ABC: chaos at the top with more to follow

Just when the most important thing going on in our fair land was preparation for football finals, our national broadcaster puts on a reality TV spectacular, except it is real. First the ABC’s board sacks the managing director Michelle Guthrie, now the chairman of the board Justin Milne sacks himself. Or more accurately dug his own grave as this David Rowe cartoon suggests:

That was from an article by Philip Coorey, who says the whole board, including the ABC staff representative should go.

Before we go any further I’d like to mention two perspectives. The first comes from Essential’s poll on Trust in Institutions of Tuesday this week, which would have been conducted just before the ABC became the biggest story in town. Here we have it:

The ABC is fourth on 54%, after Federal Police, State Police and the High Court. Federal parliament is on 28%, below state parliaments (31%) and your local council (42%).

Also Roy Morgan found in June that the ABC is by far the nation’s most trusted media organisation.

    Half of all Australians (47 per cent) distrust social media, compared to only 9 per cent who distrust the ABC.


    After the ABC, SBS is Australia’s second most trusted media brand. Fairfax comes in third as the only other media brand with a positive NTS [net trust score].

    “Australians told us that their trust of the ABC is driven by its lack of bias and impartiality, quality journalism and ethics. While their distrust of Facebook and Social Media is driven by fake news, manipulated truth, false statistics and fake audience measurement.”

Second, Roy Morgan’s Image of Professions survey last year gave us this:

There you will find state and federal politicians on 16%, ahead of radio talk-back announcers on 14%, but behind TV reporters and union leaders on 17%, newspaper reporters on 20%. All of those are a far cry from nurses (97%) followed by doctors and pharmacists, then teachers (81%) pipping engineers (80%). High court judges are on 74%, behind dentists and police.

Returning to the ABC ructions, it seems Milne did not write in an email to Guthrie demanding that Emma Alberici, chief economics correspondent for the ABC, be sacked because the government “hated” her or that Andrew Probyn be “shot”. It always beggared belief that Milne would be stupid enough to write an email like that and then sack the recipient.

However, seems he did say such things in person. When Guthrie was defending herself on threat of sacking, she put some of the record of the discussions in an email she sent to all ABC Board directors.

The government claims that they didn’t call for any sackings. The real problem was that they didn’t have to. Milne was put there to interfere with the management of the ABC on their behalf. Guthrie resisted, and the other board members should have also, but didn’t. That is why many argue they should all go.

Possibly the most egregious thing Milne actually did that we know about, according to Matt Peacock, was to visit Triple J offices in Ultimo and tell staff that the Hottest 100 should not be moved from January 26 “or Malcolm would go ballistic”. The change was not an arbitrary fad, it was based on audience research. It is to Michelle Guthrie’s credit that the Board approved the change.

I would think that such a change may be noted by the Board for information, but Guthrie as MD is also editor-in-chief, so the buck should stop with her. To intervene directly, as he has on more than one occasion according to Peacock, shows that he didn’t understand the boundaries of his role.

The Coorey article linked above shows what Turnbull going ballistic meant.

Turnbull was furious about Labor’s use of the ‘Mediscare’ campaign in the 2016 election. Coorey says the campaign stemmed from a front page story in The West Australian newspaper from February that year written by the paper’s then political editor, Andrew Probyn. The story detailed how the government had advanced plans to privatise the back-office operations of Medicare and other health agencies.

It clearly bugged Turnbull, but he never complained to Probyn directly.

However, he was furious when Probyn, now working for the ABC, reported that the government had a role in the decision to hold the super Saturday byelections on July 28 and torpedo Labor’s triennial national conference.

Coorey says he personally wrote the same thing three times. The government always had an input in such matters, he said, while the Speaker had the final call. Yet:

    It was this report that prompted Turnbull and his communications minister Mitch Fifield to meet then ABC chairman Justin Milne on June 15 to complain about Probyn running “Labor lies”. As we now know, Milne then rang Michelle Guthrie to demand Probyn’s head.

    “In that phone call that lasted for approximately half an hour, Mr Milne berated me about Andrew Probyn saying that the then-prime minster hates him and ‘you have to shoot him’,” said a record of the conversation made by Guthrie.

