John Menadue. Australia, the White Man’s Media and Donald Trump

Oct 11, 2016


This article was first posted on 29 January 2016.  The situation has worsened since then!

I am usually interested in politics but I am already sick and tired of the US elections and Donald Trump. And we have twelve months to go!. Forget about Indonesia, China, Japan and India. Our media does not think them important! They go instead for Donald Trump. Or the latest snow storm in New York.or a bombing at the Boston Marathon.

But Donald Trump is easy copy at the moment  for our lazy and derivative media.

I have said many times that a person from Mars who read and listened to Australian media would conclude that we are an island parked off London or New York with little relationship to Asia. Our news and media coverage is so derivative, relying heavily on the BBC, CNN and other news and entertainment houses in the UK and the US .We are recyclers of news, current affairs and entertainment from the UK and the US. .

The one media organization that could and should redress the imbalance in our media coverage is the ABC. But its ability to do so have been curtailed by Malcom Turnbull’s funding cuts and the ABC’s loss of the Australian Network!!See earlier post by John Tulloh The ABC- on the slippery slope in Asia.

The ABC has a particular responsibility to project and respond to our regional interests. . The Asian region accounts for almost 60% of Australia’s two way trade. Seven of our top trading partners are from the Asian region. Asian investment is increasing. China, Japan and Korea are three major sources of tourists. Our educational institutions depend very heavily on foreign students, particularly from China and India. India is now the top source of migrants. These trends are clear and are likely to accelerate. Most important our security future is tied to our region, not London or Washington.

We speak glibly about our future in the Asian Century and the need to equip Australia for its future in Asia, but our media remains fixated on London and New York.

I don’t accept that the ABC should cut its foreign correspondents in our region. A Board that is seriously interested and concerned about Australia’s future would be expanding our coverage in and of the region and cut costs in lower priority and domestic areas. Unfortunately the Board and senior management of the ABC is largely bereft of anyone with experience or interest in or of Asia.

The government also throws a red herring across the track by suggesting that the ABC cuts are about getting the budget into shape. There is also a nasty factor at play and it is called political revenge. Conservative governments would like the ABC to be as compliant and supportive as the Murdoch media. Cutting funds to the ABC also does a favour to Rupert Murdoch. Further, Rupert Murdoch and his sons have conducted a relentless campaign against both the BBC and the ABC. They don’t like public broadcasters. News Corp has polluted the media in the three major English-speaking countries of the world. It is too horrible to contemplate the consequences for Australia if there was no ABC and News Corp filled the space.

But my main concern at the moment is about the failure of our media, including the ABC to respond appropriately to the facts of our geography and our national interests. The structure of our media was laid down over 100 years ago. It is still north Atlantic oriented.

In the White Paper ‘Australia in the Asian Century’, October 2012, the government was advised in the following terms about our media.

‘Media is central in shaping perceptions and enhancing communications between Australia and the region, and the information revolution offers unprecedented opportunities to connect in new ways. … The content and coverage of the region in Australia’s media needs to improve. This is the responsibility of media organisations themselves. It is an important part of the whole of Australia approach to building links and engaging with Asia that is needed. … We will request the boards of the ABC and the SBS to examine how to promote more extensive coverage of the Asia region in all aspects of their content and programming, with special attention to news and information coverage, to ensure their content reflects the depth and diversity of our regional connections.’ P271/2

We have been warned and told directly, and in quite explicit terms, about the importance of our media for our future in the region.

The commercial media has failed its responsibilities in regional coverage. The ABC has done much better, but that is now at risk.

We really do have a White Man’s Media that is failing to advance our interests and responsibilities in the Asian region.

Instead we get a deluge of Donald Trump



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