Tim Blair


New Criterion



Monday, May 26, 2003
"No evidence for bizarre ABC claims" proclaims Biffer Balding in a stinging rebuttal of an editorial in the Australian of May 25th. Biffer sent it to me, with a copy to the Australian, which published it last Saturday May 24th.

Uncle has never read a newspaper editorial in his life and has no intention of starting now. If I ever feel the need to ogle those engaged in self-abuse I'll go back to reading John Quiggin's blog. I didn't mean that.

Here is the irrefutable evidence with which Biffer squashes those Murdoch hacks:

1. The very pollster used by The Australian, Newspoll, established in 2002 that 80 per cent of Australians considered that ABC news and current affairs were “balanced and even-handed” - consistent with previous surveys.

2. The Australian National Audit Office conducted a searching examination of the ABC’s legislative compliance in 2002. The ANA0 found ‘‘procedures and practices ... were effective in assisting the ABC to deliver news and current affairs programs that reflected the charter requirements of independence, accuracy and impartiality”.

As to the first point, Biff, Uncle passes. Everyone's entitled to their point of view, and this is not the main theatre of ideological contention. I do note, however, that the Aus refers to 'news and analysis' and the survey only to 'news and current affairs'. A distinction you should not be insensitive to.

The second is more interesting. Let's take ANAO's assessment at face value. Now add another indisputable fact.

You and your colleagues in Radio National put to air at least 20 hours (including repeats) of explicit political commentary each week, most of it of the serial kind, involving the selection and manipulation of external talent. Every one of those hours is fronted by people who are confessing leftists, by the usual criteria (explicit (if confused) Marxism, collectivist, pacifist, anti-US, etc. prejudices, hatred of conservative politicians). And that's not counting those presenters of non-political programming who hop on the bandwagon whenever they get a little excited, like, in the case of the recent stoush with Iraq, the presenters of your literary program, your poetry program and your NSW regional night time chat-back.

Now, Biffer, if your procedures are absolutely first rate, and the product stinks, what does that say about your personnel?

And their "manager"?

3. Finally, your editorial blithely advises the ABC to “look at some limited advertising” to assist with funding difficulties. I would have thought that some one so keen to invoke the ABC’s act would have bothered to read it. For your information, the act states rather simply “The corporation shall not broadcast advertisements”.

This is like shooting pigs in a pen. I bet about 300 letters have already pointed out to newspaper editors that Auntie carries more advertising than her poor ethnic cousin SBS, which is legally entitled to do so. Most of it promotes Auntie. Not a little promotes enterprises in which Auntie's staff, as well as Auntie, have a financial interest. Like books and records.

If I were you, Biffer, I wouldn't assume that the Parties in charge of the Treasury are peopled entirely by village idiots.