Coorey says that when he personally made the same comment about the election date on the ABC’s Insiders program Fifield complained to the ABC.

Coorey says:

    Most politicians, however, ring the journalist to complain and sort it out. It’s the pissants who go straight to the editor or management.

Justin Milne was engaged in active self censorship, which cannot provide an atmosphere that is conducive to fearless reporting. Milne also saw himself as a conduit for specific concerns, and then on the ABC side part of working out the solution.

Journalists are in contact with politicians all the time, and as Coorey says, many concerns can be sorted on the personal level. The Minister for Communications and the Prime Minister are in a special position, however.

Geraldine Doogue on Saturday Extra hosted an excellent discussion with Simon Longstaff, Executive Director of the St James Ethics Centre, Simon McKeon AO, Chancellor of Monash University and Wendy McCarthy AO, Non Executive Director of Goodstart Early Learning, IMF Bentham Limited and the Chair of Circus Oz. McCarthy had chalked up 34 board positions, including at the ABC.

The bottom line is that as a board member you have to avoid sensitive issues being brought informally. Famously Donald McDonald and his mate of John Howard agreed never to discuss the ABC except in a formal meeting with others present.

If a concern is logged with the Chairman, he/she should note it then communicate with the ABC. However, the matter should then be dealt with internally by the ABC according to established procedures, which may involve coming back to the Board if there are policy or strategy implications. Justin Milne, as Matt Peacock says, simply didn’t “get it” in relation to his role.

Emma Griffiths on local radio here hosted an excellent session with four experts including Janine Walker, whose recent stellar bio is here. Walker began life as a Labor Party operative, then spent a number of years as host on the local ABC Morning program on ABC radio. Later she was an ABC Board member for six years.

She and the panel agreed with the separation of roles I’ve outlined above. Walker made the strong point that you need a board with a variety of skills and perspectives. However, essential for the ABC is knowledge of broadcast program-making and a knowledge of how politics in government works. The current board, check them out here, are almost entirely bereft in these areas. The matter was not helped by the fact that Guthrie came from Google, and knew zip about either.

Even the ABC staff representative on the Board, Jane Connors, has experience that is hardly mainstream. She has been executive producer in the Social History unit, has a PhD in Australian history and is the author of Royal Visits to Australia.

One of the important issues to come out of this crisis is the method of appointing ABC Board members. . The Rudd government when elected in 2007 adopted a method of appointment derived from the UK and I think Canada. Scroll down here to ABC and SBS board appointments:

    Current regulation requires that a merit-based selection process is used to appoint non-executive directors to the boards of the ABC and SBS, including the Chairs.

    An independent Nomination Panel (the Panel) advertises vacancies and assesses applications against merit-based selection criteria. The Panel provides the government with a report nominating at least three people for each vacancy. The government then makes a recommendation to the Governor-General who is responsible for appointing non-executive directors to the ABC and SBS Boards (other than the Managing Directors and the ABC staff-elected director).

Wikipedia says:

    As of April 2018, members of the panel were former Treasury Secretary and Westpac Chair, Ted Evans AC (Chair); company director and lawyer, Dr Sally Pitkin; public relations media director and former broadcaster, Anne Fulwood; and former Australian Public Service Commissioner and departmental secretary, Helen Williams.

I understand the panel provides three names with their recommendation. It’s worth listening to Terry Moran interviewed by Linda Mottram. Moran was Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet from March 2008 to September 2011, and implemented the Rudd government changes. He says the process has been overridden for five of the six current directors, who are straight political appointments. I understand the rot set in the minute Tony Abbott arrived.

Seems the panel was selected by Moran himself.

No doubt the Senate inquiry will look at this aspect along with the whole selection process. Scott Morrison would be well advised to defuse the issue before the election, which is going to take more than returning to the regulated method of appointing board members.

Laura Tingle today:

    There has been plenty of commentary in the past week about the long history of politicians attacking the ABC. But this tends to downplay the fact that the past five years has seen an unprecedented institutional assault on the organisation.

    All media organisations have been facing savage cuts in funding so the ABC is hardly unique in that regard.

    But other organisations have not been subjected to that plus at least two inquiries further aimed at constraining their activities — a competitive neutrality review and an efficiency review — and a relentless political assault on its journalism.

