GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 143
29 JUNE 2012
“Media Watch Dog on Fridays…is a sort of popular read in the Crikey office”
– Crikey’s Andrew Crook on ABC 2 News Breakfast, 24 September 2010.
Lately it’s Hendo’s tendency to self-harm that has us losing sleep. For example, peruse the correspondence he’s published
in his latest Media Watch Dog blog…..There’s a part of us that just wants to ask: “Hendo, are you OK?”
– James Jeffrey’s “Strewth!” column, The Australian, 8 November 2010.
“I realise this makes me practically retarded, but until five minutes ago
I thought Nancy was Gerard Henderson”s wife, not his dog.”
– Byronbache via Twitter, Monday 7 February 2011
“Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails
are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s
Marius Benson, 11 March 2011. He did go further – see MWD Issue 86.
– Professor Robert Manne, April Fool’s Day 2011.
“Go to the Sydney Institute Media Watch Dog website to marvel at [its] work”
– Mark Latham The Spectator Australia 11 June 2011.
“Henderson…What a pompous, pretentious turd you are.”
– Mike Carlton, Saturday 13 August 2011 (after lunch)
“We’d better be careful what we say, just in case Gerard’s offsider pooch Nancy is keeping an eye on us for his delightfully earnest Media Watch Dog”
– Tom Cowie of The Power Index, Crikey 20 January 2012
“What a haughty flapping half-arsed buffoon he [Henderson] is”
– Bob Ellis on his Table Talk blog, 8 May 2012 (before breakfast)
● Stop Press : RN Breakfast’s Brand New Coalition Conspiracy Theory
● The 2012 Mid-Winter Ball : A Review
● Nancy on the Couch Talks to Inky About Julian (Morrow and Assange)
● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: How The Age Misplaced Abbott in Fun-Run
● MWD Essay: Mark Scott Fails to Deliver Promised Diversity at ABC
● New Feature: The Thought of Mark Latham : Or “How I Came to Love Paul Howes Again”
● Correspondence: A Chaser Boy Tries Not to Write to MWD
RN BREAKFAST RECKONS TONY ABBOTT ISN’T FAIR DINKUM ON JUNKING THE CARBON TAX
What a scoop! On RN Breakfast this morning, Fran (I’m an activist”) Kelly declared that “here on Breakfast we’ve got a feeling” that an emissions trading scheme “could be the ultimate plan for the Coalition”. Really.
According to the RN Breakfast presenter, Tony Abbott’s pledge to scrap the carbon tax could see him quickly implement an ETS. She supported the view of the managing director of AGL Energy – which supports in an ETS.
So there you have it. Tony Abbott has been vehemently opposed to an ETS or/and a carbon tax since at least the time he was elected Liberal Party leader in December 2009. But Ms Kelly and the RN Breakfast team reckon they know that, if elected to office, Mr Abbott will break his no ETS/no carbon tax policy. Fair dinkum.
And what evidence is there for such speculation. The answer is Zip. Absolutely Zip. [Should this be in the Can You Bear It segment? – Ed].
2012 MID-WINTER BALL NEWS FLASH – JULIAN MORROW BREAKS ROB OAKESHOTT RECORD FOR LONGEST PARLIAMENT HOUSE MONOLOGUE IN A CALENDAR YEAR
Members of the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery are invariably telling politicians what to do. Many journalists, who report national politics out of Parliament House in Canberra, have never worked in government or in opposition or in the public service or, indeed, in business. Nevertheless they are tops at telling politicians how they should perform and how they should go about their business.
It’s a rare event where journalists run anything. That’s why Nancy’s co-owner is always willing to accept an invitation to the Mid-Winter Ball to see journos running something. This year’s event was held on Wednesday 27 June in the Great Hall Parliament House. The 2012 occasion had a strange Italian – or rather Roman – theme (see MWD 139). Here are some random highlights from the (poorly organised) evening.
7.15 pm. Sponsors get early entry to the Great Hall where Malcolm Farr, who is a member of the Federal Parliamentary Gallery committee – or, rather, Comitato – thanks sponsors for their support. Apparently this was the BEST speech of the night – with emphasis on “apparently”. You see, someone forgot to turn on the microphone and it was difficult to hear what the national political editor of news.com was on about.
Soon word followed to the back of the audience that Mr Farr had said that, due to the long running debate on asylum seekers in the House of Representatives, both politicians and journalists would find it impossible to get to the Mid-Winter Ball on time. Or something like that. Alas, we will never know.
