RANALD MACDONALD. Stop the presses.

Feb 21, 2018

Well, they have almost stopped running around this country with so few papers being sold nowadays, but let us stop them anyway.

Hot news! – the ABC has gone right wing.

On radio programs nationally, on Q & A, the 7.30 Report and the Drum, we are being deluged with the views of Murdoch columnists, the IPA, right-wing pollies and the truly vengeful ABC critics seemingly at any time of day or night.

‘Balance’ for the ABC being so eagerly sought by Pauline Hanson and her One Party through Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has been achieved.

And, just to ensure there is no public perception that the ABC is NOT supportive of our Prime Minister, a perfectly reasonable and well-researched article on the Government’s Company Tax proposal by Emma Alberici (and one endorsed as accurate by independent economist Saul Eslake) has been withdrawn after Government pressure. It is said to have failed to meet ABC editorial standards.

And all this so soon after the treasure trove of Cabinet secret documents left in  discarded filing cabinets were returned with the minimum fuss by the ABC to a grateful (though surely slightly embarrassed) Prime Minister’s Department.

Some of the cynical ones amongst us would feel that these constructive (?) moves to ensure the ABC is seen as ‘impartial, fair, accurate and balanced’ in its treatment of news and current affairs might recall the term (allegedly created by former broadcaster Tim Bowden) – THE PRE-EMPTIVE KNEE BUCKLE.

Basically it means putting your hands up after the first threats from some nastie and offering one’s wallet and anything else that bully seeks so as to be gently treated.

Life, in my opinion, seems to indicate that the bully takes this as an encouragement to go further and then to demand the car and the house.

I predict that the actions of those involved in this recent rash of seemingly ‘defensive’ editorial decision-making by ABC editorial and senior executive leadership, presumably with Board support, will be equally counter-productive.

The pressure in Canberra to pass the “Fair and Balanced’ Bill, the proposed ‘Rural and Regional ‘ legislation, attempts to have senior editorial salaries published despite the board opposing such a move and the threat of further cuts, as the Triennial funding is about to be debated.

The bullies are not going to retreat.

The ABC needs friends, desperately, and its board and executives must show a bit of backbone to ensure their supporters will enter the lists to support them in the battles they face.

They need to stand up straight and fight for a properly-funded, politically independent National broadcaster.

Then, I am confident that the vast majority of Australians will support them.

Ranald Macdonald is a former Managing Director and Editor in Chief of The Age newspaper.  He is an ABC 3LO morning presenter and Friend of the ABC.



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