    The virulence of anti-ABC feeling in some parts of the Coalition sometimes defies logic. Since joining the ABC in May, I’ve been criticised by ministers over pieces that have actually appeared in the Financial Review, not on an ABC platform, because they displayed my “ABC ethic”.

    And all this has played out against the backdrop of an unrelenting assault on the ABC by News Corp papers which assign compliant journalists — or those not in a position to say no — to pursue controversies about the broadcaster which are often so ludicrous as to be laughable.

In addition the Liberal Party organisation has voted to privatise the ABC, and Turnbull did a deal with Pauline Hanson who won major measures to increase scrutiny of the ABC and potentially clip its wings, in exchange for backing the government’s media deregulation measures:

    The government has undertaken to hold an inquiry into whether the national broadcasters, the ABC and SBS, are operating on a “level playing field” with their commercial competitors, and to introduce legislation this year to insert the words “fair” and “balanced” in the requirements for the ABC’s news and information.

Meanwhile Lisa Murray in the Weekend AFR tells how the sacked MD managed to take her chairman down. Last week the Board thought Guthrie would go quietly. However, last Friday, Guthrie handed ABC directors a 12-page document addressing the concerns that had been raised regarding her leadership style. This should have been a warning.

Last Wednesday as information of the exchanges came to light Guthrie was photographed having a relaxed lunch in Sydney:

She had:

    lawyered up, employing the services of high-powered Sydney barrister Kate Eastman. She also hired media manager Andrew Butcher, a former spokesman for Rupert Murdoch and old friend from her days at News Corporation.


    “She’s a tough operator and she has to get her reputation back,” says a Guthrie supporter, who prefers to stay anonymous.

    “It’s her name. She still has a career ahead of her.”

    Quentin Dempster, a former staff-elected director of the ABC board, said “it has become obvious that Justin Milne and his directors … have misjudged Michelle Guthrie.”

    She “is a street fighter,” he said. “And now there’s blood everywhere.”

Guthrie had poor communication skills in public advocacy, which is one reason why what support she initially had on the Board dissolved. However, she had improved diversity no end at the broadcaster, had reorganised the place, knocking down the walls of the internal silos so that staff worked across platforms and content areas, and had strengthened regional broadcasting. In the end a lot of her irreconcilable difference with Milne was over his pet project Jetstream.

So what was Jetstream?

Sandy Plunkett went looking and came up grasping air.

After Guthrie was sacked Milne urged ABC staff to “embrace Jetstream wholeheartedly and move forward with that”. However:

    According to ABC insiders, there is no physical manifestation of the project, no clue as to how the grand ambition of digitising all ABC archival footage and content was going to be achieved.

    There has been no planning, scoping or funding document; no white paper. No wire-frame architectural representation – a type of skeletal framework that is generally one of the first steps in a major digital project – has been glimpsed, let alone circulated.

    Milne had been spruiking the project in breathy, vague and occasionally contradictory terms since July, describing it variously as a device, a big database; a big infrastructure project, and a modernisation process. He said it was “relatively simple”; “not rocket science” and yet akin to “flying a 747 and changing engines at the same time”.

    He also compared it “to the moment when the government decided it would fund the ABC’s entry into television”.

This idea had a price tag – it was half a billion dollars. Guthrie was not convinced. She had no problem with the idea, but thought that the focus should be on lifting the budget freeze that had been put in place to ensure the ABC continued to produce distinctive content. In parting on Monday:

    “It is the content produced by the ABC that is of primary importance to Australians, with the technology used to deliver that content a distant second,” she said.

Finally, I think it is instructive to look at the life history of Justin Milne.

Milne and Turnbull got to know each other when Milne worked at Ozemail. When Ozemail was taken over by WorldCom. two things happened. Milne who was head of datacasting was made CEO of the Sydney-based company. Turnbull’s initial investment of $500,000 of hard-earned cash delivered him a cool $57 million.

Milne had previously been CEO at start-up Globe Media from 1992 which designed some of Australia’s first commercial websites. In 1995, he was hired by Microsoft as managing director of MSN.