7.30 pm. The doors of the Great Hall are opened to all guests. Guests mingle, network, shake hands and plant kisses. But no one knows what is going on. Gradually the room fills up. But no one says anything. No one welcomes guests or tells them what is going on or the reason for the delay. It’s like no one is in charge. It’s a kids’ party and the adults have left the building. The organising committee [Don’t you mean the Operandi Di Comitato? – Ed] do not appear to be organising much at all – except for the unexplained delay.
In time, the room gets dark and a DVD is shown. According to the elaborate – and expensive – program this is a Ho Una Sensazione moment. Wow. Various politicians, journos, TV/Radio crew and photographers ham it up to the music and words of I’ve Got A Feeling. The video was produced and directed by Mark Jessop.
It’s all good fun. At the conclusion of I’ve Got A Feeling, antipasto is served followed by secondo. Still no one says anything. During the fine dining the Prime Minister and Opposition leader arrive. But no one welcomes them. Tragedy strikes. The sassy Liberty Sanger, MWD’s favourite Maurice Blackburn lawyer, visits Nancy’s co-owner’s table. But, alas, he is temporarily absent. [Perhaps next year – Ed].
It’s now 10.20 pm, no less. The lights go off – again. I’ve Got A Feeling is played – again. The lights come on – again. And, lo and behold, someone speaks. It’s Phillip Hudson – president of the Gallery- who is referred to in the program as the Presidente. Mr Hudson welcomes guests – around three hours after they arrived – and advises the names of the charities which will benefit from the Mid-Winter Ball.
During Phillip Hudson’s performance, it is announced that the Sydney Morning Herald’s Phil Coorey has won this year’s Paul Lyneham Award. In a moving but somewhat long speech, Mr Coorey declares that he has accepted the award for journalists – particularly “everyone who is there and who will not be there soon”. The award is $5000. If the moolah happens to be divided up between journalists at Fairfax Media and News Limited who – (sadly) are destined to lose their jobs – each will get about $2.
It’s 10.35 pm and Julian Morrow takes the stage. He is the MC – or Ospiti Speciali – for the evening. Mr Morrow is one of The Chaser Boys (average age 36 years – or it is 38? Or perhaps 37?) and the presenter of the Friday edition of the ABC Radio National Drive program. The Chaser Boy declares that guests include “some of the most powerful people in the country and the prime minister”. Funny, apparently. Nancy’s co-owner LOLed so long that he spilt holy water down his dress shirt.
Julian Morrow’s oration contains some good jokes along with lotsa undergraduate humour and hits at predictable targets. For example, Gina Rinehart is called “the elephant not in the room”. When there is some objection to this put-down, Morrow says that the comment is “not sexist but fatist”. So that’s okay then. Julian Morrow mentions the quantum of Mark Scott’s annual salary. Re which see the Correspondence and On the Couch sections. Phew.
It’s 10.55 pm and Mr Morrow concludes his introductory comments. Believe it or not, Julian Morrow’s monologue – at 20 minutes – is longer than that of Independent MP Rob Oakeshott who went on in Parliament House for a mere 17 minutes before declaring that he would support Julia Gillard to form a minority government. The Prime Minister had to wait for a full 20 minutes before Julian Morrow allowed her to give the keynote address. Julian Morrow’s address to the Mid-Winter Ball takes more time than all the other speakers combined. It’s called narcissism.
10.55 pm. Finally Julia Gillard gets a guernsey after Julian Morrow gives up his intention of speaking longer than Fidel Castro. Part of the Prime Minister’s speech is devoted to bagging Tony Abbott but part is witty. All in all, a good performance before a cynical and increasingly thirsty audience.
11.08 pm. Julia Gillard concludes. But, wait a second. Who’s this? Yes – it’s Julian Morrow, back again. This time The Chaser Boy comments on the Prime Minister’s speech and refers to her “backbone”. LOL – it’s a reference to Ms Gillard’s backless dress. Morrow then introduces Tony Abbott.
11.10 pm. Tony Abbott praises Julia Gillard’s speech, make a serious point about the charities benefiting from the function, empathises with journalists who might lose their jobs and concludes with a light-hearted jibe at Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. It’s suitably short – considering the function has been running for nearly four hours.
11.13 pm. Can you believe it? Julian Morrow is at it again – this time commenting on Tony Abbott’s speech. He complains that Abbott’s policy is to “stop the jokes” [Get it? Not “stop the boats”. How funny can you get – at 11.13 pm, that is.]
