I expect my use of the word “prominent” will decline somewhat – in the immediate term, at least. For eons I have described the ABC as a conservative-free zone without one conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.

Now I can drop prominent. The taxpayer-funded public broadcaster has announced that neither Between the Lines (presenter Tom Switzer) nor Counterpoint (presenter Amanda Vanstone) will continue on ABC Radio National next year.

Some leading ABC journalists and managers deny the ABC is a conservative-free zone. But no one has been able to name one conservative. On occasion, friends of the ABC point to shows hosted by Switzer and Vanstone. But neither is prominent – airing at 5pm on Saturdays and 3pm on Mondays respectively. Indeed, in a column with Janet Albrechtsen on these pages on May 24, Switzer acknowledged that his program was not prominent.

Counterpoint, initially presented by Michael Duffy, was established in May 2004 when complaints were being made about the ABC’s lack of political diversity. The name told the program’s story – it was to present views contrary, or counter, to prevailing leftist orthodoxy at the public broadcaster. Vanstone took over Counterpoint in 2013.

Vanstone departed the ABC with a basic “thank you”. Switzer received a somewhat longer “farewell”. He left voluntarily. However, Jenna Clarke quoted an ABC source on these pages (November 24) saying Switzer’s “editorial decisions were beginning to upset the sensibilities of some staff and even friends of the ABC”.

Put simply, Switzer’s ABC critics objected that he interviewed too many conservatives on the low-rating RN network late on a Saturday afternoon. This would suggest Switzer had enough of the prevailing culture and quit when it suited him.

Sky News host James Macpherson says no one is surprised after a Triple J presenter was sacked by the ABC for

On the same day that the ABC advised that Switzer was exiting one door, it announced that Fran Kelly was entering another.

The former long-time presenter of ABC RN’s Breakfast (before Patricia Karvelas) is returning to RN in 2024 to present Saturday Extra. Kelly is a fine broadcast journalist but is unlikely to alter the lack of political diversity at the ABC. She is a person of the left who told journalist Tim Elliott on March 13, 2012: “What I really am is an activist.”

Addressing the ABC Andrew Olle Lecture on October 27, ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose said “being a journalist means that you give up your right to be an activist”. Fancy that.

The more important point is that Kelly is replacing Geraldine Doogue as Saturday Extra presenter. Doogue is one of the ABC’s best interviewers. She is no political conservative but neither is she evidently on the left.

Moreover, unlike so many ABC presenters and producers, Doogue is willing to listen to different points of view on social, economic and political issues.

Last Tuesday, ABC News director Justin Stevens announced that the ABC would not be recommissioning The Drum next year on the main TV channel. He spoke of the program’s “achievements” and “successes”. Which may have left some ABC viewers wondering why such a successful program was being junked.

Just below Stevens’s paean of praise for The Drum, the official ABC statement declared “the decision was informed by long-term audience trends”. On Wednesday, The Australian reported that in an email to staff Stevens conceded the program had been watched by “comparatively small and declining” audiences in recent times.

Little wonder. The Drum has become insufferably boring. The essential problem is it lacked political diversity and discouraged debate. It should have been suc­cessful – especially since, at 6pm, it led into the ABC TV news bulletin. Moreover, for much of its existence the program had two high-profile presenters – Julia Baird and Ellen Fanning. They were joined in recent times by Dan Bourchier.

The problem became evident when Baird and Fanning announced they wanted a kinder/gentler program. Fanning told Nine’s Sunday newspapers on January 27, 2019, “the best shows are when someone … says to another guest – say that again, that’s interesting”. No it’s not; it’s boring television. It says a lot about the broadcaster that some of its prominent journalists feel their shows should go on even if virtually no one is watching them – and despite the fact they adversely affect the audience reach of the programs that follow.

On Tuesday, ABC News published self-serving pieces by Baird and Fanning praising their own work. Baird stated “the show has been about hope” – whatever that might mean – and added its “priority has been diversity”.

As I wrote last week, senior ABC management has acknowledged the program’s discussion on the Indigenous voice lacked political diversity – even though it had sought to achieve it in the lead-up to the referendum. The problem was that The Drum had burnt too many bridges with conservatives – some of whom would not come on the program while others had been cancelled.

For her part, Fanning declared The Drum had transformed “the conversation” and had stood against “the Punch and Judy traditional panel shows that put one side against another”. Presenting The Drum on Tuesday, Bourchier also praised his own program. It’s not clear whether anyone was watching.

The fact is that over the years the ABC has lost many of its traditional social and political conservatives to other media outlets – including Sky News. That’s the inevitable fate of a conservative-free zone media outlet in a democracy.

It so happened that on Wednesday the ABC board released the 2024 ABC Code of Practice. Guess what? The “standard requiring a diversity of perspectives has been strengthened to ensure opposing viewpoints are presented within a reasonable timeframe and reach a similar audience”. Apparently the ABC has realised it is not as diverse as it has always claimed. It is notable, however, that no specific reference is made about the need for political diversity. If this remains the case, expect more failures like The Drum.