Tim Blair


New Criterion



Tuesday, July 27, 2004
IN A DECISION of unexpected maturity, the ABC has refused to allow a free-lance propagandist use of archival footage without the permission of the people whose words were the subject of the film.

The decision, according to Auntie's Sue Howard on tonight's PM programme, was based on the principle that "advocacy" film-makers (she means propagandists) should not be allowed, in the context of election campaigns, to make the kind of lying compilations that won Michael Moore the admiration of the anti-Yank left.

When we consider some of the more odiferous examples of Michael Moore's art, such as the excerpting of President Bush's ironic admission to being a servant of the rich from its context, it is not unreasonable for a public broadcaster to try to limit such abuses within sight of an election.

David Marr's My Pet Hates programme on ABC television last night did not, of course, approve.

Marr informed us that the film maker concerned was producing his/her work for the school market, a fact that should convince all reasonable people that the ABC's policy has merit.

Discriminations of the kind the ABC is making are not easy. They may, in the end, prove to be unworkable.

What politician would refuse to talk on camera just because some film producer may, in future, use the footage with less integrity than Auntie's news and current affairs staff? The media are, after all, the fourth estate of government, and the politically ambitious on their staffs will always expect them to exercise that power ruthlessly.

What we should expect is another matter.

It is remarkable that Biffer Balding, always keen to assert his organisation's independence of politics, should on this occasion refrain from issuing a media release spelling out the ABC policy.