John Menadue. ‘Balance’ and the ABC

The ABC has a mistaken notion of media balance.

It has become clear that Nick Ross, a Senior Technology Editor at the ABC, could not publish a story critical of Malcolm Turnbull’s NBN unless he also published an article critical of Labor’s NBN. To add to this bias by ABC management he was told that Labor’s plan was dead because Labor couldn’t win the next election. The ABC management was desperate to be onside with the new Coalition government.

The ABC was making a political judgement and refused to allow a professional judgement of policies. The ABC continually ties itself in a knot over this issue.

I recall that in the name of ‘balance’, Gough Whitlam was effectively denied access to the ABC in the 1960s. He was not allowed to appear on ABC current affairs programs unless there was a Minister to provide ‘balance’. By refusing to have a Minister appear, the ABC in effect allowed the government, to veto Gough Whitlam’s appearance. Fortunately Talbot Duckmanton, the General Manager of the ABC was persuaded that the government should not veto appearances of opposition leaders.

We now have the ABC resuming its old veto policies, saying in effect that it will not have an article critical of Malcolm Turnbull’s NBN unless there is an article critical of Labor’s NBN.

In the name of ‘balance’ professionalism and honesty is being forfeited.

We have had a ludicrous so-called debate about climate change and the media’s attempt to provide balance. The media have given equal prominence to skeptics who are really a small and declining fringe. The nonsense from the skeptics has been given the same sort of coverage as the professional advice of thousands of eminent scientists around the world.

The most grievous offender in this, of course, in Australia has been the News Ltd publications. The ABC should however re-examine what it means by ‘balance’ and the implications for its professionalism and duties to the whole Australian community.

The ABC continues to give its former Minister and now Prime Minister an arm chair ride.






John Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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