Then in 2002 Ziggy Switkowski asked Milne if he would like to run Telstra’s broadband and media businesses. By undercutting rivals Milne and drove BigPond’s share of the market to 40 per cent from 20 per cent.

    Milne spent eight years at Telstra, during which its number of internet customers rose to 2.5 million from 200,000. Friends dubbed him the father of high speed broadband in Australia.

In 2010 he retired from active duty to spread his wisdom as a director on various boards. That included the NBN after Turnbull became minister for communications in 2013. Then the ABC gig in early 2017.

Plunkett says:

    But decades working in the industry does not necessarily make Milne a digital transformation master. His comments that JetStream would take years to produce anything concrete rang alarm bells for industry veterans. In a rapidly changing technology environment, this seems a bizarre approach to a large-scale tech strategy.

She then reminds us of NBN and Centrelink “robodebt” difficulties.

According to Joe Aston’s Rear Window column, there is one issue Guthrie may or may not put into play:

    What Guthrie also tendered at that meeting [last Friday] was a request for Milne’s personal behaviour to be confidentially investigated. As reported by The Age on Thursday, she had previously complained about the chairman referring to her at events as “the missus”.

    What was not extrapolated, but about which Guthrie has complained to multiple directors, is that at an ABC board dinner in November last year at Sydney restaurant Billy Kwong, Milne inappropriately touched her on the back. Milne vehemently denied this.

You wouldn’t read about it, except you just did.

49 thoughts on “ABC: chaos at the top with more to follow”

  1. Never mind this latest kerfuffle, the ABC has gone so anti-conservative now it doesn’t represent half the citizens of Australia.
    It’s political activism from within even without political activism from outside.

    Now I can understand why anti-conservatives would want to keep it, not saying I don’t.
    But some feelings based surveys don’t tell the whole story or reflect the true feeling overall.

    No need for it to exist anymore anyway with the abundance of news and entertainment at our fingertips.
    It’s had its day.

  2. From the post, Roy Morgan reported

    Australians told us that their trust of the ABC is driven by its lack of bias and impartiality, quality journalism and ethics.

    Yet Jumpy writes

    … the ABC has gone so anti-conservative now it doesn’t represent half the citizens of Australia.

    How could Roy Morgan have got it so wrong?

  3. What a surprise ( not ), zoot responds to me first. Must have some sort of alert set up.

    Zoot, just look at the sampling methodology of that survey and apply a little common sense.

    Do you really contend that the ABC is not anti-conservative ?
    Surely not even you could posit that.

  4. Someone wrote that, with these shenanigans, the ABC has produced the best drama since Rake.


  5. I meant to mention that Janine Walker reckoned that if the ABC is not upsetting someone it’s not doing its job.

    Examp[les of where it has made a real difference abound. For example Chris Masters The Moonlight State set in progress forces that destroyed the elected dictatorship of Jo Bjelke Petersen.

    Quite recently the ABC had barely started on aged care when ScoMo ordered a royal commission.

    On the ABC jumpy lives in an alternate reality where nothing is going to change his mind.

  6. I remember the series “ Bastard Boys “ on the eve of the Kevin 07 election too.

    On the charge of alternate reality, my mind will change if the ABC hires a few conservative voices along with the progressive voices.
    It’d be too much to ask for equity, just a few.
    Struth, even Country Hour is all progressive now !
    If the US is the topic they cross straight to CNN or MSNBC, the 2 most anti-conservative, Trump hating channels over there.
    If it’s NZ they gush over Adhern not mentioning the chaos, MP sackings, corruption or bullying that’s happening.

    It’s not accidental nor is it made up in my head, it’s THE reality

  7. Jumpy, the ABC have tried to be ‘balanced’ so they got Amanda Vanstone to host Counterpoint and Tom Switzer to host Between the lines. They pull in numerous conservative commenters from around the world.

    Phillip Adams also often interviews conservative types on Late Night Live.

    However, there is a serious problem of finding quality conservatives. They are scarce.

    Barrie Cassidy tried for many years, but lately seems to go for quality, which is a welcome change.

    In the daily radio news coverage there is an obvious LNP bias. If Palaszczuk or one of their team makes an announcement, the news item usually leads with the LNP criticism, gives the LNP the last word (true of national politics as well) then at the end the LNP comment is reinforced with a back-announcement. Happens multiple times a day.