11.15 pm. Finally Julian Morrow shuts up. This co-incides with a surge in orders for celebratory drinks. Then it’s time for the Press Gallery Choir – otherwise known as “The House Howlers”. In the program, this talent is described as “Laugh Out Loud Political Satire”. Alas, it’s university revue humour and there is not much laugh-out-loud or otherwise.
11.25 pm. It’s all over. The party and dancing commences – or Divertimento. Until Arrivederci at 2 am.
11.35 pm. Nancy’s co-owner goes home after hearing a rumour that Julian Morrow will give another narcissistic 20 minute speech (possibly the Dopo-cena discorso) and that Rob Oakeshott will deliver a vote of thanks. The good news is that The Hyatt’s bar is still open. Nancy’s (male) co-owner spills some altar-wine on his dress shirt while reflecting that it’s just as well that Parliamentary Press Gallery types don’t run the world – or even Australia.
NANCY ON THE COUCH TALKS TO INKY
● On the Morality of Quoting Julian Morrow
Nancy Asks: My (male) co-owner is suffering from a serious case of scruples. You see, he wrote to Mr Julian Morrow – the leader of The Chaser Boys (average age 36) and asked him why he had revealed nice Mr Scott’s salary package before an audience of some 600 people (around 550 of whom were relatively sober) at the Mid-Winter Ball last Wednesday. Julian Morrow sent back a not-for-publication email. Yet my (male) co-owner decided to print it. He is now examining his conscience. Is this a sin – or just bad manners? If it’s a sin – is it mortal or venial?
Inky Responds: There is no need for scruples, still less remorse, in this instance. I believe that Julian Morrow is just pulling your co-owner’s leg – or legs, as the case may be. In other words, it’s just another Chaser stunt.
When you think about it, it’s a really good joke. Can you think of anything more amusing than Julian Morrow, the world champion trespasser and practitioner of in-someone-else’s-face-journalism, demanding confidentiality for an email which he sent explaining his own behaviour? It would be a bit like Errol Flynn getting upset if someone suggested he was not monogamous. Or, perhaps, Margaret Thatcher complaining that some commentators are claiming that she did not resemble St Francis of Assisi – in thought or in deed.
Tell your (male) co-owner to dump his scruples, loosen up and appreciate Julian Morrow’s sense of humour. If he still has conscience concerns, I would recommend he turn to Luke 6.31. There is a reference there that we all do to others as we would have them do unto us. Or something like that. It’s the New Testament version of what-goes-around-comes-around. With a twist. Perhaps nice Mr Scott might reveal The Chaser Boy’s ABC salary at the 2013 Mid-Winter Ball.
● On Julian Assange, House-Training and Robertson QC’s Broken Ear Piece
Nancy Asks: I am very concerned about the safety, health and welfare of staff at the Ecuador Embassy in London – who now have the hippie-born Julian Assange (who grew up around Lismore way) as an uninvited house guest. Especially since Kathy Lette has revealed, after personal experience, that your man Assange is not house-trained. Is there any way of getting the Epping-born civil libertarian lawyer with the faux Epping accent (See MWD ad nauseam) – you know, Geoffrey Robertson QC – to look after the interests of Embassy staff who are used to guests who shower, shave and so on? It is, after all, a human rights matter.
Ink Responds: I appreciate your concern. But, alas, I do not see a positive outcome. I would ring Mr Robertson QC. However, as an MWD reader has pointed out, your man Robertson has developed a habit of speaking at length – after declaring that his ear-piece is faulty. He did this recently both on 7.30 and Sky News. It works well – for Mr Robertson. Put simply, he does not have to answer questions and can spend the entire discussion listening to his (very own) Epping accent. As to how to force Julian Assange – he of the hippie background – to have a shower. Forget Robertson QC. Just get the London Fire Brigade to hose the Embassy, inside and out.
THE GUARDIAN-ON-THE-YARRA: AN UPDATE
Believe it or Not? The Age Downgrades Tony Abbott’s 10 kms Run
According to The Age, Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott finished behind bookmaker Robbie Waterhouse in the Mini-Mos Fun Run in Sydney surburban Mosman on 17 June. The caption to the photo in The Age, apparently showing Waterhouse finishing ahead of Abbott, read as follows:
The neighs have it: federal opposition Leader Tony Abbott is pipped at the post by Sydney bookmaker Robbie Waterhouse in a fun run early yesterday morning.
