John Menadue. Murdoch and Abbott vs ABC.

Nov 23, 2014

This is a repost of a blog which I initially posted on December 19 last year.

Tony Abbott has a debt to repay to Rupert Murdoch for the extremely biased support he received in the last election.

With the help of Senator Cory Bernadi, Tony Abbott is now following the Murdoch Media line in attacking the ABC. He is also following in the steps of the Howard Government that attempted, unsuccessfully, to bring the ABC to heel. During the Howard Government, Minister Richard Alston and Senator Santo Santoro led a concerted campaign against the ABC to force political compliance.

Last week Tony Abbott joined in the attack on the ABC in the Coalition party room. He particularly took a swipe at the ABC for revealing government spying around the world that has been brought to attention by Edward Snowden. But the ABC was in good company in carrying these stories. The Snowden revelations were carried by The Guardian, the New York Times, the Washington Post and Der Spiegel. Even if the ABC had declined to participate in the Snowden revelations it could not have avoided subsequent coverage of one of the major news stories of the year and possibly the decade. The ABC would have been forced into catch-up for weeks.

The Chairman of the ABC has announced a ‘bias audit’ of the ABC to counter the campaign by the Coalition and the Murdoch media. I can understand this defensive reaction, but it is all so one-sided. Who is to audit the Murdoch media and the scurrilous campaign that it conducted during the last election? Murdoch even sent one of his New York heavies, Col Allan, to do a hatchet job on the Rudd Government. It was an appalling abuse of power.

The Murdoch media is critical of the performance of the ABC but is silent on the performance of the Lachlan Murdoch – James Packer performance at Channel 10, to say nothing of the free ride it has given to James Packer for Sydney’s second casino for high rollers.

The Murdoch media which consistently points the figure at others has been charged with phone hacking and bribery of police in the UK. Rupert Murdoch abandoned his Australian citizenship to take advantage of business opportunities in the US.

The Murdoch campaign against public broadcasting is not new. James Murdoch, who has been pushed aside because of the hacking scandal that occurred under his watch in the UK, took every possible opportunity to attack the BBC. He alleged that the taxpayer-funded BBC was providing unfair competition to the Murdoch media.

It is nonsense to suggest that it is only public broadcasters like the ABC that are publicly funded. Ian McAuley in New Matilda on 9 December this year put it this way

“Commercial media are funded by what is to all intents and purposes, a sales tax. For example, if you buy a new car, around $500 of what you outlay is for advertising. Last year, $13.1 billion was spent on advertising, of which $4.9 billion was for commercial TV and radio, and $2.6 billion was for newspapers. To put these figures into a digestible form, we are paying about $1,500 per year per household for advertising, of which $500 is for commercial TV and radio, and $300 is for newspapers (not including the cover price). By contrast we are paying about $120 a year for the ABC. It is as asymmetric deal: those who use only the ABC pay $500 a year for commercial TV and radio, while those who use only commercial media pay $120 for the ABC. … Perhaps it’s part of our civic contract that those who pay for the commercial media they never use don’t complain, but the commercial media, particularly the Murdoch media when they attack ABC funding, don’t seem bound by such rules of decency.’

But who does the public really trust in the media? The overwhelming evidence is that the ABC is the most trusted media in Australia and the Murdoch media is the least trusted.

A recent poll on ABC funding in the Fairfax media drew over 21,000 respondents. 77% agreed that the ABC was an excellent and essential service that deserved more money. Another 12% said that the ABC did good work but the funding was about right.

Essential Research has just reported about ‘trust in the media’. Once again, the ABC is at the top of the list. Rankings for “a “lot of, or some trust, in the media” were as follows:

ABC TV news and current affairs                                70%

ABC radio news and current affairs                           63%

ABC talk-back programs                                              46%

Commercial news and current affairs                       38%

News and opinion in daily newspapers                     48%

Commercial TV news and current affairs                 41%

Commercial radio talk-back                                        31%


For particular newspapers, respondents ranked the newspapers in which they had “a lot of or some trust”. The rankings were as follows:


Melbourne Age (Victoria only)                                    68%

The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW only)                   64%

The Australian                                                                64%

Courier Mail (Queensland only)                                  59%

Herald Sun (Victoria only)                                            48%

The Daily Telegraph (NSW only)                                 41%

Trust in the Daily Telegraph has fallen dramatically over the last 12 months with its particularly biased campaign during the last election.

The Australian Press Council has also noted the performance of some Murdoch publications. The APC publishes guidelines to aid journalists and editors an investigates complaints. One subject which I follow closely has been asylum seekers. The APC reported on a Daily Telegraph story of 26 November 2011 headed ‘Open the floodgates – exclusive: thousands of boat people to invade NSW’. The APC found that this story was ‘grossly inaccurate, unfair and offensive’. It upheld a complaint about a similar story in the Herald Sun on the same day. The APC also found against three articles by Greg Sheridan on ‘illegals’ that appeared in the Australian on 23 and 28 October 2010 and 5 March 2011.

The ABC does not always get it right. It has had a very ordinary coverage of news on both TV and radio from Canberra for many years. Its Canberra correspondents show little interest or knowledge of policy. I wonder if they can spell the word! I am also amazed that the ABC continues to use ‘experts’ from so-called independent think-tanks like IPA, that refuse to disclose their funding sources. I suspect that those “think thanks” are often fronts for special interests. Cash for comment takes many forms.Unfortunately the ABC also still sees itself as a branch office of the BBC and CNN rather than an independent and involved media organisation in our own region.

But for all of its shortcomings, what an awful and barren media landscape we would have without the ABC.

The last people who should be lecturing the ABC about performance and bias are Tony Abbott and the Murdoch media.

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