    I think relationships between the Palaszczuk government and the local ABC may have broken down through the disgraceful behaviour of Steve Austin, currently on local Drive, but that doesn’t explain what happens at national level.

    BTW Adams interviewed Germaine Greer and Bob Carr for a whole hour when they were excluded from the Brisbane Writers Festival. Hired a separate venue at the New Farm Village Twin theatre to do it with an audience. Greer turned out to be a big fan of Trump.

  8. Australians told us that their trust of the ABC is driven by its lack of bias and impartiality, …

    Everybody is out of step except Jumpy 🙂

  9. Jumpy: To my mind the leading conservative party in Australia is the Greens because they about conserving things like the planet, the environment, social justice.
    On the other hand I think that Abbot’s faction is radical right but definitely not conservative. They are about destroying all of the above.
    I find the ABC reasonably balanced but that probably reflects my bias in favour of news items that cover a wide range of issues and opinion that is supported by facts.
    I also have a bias in favour of ideas or points of view that are new. You will have to come up with something new if you want me to take much interest in what you go on about.

  10. Good grief zoot, just a subtle glance at a bit of the survey is required rather than dumbly nodding at a summery.

    A lot of trust ( not absolute trust so some portion of distrust) %16
    Some trust ( less than half trustworthy, just some ) %38
    A little trust ( way more distrust than trust ) %26
    No trust ( absolutely zero trust ) %8

    Now try a little logic and mathematics.

  11. Jumpy, when you are asked to rank something out of 10, how often do you give 10/10.

    7/10 is a pretty good mark in most cases, and if you pass 50% you pass 50%.

  12. John
    I’m not making a case for conservative, progressive or anything else. I’m just saying Australia has a big mix of ideologies, leanings and beliefs that the ABC isn’t representing.
    There’s a good argument that ABC is crowding out other content.

    And also we have areas where $1,040,000,000.00 ( and increasing, not cut ) could be better spent each year.

  13. Brian
    I haven’t seen the entire survey, if you have it I’d appreciate reading it.
    I don’t know if the respondents were asked to rank out of 10 or actually a multiple choice of the answers presented in the graph about. I would assume the second.

    There is also the question of who was sampled.
    Also the question of what type of people have the time, ability or inclination to participate in an online survey.

  14. I don’t know if the respondents were asked to rank out of 10 or actually a multiple choice

    According to Roy Morgan:

    The survey was unprompted and open ended (quantitative + qualitative)

    And while I’m here, Jumpy you have your opinion (and that’s all it is) of the ABC’s impartiality. Your opinion is shared with such paragons of centrism as Andrew Bolt and Miranda Devine.
    But the majority of Australians disagree with you.
    Suck it up.

  15. There is also the question of who was sampled.
    Also the question of what type of people have the time, ability or inclination to participate in an online survey.

    From Roy Morgan:

    For comments or more information please contact:
    Roy Morgan – Enquiries
    Office: (+61) (03) 9224 5309

    My emphasis

  16. But the majority of Australians disagree with you.
    Suck it up.

    No zoot, I’ve shown you the amount of distrust that survey, for what it’s worth, has for the ABC. You just choose to ignore facts you don’t like.

    And yet if your incorrect conclusions were correct and I’m in a minority, is that how you treat minorities ?
    Just say “ suck it up minority “ ?
    Not very social justice of you.

  17. The ABC to one side for a moment.
    If these surveys are to be believed ( big if ) then why do some folk want more power and influence in the hand of distrusted politicians and unions ?

  18. I When I started working in the Pilbara I would have said the balance of power had gone far too far in favour of the Pilbara unions. Bob Hawke changed a lot of that and I would have said things had improved enormously. (Keep in mind that I spent a lot of time negotiating with Pilbara an coal industry unions.)
    At that time I thought that the conservatives had a good chance of getting rid of the unions by setting up systems that protected the unions. However, Howard, his mates and successors didn’t do this and supported changes that removed protections, penalized those that were actively trying to protect and grinding down wages and conditions to the point where even paying the minimum wage seems optional. Jumpy: Why are you surprised that people trust unions than federal politicians? Or want a new government that looks like it will do something about helping those at the bottom of the employment pile?

