Tim Blair


New Criterion



Tuesday, July 29, 2003

It's to Miranda Devine's credit that she's defending Auntie, after David Marr's use of his Media Watch pulpit for a gratuitous attack on her.

This is her argument:

There are pockets of audacious bias in the ABC, but similar pockets exist in other media, and appeal largely to the already converted. Fair-minded people apply a mental filter.

But the ABC is also about much more than AM. It's Play School and Bananas In Pyjamas in the mornings when other channels run cartoons in between ads which turn three-year-olds into Coco Pops junkies. The ABC is Angela Catterns and Sally Loane, Richard Glover and James Valentine, providing pleasant, informative, ratings-winning radio. It's The 7.30 Report and Lateline doing a professional job on tough issues. Tony Jones the other night gave Richard Butler a polite but deadly grilling about his flip-flopping position on WMDs. The ABC is Australian Story, consistently the best, most surprising gem on TV.

Did you notice that all of her evidence for the defence is taken from Auntie TV. No mention of Radio National.

Trouble is, the "fair-minded" people Miranda expects to "filter" Auntie's communards do so by by turning off.

And the politicians of both sides recognise what's going on when communards demand the right to control Auntie's political agenda, whatever the Board wants and professional standards require.

The result is, as fellow Henny columnist Gerard Henderson recognises:

Nor should it come as any revelation if the ABC - while it remains in denial mode - is told to go away next time it rolls up in Canberra seeking an additional $250 million of taxpayer funds. Anyone in senior ABC management who hopes otherwise is a true believer in the pigs-might-fly school.

The fact is, politicians of both parties, not being members of the Union of Australian Journalists in Combat with Politicians, are less forgiving of communard biases than Miranda Devine.

When governments apply economic sanctions against Auntie it's the good guys as well as the communards who suffer.

A second fact is, you don't have to throw the good guys out with the communards.

And most of all, Australians deserve better.