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The politics of Media Watch

August 30, 2013

The Australian Editorial

If the ABC was less consumed with hubris, it would crawl into a ball with shame after two of the three leaders’ election debates were entrusted to Sky News and all were moderated by Sky’s level-headed David Speers.

It is proof, if proof were needed, that the political establishment no longer trusts the ABC to act as an honest broker. Indignant complaints that the Opposition Leader has refused for the umpteenth time to appear on this or that program are broadcast as regularly as the weather these days. Its presenters seem to think this is Tony Abbott’s problem, instead of a damning indictment on the public broadcaster’s integrity. In federal politics, Sky News makes a more substantial contribution to public life than the ABC, an institution colonised by perpetually adolescent Triple J graduates who count doltish shows such as The Hamster Decides, Gruen Nation and The Roast as a serious civic debate. The ABC’s clumsy campaign against Rupert Murdoch and his newspapers has backfired badly, serving to highlight the corporation’s own systemic pro-Labor bias. On Monday the corporation scheduled back-to-back programs to run a monotonous attack against News Corporation Australia and its executive chairman. Media Watch presenter Paul Barry cherry-picked articles to argue that Kevin Rudd had not received the kindness he deserves from The Daily Telegraph, The Courier-Mail and even (heaven forbid) from this newspaper.

Barry’s partisan intent was exposed by the Prime Minister’s ringing endorsement and his recommendation that journalists watch the program to see how wretchedly he had been treated. A more obvious breach of ABC’s impartiality principle would be hard to find. Since the corporation pays little more than lip-service to its statutory obligations, we expect no response save for the usual letter of self-justification to this newspaper from the ABC’s director of communications, Michael Millett (see tomorrow’s Letters to the Editor section). Barry, on the other hand, offers no right of reply, describing his program as comment. The program’s founding presenter, Stuart Littlemore, suggested that Barry should tell his critics “go and get your own program, this one’s mine”. So much for the corporation’s slogan, “It’s your ABC.” Perhaps Littlemore and Barry should be charged with theft of public property. Published in The Australian.

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