  19. … I’m in a minority, is that how you treat minorities ?

    When it comes to minority opinions, yes.
    As you may have noticed, a lot of my opinions are minority opinions and I can either delude myself or suck it up.
    I will continue to argue my case, but I’m under no illusions that my opinion represents the lived reality of the majority of Australians.

  20. Jumpy, we weren’t shown the actual scores on the Roy Morgan poll. However, it broadly concurs with other surveys I’ve seen over the years. Roy Morgan is as competent as any other polling organisation I know.

    You seem to be ignoring this:

    After the ABC, SBS is Australia’s second most trusted media brand. Fairfax comes in third as the only other media brand with a positive NTS [net trust score].

    and the concept of Net Trust Score.

  21. Zoot, I’m at a loss rarely state a case but just poo poo mine.

    I didn’t ignore that paragraph, it’s what prompted me to question who was surveyed.
    To put ABC, SBS and Fairfax as 1, 2, 3 in trustworthiness should raise a red flag to anyone objective.

  22. To put ABC, SBS and Fairfax as 1, 2, 3 in trustworthiness should raise a red flag to anyone objective.

    jumpy are you saying that Newscorp and Channel Nine should be in there?

    Or The Guardian, The Conversation, The Saturday Paper, The New Daily or Inside Story?

    If the latter than I’d agree, but I suspect the question was about a generic “internet”.

    Here the main relevant issue is that Australians hold the ABC in net positive regard, whereas the groups and institutions that most attack it are held in negative regard.

  23. Obviously Brian I’m sceptical by nature, sort of a half trust and verify type.
    I tend to somewhat distrust all media to a certain degree till I look at other reports then do a little research of my own.
    Social research is particularly problematic I find.

  24. Jumpy, you measurement system is out of wack. What you call “conservative views” are supported by fewer than 10% of the population so assigning 50% of ABC time to those views would be unsupportable. No doubt News Corp would love to see the end of the ABC so they can move in to build their truly fake news empire to maximum effect.

    Perhaps what is missing in this “ balance” argument is the concept that the ABC’s role is to balance the entire industry, is as commercial news predominately funded by, and therefore provided in the interests of, major corporations becomes dominated by conservative views the ABC must therefore balance that out with community content, content in which the corporate world has no interest as there is no profit to be nade from it.

    Your idea of balance is entirely ideologically based, and that is a fringe view at best. It is unfortunate that the professional trustworthiness chart above left off chippies and builders as that would have provided a more complete means with which to value various opinion sources.

  25. BilB, nice to hear from you again.
    Perhaps the best poll are elections. It not about what a select few say to Essential or Morgan but what that do with there vote.
    The ABCs charter isn’t to balance the industry but rather be balanced within itself. And thank you for conceding that it’s left wing to balance out perceived right wing bias in privately run journalism, for which such right wing bias is not proved.
    Perhaps it is in the minds of yourself and ABC staff but you’ll have to provide some evidence corporate media is “ dominated by conservatives “.
    I can name a tonne of progressive lefties on commercial TV, so far only 2 conservatives on ABC.

  26. John
    I’m fine with Fairfax being biased too, it’s obvious going in.
    I’m happy to view all perspectives on an issue that perks my interest.
    But the no one could disagree that the ABC behemoth has the biggest penetration in this Country and it must be balanced or shut down.

  27. Hey yeah, thanks zoot, I forgot about The Guardian.
    That must be one of those conservative dominated media corporations that BilB was saying our public broadcaster need to balance against.
    Good find.

  28. Jumpy: Are you calling for balance in the Murdoch press? Or do you think they are OK because they are private.

  29. I thought the traditionsl argument was, that balanced presentation by the ABC was required
    a) because it’s in the charter
    b) and it’s in the charter because taxpayers fund it.

    Now Jumpy says it’s because the ABC has the biggest penetration in the Country. (Freud alert. ) If it’s a matter of penetration, News Ltd newspapers and Channel 9 should face your balance requirements too, eh Jumpy?

    It’s the old
    penetrometer test!!

    The ultimate achievement.

    Who said the media are just a “boy’s club”?

