18 October 2014

The inaugural issue of “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published in April 1988 – over a year before the first edition of the ABC TV Media Watch program went to air. Since November 1997 “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” has been published as part of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. In 2009 Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog blog commenced publication.


”The last time Gerard Henderson smiled was in 1978, when he saw a university student being mauled by a pitbull.”

– Ben Pobjie, via Twitter, 13 October 2013

[Editor’s Note: Mr “Why Can’t I Score an Invite on Q&A?”] Pobjie is wrong. In fact, the year was 1977 and the dog was a blue-heeler – like Nancy]





On ABC Radio 774 yesterday, the Mornings with Jon Faine presenter spoke with commentator Barrie Cassidy. Let’s go to the transcript:

Jon Faine: We’ll come to Clive Palmer in a moment – and the Opposition, the Labor Party, brawling. But still with the government. Tony Abbott says that Bill Shorten should quote “repent” close quote on the carbon tax. I’d have thought it would’ve been wise strategy for Tony Abbott to use as little of ecclesiastical language as possible in the public debate.

Barrie Cassidy: Yeah. I think the issue there for the Labor Party is whether it says…


In other words, Barrie Cassidy had the sense to ignore Mr Faine’s ridiculous comment. Since when did the word “repent” become part of “ecclesiastical” language? The word “repent” suggests self-reproach for past deeds. That’s all. It has both religious and secular connotations. Why, even Leonard Cohen has written about repentance in his song The Future – and your man Cohen is not all ecclesiastical.

[By the way. Has Jon Faine replied to your query as to why when Labor won in 2007 he suggested that thought should be given to cleansing right-of-centre commentators from News Corp publications – but in 2013 he has failed to suggest that thought should be given to cleansing left-of-centre commentators from the ABC’s Conservative-Free-Zone following the Coalition’s victory? See MWD Special Issue No 2 and Issue 199. Perhaps you should return to this topic. – Ed]


Bad news for Bill Shorten, Labor’s new leader. In his Bob Ellis Table Talk blog on Tuesday, the False Prophet of Palm Beach declared that Bill Shorten is (already) preferred prime minister. The Seer also foretold that the Labor Party is a winner “in any immediate federal contest”.

The False Prophet of Palm Beach went on to predict that Mr Shorten will be PM by May 2017. Surely, a bad omen for the Opposition Leader. And it’s a pity (to use an Ellisism).



This is how “The Prince” column in the Australian Financial Review last Saturday reported on Clive Palmer’s inaugural post-election media conference as leader of the Palmer United Party (PUP):

…the killer moment in Thursday’s presser was when Palmer ostentatiously began referring to Eric Abetz, the government leader in the Senate, as Erica. Palmer’s mastery was such that he was making up little names for Tony Abbott’s flat-footed chief negotiator. If Abetz was there, Palmer doubtless would have tickled him on the tummy. How to negotiate with that?

What a load of tosh. Mr Palmer’s “killer moment” in referring to Senator Eric Abetz as “Erica” was plagiarised from the leftist on-line newsletter Crikey when in its undergraduate phrase under the editorship of Stephen Mayne. And “The Prince” praised Clive Palmer’s “mastery” in “making up little names” for the Government leader in the Senate. Can you bear it?


MWD welcomes the brand new endorsement by Melbourne-based performance poet and sandal-wearer Ben Pobjie. And Nancy’s (male) co-owner now joins the chorus of those urging for your man Pobjie to be granted his wish and be invited on to the Q&A panel on a Monday evening. Any Monday evening. After all, these days Q&A has become performance television.

Here is the poem which the Melbourne-based performance poet, and contributor to the leftist New Matilda magazine and the Guardian-on-the-Yarra, wrote when – horror of horrors – Bill Shorten defeated Anthony Albanese to become Labor leader last Sunday:

Ben Pobjie@benpobjie 13 Oct @mavsmum @timdy @AlboMP disappointment =/= “F_CK! ELECTORAL SUICIDE! THIS IS UNDEMOCRATIC! CAUCUS IGNORES THE PEOPLE!”

According to The Poet Pobjie, the 18,230 Labor Party members who supported Anthony (“Call me Albo”) Albanese represent THE PEOPLE. Can you bear it?