Great story. Pity about the facts. As the Sydney Morning Herald reported on the same day:
He [Tony Abbott] finished 384th in a field of about 1000…he wasn’t pipped at the post by bookmaker Robbie Waterhouse despite what the image might suggest. Fun run officials said that Mr Waterhouse placed 404th – 21 seconds slower than Mr Abbott.
So there you have it. You can’t believe everything you see in “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra”. Especially when there is a chance to put Tony Abbott in second – or 405th – place.
MISSION UNACCOMPLISHED – THE ABC AND DIVERSITY UNDER MARK SCOTT – WITH PARTICULAR REFERENCE TO RADIO NATIONAL
According to Media Watch Dog, the term “ABC” really stands for “Anyone But Conservatives” (See MWD Issues 139 & 130). According to Mark Scott, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s managing director and editor-in-chief, the ABC is a “market failure broadcaster” which fills gaps caused by the failure of the private sector media. If this is the case, then the ABC’s role as compensating for deficiencies in the private sector media should entail that it employs at least some political conservatives in key presenter, producer and editorial roles. So far, this has not occurred.
The ABC as a Solution to “Market Failure”
On 16 May 2011, The Guardian ran a profile piece on Mark Scott by Dan Sabbagh. At the time there was a suggestion that Mr Scott might be considered to fill the position of BBC director general. Sabbagh reported on his discussion with Scott as follows:
Scott thinks of the ABC modestly as a “market failure broadcaster”, although its best known description came from a right-wing critic who called its broadcasts “my enemies talking to my friends”. Scott says he thinks “the areas of market failure are getting greater” – the usual argument advanced by public service broadcasters. The ABC”s focus, he argues, is “quality Australian content, particularly Australian drama” (because there is “a flood of cheap US content”) and “quality news and current affairs, because it is very hard to make investment and returns”.
It’s easy for the managing director of the ABC – which receives about $1 billion of taxpayers’ funds each year – to accuse the commercial media of “market failure”. After all, the private sector media has to fund its products by sales or by obtaining advertising in a highly competitive market. According to Mark Scott’s logic, “market success” in the media merely requires that the public broadcaster rock up to Canberra every three years and take away bucket-loads of taxpayers’ funds. Life for the managing director of a public sector broadcaster is not that hard.
The ABC – Tops for Self-Regard
Irish Media proprietor Tony O’Reilly once joked that the Irish were tops for humility. The ABC has a long record of self-praise. However, under Scott’s leadership, it deserves congratulations for the amount of self-congratulation it can get away with.
Interviewed on Sky News’ Australian Agenda on 24 June 2012 – News Limited director Kim Williams referred to the ABC’s capacity for self-praise:
The ABC is obviously a large employer of journalists and produces a lot of journalism; breaks remarkably few stories relative to the amount of money that”s invested in it – if I”m truthful and accurate and objective in assessing it, which is something I think the ABC is often not good at.
The ABC has a remarkable appetite for self-congratulation in the most extravagant way. I am troubled by the fact that in many of its online offerings, the ABC competes without actually having any of the accountability that its commercial counterparts do have, and that”s clearly awkward in an environment where many costs are pressured and where many employment pressures arise from that. At times I think the ABC is misplaced and misconceived in a lot of what it does.
Mark Scott at the Matthew Ricketson Book Launch
Kim Williams’ comments seemed to have been a response to a speech given by Mark Scott at The Centre for Advanced Journalism at Melbourne University on 13 June 2012 when he launched Australian Journalism Today, which is edited by Matthew Ricketson. Contributors to the edited collection include Ricketson himself along with such left-wing commentators as Peter Browne, Dennis Muller, Margaret Simons and Rodney Tiffen. Early in his speech, Scott remarked “that virtually every author of a chapter in this book has been attacked in one way or another in recent weeks by The Australian.” He then proceeded to make a number of critical remarks about News Limited, The Australian, and The Australian’s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell.
Mum’s-the-Word on Finkelstein’s Let’s-Jail-Journalists Report
Scott’s only reference to Ricketson was to say that the editor of Australian Journalism Today was taller than he was. He made no reference to Professor Ricketson’s role as co-author of Ray Finkelstein QC’s Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Media and Media Regulation. This was a surprising omission – especially since the Finkelstein Report, if implemented by the Gillard government, could see journalists jailed for failing to abide by the decisions of a News Media Council – whose deliberations would not allow a proper hearing nor provide a right of appeal. It’s strange that the managing director of the ABC, perhaps the largest employer of journalists in Australia, declined to comment on a proposal which, if implemented, could see journalists jailed without due process – especially since he was launching Matthew Ricketson’s book.