  30. No, they can be openly biased, and are sometimes.
    Just like I’m ok with Fairfax.
    Precisely because they are funded by their customers by free will.

    Are you suggesting the ABC should continue to be anti- conservative despite roughly 50% of their ( mandatory ) customers being conservative ?

    Look, I totally understand you would like to keep it that way, thats natural.
    But it’s not balanced or fair , no doubt about it.

  31. Mr A
    Its penetration was an aside point and I did not say what you said I said.

    I’m pretty sure the ABCs competitors would increase their market share, to the detriment of the ABCs market share, if they could also run at a $1 Billion loss annually,

  32. Yes it’s just too too shocking that a public service (note the lack of capital letters) should run at a “loss”.
    Remind me how much we lose on the armed forces each year. Why aren’t they making a profit? Then there’s the profligate spending on schools (such as St Hubris) – when will the Education Department turn a profit? And don’t get me started on Immigration. They lose billions every year.


  33. Thanks Jumpy

    on 30th at 10.28pm you wrote:
    But the no one could disagree that the ABC behemoth has the biggest penetration in this Country and it must be balanced or shut down.

    Referring to that, I wrote today at 3.03pm:
    I thought the traditionsl argument was, that balanced presentation by the ABC was required
    a) because it’s in the charter
    b) and it’s in the charter because taxpayers fund it.

    Now Jumpy says it’s because the ABC has the biggest penetration in the Country.

    Do you really claim that I misrepresented your meaning?

    By the way, I think the ABC needs to improve markedly.

    It does a good job in some areas and certainly broadcasts to the whole nation.

    I reckon

    1) it could present a wider range of opinions and people; I agree that it has very few conservative regulars. Amanda Van Stone is ‘token’ and not very conservative

    2) John asks for ‘newness’: much of ABC Radio and TV is a bit tired.

    3) I’d like the ABC to raise its journalistic standards: less gossip, less editorialising, fewer typos and ugly phrases; tone down the anti-Trump drum beating; a better Q&A by having NO politicians (set up a separate bear pit for them, call it – I dunno – Kindergarten Frenzy); more facts, fewer celebrities; remove all “comedians” from current affairs roles…

    4) speaking of comedy, I would really like to see some funny comedy on the ABC. A big ask, now that John Clarke has departed, but….

    5) Drama? “Rake” was good while it stayed in Sydney.

    6) remove the obscenity [case in point: recently around midday on a week day, I was regaled on RN by an Aboriginal lesbian, who recounted to the audience the key points in her recent skit, about how inappropriate it was for a white woman to use a black dildo on….] There used to be hours of the day when Esmerelda would not have to reach for the smelling salts… Harrumph!!

    7) Remove the tone of self-congratulation used by presenters and ABC persons interviewing other ABC persons on air. You have a fairly good outfit. It’s by no means the best in the world. Stop pretending that it is!

    8) A request that errors in a news item be corrected is not in itself “an attack on the independence of the ABC”. Discriminate between your actual “enemies” and your disappointed critics.

    9) Reintroduce that 15 minutes per week TV slot where viewer/listener criticisms were aired.

    10) Improve the coverage of science, engineering on ABC TV. There have been too many blunders. It can be done: see D. Attenborough, even the old Julius Sumner Miller….

    That’ll do for the time being.
    I don’t accept that the ABC “has to be on the Left” because there are so many powerful outlets hewing Right.

    By the way, I would also like The Age to improve its news coverage.

  34. I agree that it has very few conservative regulars.

    I humbly beg to differ Ambigulous.
    One of the reasons I have reduced my consumption of “ABC product” is the neverending conga line of interviewees from the IPA which constitutes way too much of its “news” content. The other reason is the ABC’s slavish adherence to the Murdoch media’s talking points for the day.

    And while I’m here let me put to rest the vile canard that the ABC is in the same business as the Murdoch media.
    Newscorpse exists to provide consumers to its advertisers, which means it has no commitment to quality in its offerings. Meanwhile the ABC’s raison d’etre is to supply quality programming to its viewers/listeners, a goal it is not meeting at the moment because it is being required to do more and more with less and less funding.

