that ‘global research’ (unsourced) proves that trusted public broadcasters are a vital vein through which trust flows fortifying the democratic institutions upon which nations are built. Fair enough. But it turns out ‘our’ ABC is the very embodiment of the Anderson ideal.

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