Professor Ricketson addressed The Sydney Institute on 28 May 2012 in a policy forum with Fairfax Media’s legal counsel Gail Hambly. At the conclusion of the talk, Ricketson was asked about critics of the Finkelstein Report who had said that “the ultimate sanction would be a term of imprisonment for contempt of court for not abiding by a court order”. Ricketson replied: “Well, that’s where it ends up.” In other words, Ricketson did not deny that the ultimate sanction of the Finkelstein Report’s recommendations would see editors and /or journalists imprisoned. Just imagine if John Howard had set up a media enquiry which recommended a clamp down on freedom of expression in Australia – including the imprisonment of journalists.
Mark Scott on What the ABC Has Achieved Since 2006
During his Melbourne University speech, Mark Scott said nothing about the future of journalism if the Finkelstein/Ricketson recommendations were implemented. However, there was plenty of self-praise for the ABC under his own management:
We are not a single masthead like The Australian. In fact I think the ABC is more like a large chain of newspapers or separate editorial products, though not seeking to deliver for profit or shareholder return, but for the public good. We have clear policies and guidelines, clear expectations about standards and levels of performance, but finally we entrust our journalistic teams to execute. We do not have a point of view or take an editorial stance. More than ever, I think we can demonstrate a wide range of perspectives, forums for vigorous debate and a culture that can deliver for our audiences – from the fastest, most accurate tweet, to the finest and most vigorous investigative reporting.
Not long after I started at the ABC in 2006, in a speech to The Sydney Institute, I set out the direction the ABC would be taking editorially. How, in all our content, we”d deliver balance, diversity and impartiality, the full range of voices and perspectives as set out in our new Editorial Policies. And I think it”s pretty clear to the public that those editorial standards, diversity of opinion and impartiality I set out six years ago, are part of the ABC”s editorial DNA today. It was good to see, as both the Finkelstein and Convergence Report noted, that Australians regard the ABC as Australia’s most trusted media organisation for news and information. By a long stretch. I think our team is doing very well. Not just our big news and current affairs programs, but our teams working in regional and rural Australia putting together countless programs daily, delivering the very best news and information from and to their local communities, the State, the nation and around the world.
Mark Scott’s 2006 Promise Re-Visited
So, Mark Scott is claiming today that he has fulfilled the commitments he made, in his first major speech as ABC managing director, to The Sydney Institute on 16 October 2006.
In this speech Mark Scott made two significant commitments. First, he promised pluralism within the ABC:
As a rule, I am resisting the temptation to second-guess 75 years of ABC corporate history. I have refused to be drawn in numerous interviews as to whether I think there has been or is bias at the ABC. I suspect the truth is that we are by no means as bad as our critics might suggest and not as blameless as our defenders might wish. My focus, however, is on the future and ensuring our performance is better in the future.
I want us to be hard-nosed in assessing the bias question ourselves because there are few more serious allegations that can be made against serious journalists. The ABC cannot afford to be biased, or be seen to be biased. It can take no editorial position in its news. And while there is opportunity for opinion on the ABC under the new editorial policies, there needs to be a plurality of opinion. The last thing any of us would want is an ABC that is stripped of strong opinions. On the contrary the prominence given to Opinion content in the new Editorial Policies is to facilitate strong opinions, but in a way that guarantees a range of viewpoints are heard on any particular contentious issue.
Second, Mark Scott made a specific promise to address problems with the ABC1 Media Watch program:
I think the success of the ABC”s Insiders program has shown the value, however, of ensuring a range of political perspectives on the issue of the day. Every Sunday morning, no matter how you view the world, someone on Barrie Cassidy”s couch is making good sense – and I think that makes for good television and good journalism. Lateline has always encouraged a good range of voices to be heard on issues, using the flexibility in its format to good effect.
But under our new editorial policies, we will be looking for further diversity of voices – ensuring the ABC is the town square where debate can flourish and different voices heard. I have encouraged the Director of Television to work with the Media Watch team to review their format and content next year to ensure there is more opportunity for debate and discussion around contentious and important issues. It is a popular program, has a loyal following and I hope, a long future at the ABC. And next year, Jeff McMullen will host a new televised discussion program for us, A Difference of Opinion [the precursor of Q&A] that will ensure that on contentious issues of the day, there is opportunity for the full range of opinions and perspectives to be heard.