  35. Mr A
    I think I see the confusion and it’s quite understandable given my sloppy writing.
    I wrote,
    “ But the no one could disagree that the ABC behemoth has the biggest penetration in this Country and it must be balanced or shut down.”
    I put an “ and “ rather than a “ therefore “.
    My comment above that points out what you call traditionsl arguments.

    On your changes to the ABC I think they have merit except the newness thing, Triple J has enough newness to ruin any listener.
    But perhaps that just shows my oldness.

  36. traditional

    Correction by Pedantry Advisor.

    Jumpy, you have passed Introductory Pedantry by quoting my misspelt word letter for letter.

    Some practitioners would put (sic) directly after the erroneous word to indicate that they are awake.

    Victorian Apprenticeship Conclave: Pedantry Division J
    ( not to be confused with Pentridge Division H, a separate location for troublesome miscreants)

    {Pentridge has been abolished, you fool!
    Pedantry Supervisor}

  37. Zoot said,

    One of the reasons I have reduced my consumption of “ABC product” is the neverending conga line of interviewees from the IPA which constitutes way too much of its “news” content.

    Really ?
    I hadn’t noticed any in my ABC consumption.
    Which is mainly ABC online and ABC news radio.
    I’ve kindly linked to both in the hope that someone can identify this “ never ending conga line “, or even two ( the minimum required for even the smallest conga line ) examples.

  38. They quite often interview IPA spokespeople Jumpy.
    Can’t give chapter and verse.

    In my view, it’s an example of journalistic laziness, since there must be twenty or thirty other conservative groups that could be contacted for comments.

    (I want more variety please, ABC.)

    Could it be, that the IPA has succeeded in its lobbying efforts, way beyond its wildest dreams?

  39. Jumpy

    The IPA spokespersons I recall hearing were on News Radio, Radio National, and ABC local radio (774 Melbourne in Victoria).

  40. So it’s an anecdotal never ending conga line that doesn’t seem to be picked up by their online arms.

    That does seem strange. I certainly should pay more attention, I’m completely missing a never ending conga line of IPA interviewees!!
    Not the sort of thing a libertarian would miss I’d have thought.

    ( note to self : take more notice, there’s a never ending conga line of IPA interviewees on the ABC news that are hiding their online presence there, sneaky bastards )

  41. I do notice the odd presence of progressive think tanks like the Grattan Institute and the Australia Institute but nowhere near a “ never ending conga line “.

    Do you mean to say the IPA has that much more than them zoot ?

  42. Jumpy

    I don’t visit ABC News online much, but it looks to me like a very different presentation from ABC News on radio or TV: not many direct quotes from their ABC Radio colleagues or from ABC TV News items.

    Whereas on ABC News Radio, they will often replay (for example) a few minutes of a radio interview by Fran Kelly or Jon Faine for example, previously broadcast on RN or ABC local radio.

    And fairly often, a news items on morning RN turns out to be merely the soundtrack of something shown on ABC TV almost 12 hours later.

    It may be that your sampling of ABC output has little overlap with zoot’s sampling.

    BTW I join Brian in applauding Phillip Adams for putting on a special, long show featuring Germaine Greer and Bob Carr after the Brisbane Writers Festival “de-platformed ” them recently.

    (Though I found Dr Greer nearly incomprehensible, duffer that I am.)

  43. The ABC Board have now stated that they appointed an external, independent investigator to look into claims that were made by Ms Guthrie the day before she was sacked.

    Some of those claims were leaked, just before Mr Milne resigned. Others are still confidential.

    The investigation is continuing.

    Sketchy accounts are in Fairfax online and Guardian Australia.

  44. Here the ABC reports on the hiring of an independent, external adviser to investigate Michelle Guthrie claims.

    The current acting chair, Dr Kirstin Ferguson, looks like a corporate fixer:

    Her current Board appointments include: SCA Property Group Ltd; EML Payments Ltd; and Hyne & Son Pty Ltd. Kirstin was previously a non-executive director of CIMIC Ltd, Queensland Theatre Company, SunWater Ltd, Queensland Rugby Union, and Dart Energy Ltd, and is a former CEO of a global consulting company operating in the mining and resources services sector. She began her career as an Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force.

    She may be what the ABC needs at this time.

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