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Tuesday 16 June 2015

ABC, A Biased Commentator

In days of Yore all was well

I have been a viewer and listener of our ABC for more decades than I care to remember. My earliest recollections are of an organisation with a quiet, professional and detached tone. It had universal admiration from those, admittedly relatively small proportion of the population, who viewed and listened. I too was an advocate, and would readily defend its critics.

The general criticism at the time was that it was not for everyone. That it catered for only a small proportion of Australians, that its audience reach was inadequate for the cost and so on. Despite these criticisms it was held in high regard as a professional broadcasting organisation. While politicians would on occasions attack some aspect of a report that was not in their favour, Australians of all political persuasions accepted the ABC provided a balanced view on political subjects. It earned the accolade 'Auntie', as if reflecting the wise counsel of a near relative.

Times have changed

Alas, those days seem so long ago. Sometime over the past decade, or two, this respect for 'Auntie', as an unbiased presenter and commentator, has been sadly tarnished. For many longer term viewers it is all too apparent that the organisation has not maintained its own professional code for unbiased reporting.

Journalists as a group are already left-leaning, but the current 'crop' employed by the ABC are even more so. As a consequence there is a left-of-centre bias evident in many of its political programs and even the News. Sometimes it is overt, but more often it is nuanced. It can be simply selecting stories which present only the Leftist view of an argument, or displaying personal bias by an aggressive tone or  disdainful expression.There are many many examples, that I could cite. Just consider the relatively recent decision to air a series of interviews with Keating and failing to do the same for Albrechtsen's "John Howard Defined" even when the latter was offered to the ABC. How can you justify one and not the other?

Not suprisingly, in recent years there have been many accusations of bias leveled at the ABC. Here are just a few -

SMH - "Sarah Ferguson breached ABC bias guidelines"
IPA - "Independent report reveals ABC biased against fossil fuels"
JoNova - "Three times as many Australians think the ABC has a pro-Labor bias"

The ABC counters these with its 'complaints statistics', indicating that it receives about the same number of complaints that it is too 'right-leaning' as 'left-leaning'. However with the advent of Sky News pay TV channels, with its 'right-leaning' political and news broadcasts, the ABC's right-leaning audience has switched channels, leaving the remaining 10% of Australians who still watch the ABC generally left-of-centre. So its complaints statistics only speak for its left-of centre audience, and its use as a defence against bias is fallacious.

What can the ABC board do to counter bias?

Despite a professional code of ethics that mandates balanced reporting, our public broadcaster, our ABC, does not have one 'right-of-centre', 'conservative', host in any of its many political and news programs.

How can this encourage open debate of left-right politics? How can this represent a society that, by its vote in elections, is roughly equally divided between a left and right-leaning electorate?

It cannot and ABC's management and its board of directors, is failing in its duty to Australian society. It is also failing its duty as professional journalists to give fair and equal voice to all points of view and to allow arguments to stand on their merits.

I call on the ABC board to take the first step. Appoint a right leaning host to a political program. There are many who would do an admirable job; Janet Albrechtsen, Paul Murray, Chris Kenny, Andrew Bolt, Gerard Henderson, to name a few regulars from SkyNews.

You are not serving Australia by failing to appoint journalists who would provide balance to the organisation. Come on, what would you lose?

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