Mark Scott’s comments in October 2006 were unequivocal. He committed the ABC, under his management, to ensuring “a plurality of opinion” and ensuring that “there is opportunity for the full range of questions and perspectives to be heard” on the public broadcaster. It’s now five years since Mr Scott’s commitment was made. But the ABC still does not have a conservative presenter or producer or editor on any of its broadcast or prime products. Not one. Moreover, there is still no opportunity for debate and discussion on the Media Watch program. Rather, presenter Jonathan Holmes declares what is correct and what is incorrect – and there is no on-air right of reply.
In fact, there is more debate and discussion on Fox News’ News Watch program where right-of-centre (American conservatives) and left-of-centre (American liberals) commentators debate journalism. Jonathan Holmes – like every one of the previous Media Watch presenters – is on the left. All Media Watch presenters have had a background at the ABC or at the Sydney Morning Herald.
Despite Mark Scott’s promises in 2006, the ABC is probably less pluralistic today than it was five years ago, since there has been an increase in the number of left-of-centre personnel in important programs. Particularly on Radio National (or RN, as it is increasingly called).
A Full Range of Opinions? – A Radio National Case Study
In 2012, Radio National announced a new line up. In doing so it was heavily into self-congratulation – as the following promo, which went to air on 13 January 2012, indicates:
Hello there, Geraldine Doogue here. In 2012, we’ve energised our line-up here at RN. We’ve reinforced our strengths, and we’re bringing in some great new talent. It’s all to ensure that we continue to bring you the best mix of stimulating debate along with informed and entertaining specialist programming. So rejuvenate your listening from the 23rd of January, find your favourites, and the unexpected, by downloading a 2012 schedule from the RN website.
It’s certainly true that RN introduced some “great new talent” in 2012. It’s just that everyone was either a leftist or social democrat. Clearly, the ABC could not find one talented conservative for any one of its key programs. Not one. Here’s a brief profile of RN’s “great new [left-of-centre] talent” in 2012:
● RN Drive. This new show, which airs from 6pm to 9pm, is presented by Waleed Aly (Mondays to Thursdays) and Julian Morrow (Fridays).
Waleed Aly was formerly an academic at Monash University. Much beloved by the ABC, he is on record as describing the Liberal Party, under Tony Abbott’s leadership, as embracing “a reactionary form of monoculturalism that violates the first principles of the liberal conservative tradition”. In his Quarterly Essay titled “What’s Right: The Future of Conservatism in Australia”, published in March 2010, Aly declared that Tony Abbott’s “divergent message seems merely to express the state of ideological confusion in which the Liberal Party presently finds itself”.
● Julian Morrow is best known as one of “The Chaser Boys”. Much beloved by the ABC, he was formerly the public broadcaster’s Trespasser-in-Chief in that he led The Chaser’s stunts, which often involved trespassing on private property. Mr Morrow’s trespassing activities were approved by Mr Scott and ABC management – despite the fact that the ABC not so long ago erected (at taxpayers’ expense) elaborate security to keep trespassers out of its own offices.
Julian Morrow is very much in the ABC’s leftist tradition – in that he bags both Labor and the Coalition, but invariably from the left. This was evident again when Morrow was MC at the 2012 Mid Winter Ball in Canberra. He mocked both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott – but not, of course, Greens’ leader Christine Milne. A leftist comedian has to draw the political line somewhere.
● Jonathan Green presents Sunday Extra. Much favoured by the ABC, Green enjoyed a traditional learning curve before getting a taxpayer funded teat at the public broadcaster. The invariably sneering Green is on record as comparing the Liberal National Party in Queensland to a right-wing racist/fascist movement and John Howard to Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad (See MWD Issue 125).
Much beloved by the ABC, Green has a familiar background. Before becoming editor of the ABC’s websites The Drum and The Drum Opinion, he worked with the leftist Crikey and before that with the leftist Age – otherwise known as The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra.
● Andrew West has taken up the position of presenter of the Religion and Ethics Report, which airs each Wednesday at 5.30pm. Formerly of the Sydney Morning Herald, Andrew West is a social democrat, rather than a leftist. In relation to religious matters, West tends to favour radical reform of the Christian churches. Once again, the ABC has not been able to find a mainstream conservative, who happens to be a believer, to present the RN religion program.
● Richard Aedy, a long time ABC employee, now presents both the Media Report (on Fridays) and Sunday Profile. Aedy is a professional presenter – it’s just that he seems beholden to all the fashionable leftist attitudes which are prevalent within the ABC studios in Ultimo (Sydney) and Southbank (Melbourne).
