Saturday, May 28, 2011

The ABC rejects criticism of political bias and as usual purports to be purer than the driven snow, but some of us know better!

I recently complained to the ABC about an interview between Chris Uhlmann and Abbott on the 7.30 show. It had Uhlmann popping up in Alice Springs to hear Abbott sermonize on the failings of the Govt (quelle surprise). My complaint went like this:

"I have commented on this problem previously. Tonight you featured an interview between Chis Uhlmann and Abbott, who is busily constructing political wedges to further his power grabbing agenda. The PM has just completed a successful trip to North Asia, which achieved considerable advances in our relations with each of the countries visited. Rather than focus on this important visit, we were regaled with a glad handled interview with Abbott roaming around remote communities pushing his fear campaign on the carbon tax and pushing an agenda on Aboriginal welfare that is hypocritical in the extreme. It came across as a political infomercial. I'm heartily sick of this overt bias and will take my complaint to the relevant Minister if this program cannot return to a balanced approach under your charter. Uhlman has been a serial offender in this regard and Sales is lightweight. Her interview with Lindsay Tanner was an opportunity lost and merely confirmed his take on a dumbing down of our media culture and a news analysis cycle pandering to people with little grasp of public policy processes & short concentration spans. It is demeaning our democracy and treating your audience with scant respect."

I received the following reply from ABC Corporate Affairs:

"Your concerns have been investigated by Audience and Consumer Affairs, a unit which is separate to and independent of program making areas within the ABC. We have reviewed the broadcasts, assessed them against the ABC’s editorial standards and sought and considered material provided by ABC News.

7.30 reported on both the Prime Minister’s visit to Asia and Mr Abbott’s trip to the Northern Territory. Both are highly newsworthy and both were adequately covered by the program.

Having reviewed the interview with Mr Abbott, we have not been able to identify a single instance where he was “glad handled” or any sense at all that the interview amounted to an “infomercial”.

Audience and Consumer Affairs has concluded that the interview is in keeping with section 4.1 and 4.3 of the ABC Editorial Policies. The questions put to Mr Abbott were based on news value and are matters of public interest. We believe the interview was suitably rigorous and questioning and Mr Abbott was afforded ample opportunity to state his views in response."

I have replied as follows:

"As with my previous complaints this has been handled with typical bureaucratic dissembling. The fact that Uhlmann was shadowing Abbott on his outback venture was proof enough of glad handling. Last time I looked we were not in an election campaign, although it is difficult to believe with the constant fawning after this Opposition leader. It may be the fact of a minority Govt that has the media in a constant frenzy of expectation but it is demeaning our body politic.

A myth has emerged that Abbott 'cuts through' and the Govt is weak and poor at communication. I suggest this is a media construct fueled by journalists such as Uhlmann. He aggressively interrupts Labor and Green politicians but will let Abbott get away with his self-serving line of hyperbole on the carbon tax, asylum seekers and the welfare of our first citizens. Why was 7.30 trailing after one of the most mediocre intellects to strut the political stage in several decades on a trip to nowhere in public policy terms?

Believe me, I am not Robinson Crusoe when it comes to negative perceptions of the ABC's handling of the political cut and thrust. The constant airing on ABC 24 of nonsense from extreme right commentators from organizations like the IPA is evidence enough of a nod toward extremist positions on the economy and society. The IPA is a voice for powerful groups that wish to shape our body politic to serve their commercial interests and was misnamed. It should have been called the 'Institute of Private Affairs'. Why are its spokespersons treated as if they were objective journalists?

Your news boards invariably are headed by stories highlighting the Coalition's constant fear mongering on the carbon tax and asylum seekers and personal attacks on the PM and her frontbenchers. Some of your political journos on ABC24 (for example Melissa Clarke), positively drool when the Govt is attacked for some confected shortcoming. On the more enlightened political blogs the ABC is now oft referred to as 'their ABC' - this is a sad state of affairs and reflects poorly on your performance as the national broadcaster. A quick glance at the legislative record of this Parliament should dispel any notions of a poorly performing Govt. It is about time your political commentators reflected reality and not the leadership fantasies of the Opposition."

Nuff said.


Anonymous said...

Very well said: I agree with all aspects of what you write. Again the obfuscation and churlishness (or should I say wounded innocence?) of the ABC is highlighted.

Anonymous said...

Mark, more power to you on your very noble cause. The ABC has been infected with a right-wing religious virus that shapes every part of its news and current affairs output. The flabby excuse they have offered you is their way of indicating that we know you know were biased and we don't care. It will require great care to remove this lot. Good luck

Lyn said...

Hi Mark

Excellent post. The ABC and Chris Uhlmann has been a bone of contention on "The Political Sword" and commented on relentlessly, the interruptions by Uhlmann are disgraceful, what's more, he is not interested in an answer. Ad Astra did start up an ABC file a few months ago, inviting commenters to post their complaints.

This is a link to one article
by Ad Astra you may be interested in:

You have written a perfect letter to the ABC, you deserve a perfect reply.


Mark Thomson said...

Hi Lyn, Thanks for your comment. I am a great admirer of The Political Sword blog and frequently peruse the links you provide.