Flat White

Trust us! We’re from the ABC...

3 April 2022

12:00 PM

3 April 2022

12:00 PM

ABC management and their high-paid editorial gurus would like taxpayers to believe the national broadcaster is the ‘most trusted’ source of news and current affairs in the known universe.

Call it brainwashing. Call it ‘state-sponsored’ indoctrination. Call it whatever you like – but the ABC’s cretinous ‘most trusted’ campaign now in play to link with both the Budget and the forthcoming election, is simply not to be trusted.

It is beyond ludicrous. They know it and we know it.

Four minutes of air-time in last week’s Budget coverage conducted by the ABC’s 7.30 leading-hand, Leigh Sales, was devoted to a riveting exchange with her close buddy Annabel Crabb.

Let’s recall that Sales and Crabb have recently co-authored a book and regularly ‘hang out’ together. Last night it was Crabb (TV host, celebrity, cookbook writer, and commentator) who was able to describe the Budget as a ‘Meccano-set, elements of which may not happen because the Coalition may lose this election we’re about to have.’ This was one of several piercing insights from Sales’ guest.

Crabb (a veteran of numerous Budget lockups) gave viewers a fascinating lesson on Budget Paper 2 (complete the apologies for it being ‘a bit technical’) and then she said, ‘The infrastructure projects do seem to correlate very closely to areas the Coalition needs to capture or retain for the forthcoming election.’

Sales then chimed in with, ‘Yes – I had a look at this and asked is there a narrative around this … and the only conclusion you could reach is that they did correspond to areas where the Coalition needs to win or hold seats.’

No evidence. No analysis. No intelligent discussion – just a wee chat between two close ABC buddies saying the Federal Budget was essentially built upon electoral imperatives – not hard-edged economic ones. Both Crabb and Sales wished to leave their audience with the view that the Budget was entirely political and that relieving ‘cost of living’ pressures merely played to this notion.

Of course, all Budgets have political dimensions but they also have an overriding obligation to produce fair outcomes for all taxpayers while showing particular concern for the welfare of those needing the most support. This Budget, complicated as it has been by the global challenges referred to by the Treasurer, achieves that outcome.

There has long been doubt about ABC television’s capacity to conduct serious economic and financial analysis. Were it not for the input of the extremely accomplished Chris Richardson (Partner at Deloitte Access Economics), time spent watching the ABC coverage would have been better directed toward tidying the sock drawer.

Sales, Crabb, and Speers all appear incapable of following any particular line on economic matters and need pre-prepared questions – which are religiously followed irrespective of what interviewees are actually saying. Why the ABC persists with this is a source of wonderment to many – especially to those with even the slimmest grasp of economics and finance.

The current ABC ‘trust’ campaign is built upon the notion that if you say it often enough some audience members might just believe it. There is no credible research behind the claim, and yet the ABC repeats rubbish day after day. The broadcaster argues that as people turn to the ABC in times of crisis (reference floods and fire) ipso facto the broadcaster is trusted more than any other media platform. This is nonsense.

In crises, impacted individuals turn to the ABC because it’s frequently all they have and there’s likely to be a regional correspondent or office in the vicinity. This is nothing to do with trust. The proposition that people turn to Facebook or Instagram because they trust Silicon Valley is equally absurd.

In the lead-up to the May federal election, the ABC has sensitively set about pounding our eyes and ears with saturation advertising with a single message. If you want ‘trusted’ news and current affairs (read political commentary) then the ABC is for you – or so the mantra goes.

The problem for ABC marketers is that the vast majority of Australians don’t buy the slogan. And why should they? There is zero credible evidence that the ABC is a trusted source of information over and above any other source. Declining numbers of television viewers is surely testimony to this reality.

The ABC’s weekly national talk fest’ Q&A holds the dubious record of the least-watched current affairs talk show in the nation’s history. Q&A ought to be junked along with that other ‘talk fest’ The Drum – but the ABC persists with marketing to an audience that is not watching either show.

Even by the declining standards of the ABC – the broadcaster’s efforts to attract an audience defies intelligent analysis. Remember too, these are the same luminaries who delivered to our ears the ‘think bigger’ campaign. You know the one – if you listen to us you’ll ‘think bigger’.

The relationship between the ABC and the federal government has been ‘poisonous’, according to former Media Watch host, Jonathan Holmes. ‘It’s as bad as I can ever remember it between a government and the ABC. It is very concerning.’

Judging by the acerbic, overtly anti-government performances of current affairs front-liners as the election draws nearer – the timing and intent of the ‘trust’ campaign is fatuous, futile, and risible.

Remembering the ABC actually received, earlier this year, its long sought after triennial funding arrangement and more direct funding from the Commonwealth, we can deduce the idiotic marketing by the ABC is not about funding – although bitterness over the issue remains.

How embarrassing would it be for the high-paid ‘experts’ at the ABC to get the May 2022 election result ‘wrong’ again – as it so manifestly did on May 18, 2019?

At least Leigh Sales will have moved on to another ‘ABC project’ by that time – as she informed us in a three minute farewell several months ago.

At this election – voters would be well advised to trust their intuition and their intelligence, as opposed to talking heads on TV telling you how to vote.

John Simpson is a Company Director and former ABC news journalist.

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