● Michael Cathcart is the new presenter of Books and Arts Daily. He has a background as a fashionable leftist historian.
Meanwhile, the key RN programs continue as before. As Phillip Adams recently conceded, they usually involve leftists talking to leftists to the approval of a leftist audience. See MWD Issue 133.
● No one doubts that RN Breakfast presenter Fran Kelly is on the left – with fashionable leftist positions on a range of issues. In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald on 14 March 2012, Fran Kelly declared that she was an activist. (See MWD Issue 129).
RN Breakfast’s commentator on United States politics is E.J. Dionne – he is a liberal (in the American sense of the term) and a strong supporter of the Democratic Party. RN Breakfast cannot find one American conservative to be a regular commentator on US politics.
● Late Night Live presenter Phillip Adams is a self-declared left winger who regards Liberal Party and National Party supporters as outside the range of acceptable political behaviour. When interviewing former Western Australian Labor Premier Geoff Gallop on 14 June 2012, Adams referred to supporters of the Liberal Party as being on “the dark side”. This means that, according to the LNL presenter, around half of Australians occupy a place he described as “the dark side”.
LNL’s regular commentator on United States politics is Bruce Shapiro – he is a leftist who regards the Democratic Party as too centrist. LNL cannot find one American conservative to be a regular commentator on US politics.
Not A Conservative In the ABC House
In other words, ABC Radio National employs leftists, social democrats or relatively politically neutral types as presenters for all its significant programs. But not one conservative presenter. In fact, RN does not even engage one conservative regular guest on any of its programs. In this regard it resembles The Age which does not employ even one conservative weekly columnist. The only conservative in the organisation is Paul Comrie-Thomson who presents Counterpoint. Counterpoint goes to air at 4pm on Mondays and receives virtually no promotion from the ABC. It is a kind of out-house program. For example, Counterpoint was not even mentioned when RN manager Michael Mason announced its 2012 line up on 15 November last year.
Even the title of Paul Comrie-Thomson’s program is instructive. It is named “Counterpoint” in order to send a message that what the program offers is contrary to other programs presented on the ABC.
Conclusion – With More to Come
The RN programming demonstrates that Mark Scott has failed to implement his promise to deliver a “plurality of opinion” within the ABC. Certainly there have been some improvements at the ABC during Mr Scott’s period as managing director. For example, ABC’s News and 7.30 programs are more professional and balanced than has been the case in the past. However, for the most part, Mark Scott has not delivered on his promise to deliver a wider range of views within the public broadcaster – despite all his self-congratulatory hype.
In a future essay, MWD will analyse how editorial standards in recent years have declined in some areas of the ABC.
* * * * *
BRAND NEW FEATURE – BY POPULAR DEMAND
THE THOUGHT OF MARK LATHAM – EPISODE 1
“Why is it that every time I come to Adelaide there’s a problem?
– Mark Latham, The Latham Diaries, Wednesday 24 November 2004.
Good question, eh?
Due to enormous popular demand, MWD is commencing a new series devoted to recording for posterity the thoughts of (the superannuated) Mark Latham. It is devoted to exploring the former failed Labor leader’s evident lack of self-awareness – as demonstrated in the above quote which is taken from his diaries.
Here we go – with Episode 1.
▪ Mark Latham on Paul Howes, Reconciliation, Gerard Henderson and Prejudice
Peter van Onselen: Paul Howes, head of the AWU, in a speech – was it to the National Press Club? – he said that he believed that Labor has to be looking to bring back former leaders like yourself. He can disagree internally with what you have to say but stop attacking you publicly. Now, he’s been one of the people who’s done that. You’ve attacked him back. What do you say to that?
Mark Latham: Oh, well that’s a nice sentiment and good on him.
Peter van Onselen: So are you interested in that though? Or not?
Mark Latham: Oh well, I take the general view that, talking in the media, I need to be of an independent mind and, and, and just call the issues as I see them. I”m not answerable to any faction or party or trade union. I like to present, hopefully, an informative view that’s free of any prejudice – other than against Gerard Henderson. And as for Paul Howes, he’s a person, I think of good intent, in the labour movement. And Labor has got a whole bunch of institutional, structural, policy, personality issues that need resolution and, and, and good-minded people should put their shoulder to the wheel and try and help out.
…In my situation these media appearances are part of my livelihood. I’ve got a bigger responsibility to my family and you just can’t tell me to pull punches. Given the history of all this, I need to do my work and do it as best I can and I’m not going to compromise that. I appreciate his comments but I can’t change. You wouldn’t want me here acting as some sort of Labor patriot when, when, when, when the truth is not that way.
– The Contrarians, Sky News, Friday 8 June 2012
[Promising start. I note that Mark Latham failed to front up for his regular Monday slot on Paul Murray Live on 18 June. Could this be because Paul Murray was on what stand-in presenter Janine Perrett described as a “well-earned break” – and Mr Latham did not want to be cross-examined by a sheila. By the way, are there any journalists around who can ‘fess up to taking holidays – particularly some that are not well-earned? – Ed].
For the record, Mark Latham made two appearances on Sky News this week. He appeared on Paul Murray Live on Monday at 9 pm and Showdown on Tuesday at 8 pm. This week Showdown presenter Peter van Onselen handed over his presenter role to Michael Kroger and Mark Latham – who interviewed AWU National secretary Paul Howes and Coalition front bencher Christopher Pyne.
It was all so chummy in the studio as Michael and Mark questioned Paul and Christopher. No one mentioned the devastating criticisms which Paul Howes made of Mark Latham in his book Confessions of a Faceless Man: Inside Campaign 2010 (MUP). (See MWD Issue 140).
CORRESPONDENCE – GERARD HENDERSON AND JULIAN MORROW
Julian Morrow – one of The Chaser “Boys” and presenter of Drive on ABC Radio National on Fridays – was MC of the 2012 Mid Winter Ball in the Great Hall Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday (see above).
During his speech, before an audience of around 600 including Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition leader Tony Abbott, Julian Morrow commented that ABC managing director Mark Scott receives an annual salary package of $750,000 a year.
Gerard Henderson wrote to Julian Morrow about this comment. The entire correspondence is printed out below – mindful of the fact that Julian Morrow’s employer has signed up to the “Right to Know Coalition”.
In his reply to Gerard Henderson’s initial note, Julian Morrow declared that his “email is not for publication”. However, in view of Mr Morrow’s history – while a member of The Chaser team – of invading the privacy of others, including trespass on property of others, the correspondence is printed in full below.
The ethical dilemma faced by MWD before it was decided to publish Mr Morrow’s “not-for-publication” email is discussed in this week’s “On the Couch” segment (see above).
Gerard Henderson to Julian Morrow – 28 June 2012 – 1.41 pm
Brilliant performance as master of ceremonies at the 2012 Mid Winter Ball last night with some good jokes and some bad taste (as expected from “the Chaser Boys” – average age 38).
Absolutely brilliant speech in fact, albeit not quite as funny as Rob Oakeshott’s Parliament House gag of recent memory – even if your monologue was somewhat longer.
Interesting that you outed Mark Scott last night as receiving $750,000 a year from the ABC.
In view of your form in declaring income earned from the ABC – how about ‘fessing up as to how much you and your company have received from the ABC over, say, the past five years?
Over to you.
Julian Morrow to Gerard Henderson – 28 June 2012 – 2.10 pm
Thanks Gerard. Very kind of you to say.
This email is not for publication, but I will try to give you the substantive response you”re after.
1. I don”t think I outed Mark Scott”s salary – it”s in the ABC Annual Report.
2. I”ll decline your kind invitation to divulge other financial info, not least because I am legally obliged not to. And you know what a stickler for compliance with legalities I am.
Hope you had a good night last night. And good on you for keeping up the Chaser boys jibe, even if your maths is a bit out (too high sadly, though I guess it could be creative license). As I recall telling you on the phone, we absolutely hate that expression too, have never used it and have tried valiantly to stop others from using it, failing spectacularly…
All the best
Gerard Henderson to Julian Morrow – 28 June 2012 – 3.17 pm
Thanks for your prompt (albeit somewhat sensitive) response.
It’s interesting, when you think about it. There are not many secrets in the Australian public domain these days – except for the amount of money you have received from the taxpayer over the years.
Take salary packages, for example. We know what the likes of Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, Robert French and Mark Scott receive. However, the taxpayer funded salaries of Kerry O’Brien, Tony Jones and your good self remain a state secret. A bit like what goes on at Pine Gap.
I do know what Mark Scott’s annual salary is – even though I have not been able to locate it within the ABC Report.
It’s just that it has always seemed somewhat rude to me to discuss other people’s salaries in a public place – especially when they are present. But then I was not educated at St Aloysius’ College. In my day at Xavier College, we were even told that trespass amounted to bad manners.
Keep morale high.
* * * * *
Until next time.