Meanwhile ABC sandal-wearing/cyclist/inner-city leftist Jonathan Green has taken up using Twitter to advertise his appearances on ABC where he is interviewed by fellow luvvies – sometimes about the ABC (See MWD 203). This is what your man Green tweeted on Wednesday prior to yet another appearance on the ABC 1 News Breakfast program the morning after his tweet of the night before:

Jonathan Green@GreenJ 16 Oct In order to bring an edge of excitement to the otherwise drab existence of Gerard Henderson, I will be on #breakfastnews tomorrow. early.

So Nancy woke up early in her drab kennel and turned on her drab television set in an attempt to bring some excitement to her otherwise drab existence.

Guess what? It worked. Nancy became just so excited when the ABC’s Sneerer-in-Chief commenced sneering at The Australian. Could anyone have imagined such a scenario from the former editor of the leftist The Sunday Age who became former editor of the leftist Crikey who became the former editor of The Drum (ABC) who is now the presenter of Sunday Extra (ABC Radio National)? Not on your nelly.

Gosh. Hold the front page – “Jonathan Green bags The Australian.”

Mr Green’s Twitter announcement aroused leftist Michael Brull who advised “Wear sandals” – Mr Brull is clearly a devoted MWD reader.

Can you bear it?


According to Simon Benson, who describes himself as “schooled by the Jesuits – albeit not very well”, the Society of Jesus has “taken control of the Vatican” and has “now seized the reins of power in Australia”. Really. Go on.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, Mr Benson opined:

Conspiracy theorists will surely have much to say about the fact the Jesuits can now lay claim to having their student disciples in the top tiers of government and the parliament. Tony Abbott was schooled by the brothers at St Ignatius College, Riverview.

With the election of Bill Shorten, the Labor leadership is now also in the hands of the Society of Jesus. He went to Melbourne’s Xavier College. So too are the nation’s finances under the charge of students of the Jesuits. Treasurer Joe Hockey is a former student of St Aloysius in Sydney, and Finance Minister Mathias Corman attended a Jesuit College in Belgium.

Cabinet has other notable Jesuit-schooled MPs – Christopher Pyne and Barnaby Joyce, who like the PM, attended St Ignatius College, Liberal MPs Kevin Andrews, David Gillespie and Dan Tehan also belong to the club.

What a load of tosh. Now for some facts. The Jesuits are primarily an order of priests and scholastics. Religious “brothers” did not do most of the teaching at St Ignatius College when Tony Abbott went to school there. Kevin Andrews did not attend a Jesuit school. Moreover, Messrs Abbott, Shorten, Hockey, Corman, Pyne, Joyce, Gillespie and Tehan are not – and have never been – agents of the Jesuits. They just happened to attend Jesuit-run schools several decades ago.

Also, while the Pope is a Jesuit, the Jesuits are not running the Vatican. The Vatican resembles the ABC – in that no one really runs it. The Vatican is – and remains – a bureaucratic mess.

The only substantial comment in Mr Benson’s column is the true confession that he was not well schooled. Can you bear it?



What a stunning interview between Mark Baker (The Age’s editor-at-large) and Mark Scott (ABC managing director) which appeared in The Age’s “The Good Life Lunch With…” series last Saturday. It took place at Koko in Melbourne’s Crown Towers on Friday 4 October for a mere $207.50 shared.

[Remind me never to accept an invitation from any Age editor for lunch – since “The Guardian-on-the-Yarra” appears to expect guests to split the bill. But, gee, the photographed copy of the bill, as published, made my mouth water. As did the pic of the Sashimi dish. Wow. By the way, how did the beverages bill come to $32 – since Nice Mr Scott does not drink alcohol? And can that be that the socialists at “The Guardian-on-the-Yarra” will not sling a tip to the proletariat disguised as waiters? – Ed]

Could it be that Mark Baker is after a job at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster? Certainly his questions were soft. Lunch took place not long after Nice Mr Scott’s soft interview by Sally Warhurst on ABC Radio 774 in Melbourne. See MWD Issue 202. Discussion turned on The Chaser Boys’ (average age 371/2) depiction of journalist and ABC critic Chris Kenny having sex with a dog.

Mark Baker was quick to identify who was at fault in the Chris Kenny episode. Not the Chaser Boys – who did the stunt on The Hampster Decides. Not Nice Mr Scott – who failed to intervene in the issue as ABC editor-in-chief. No, according to Mark Baker the fault lies with Rupert Murdoch’s forces Down Under:

The Kenny affair has dragged Scott back into battle with his relentless adversaries in the Murdoch media stable: the Sky News commentarial, the baying tabloid hounds Piers Akerman and Andrew Bolt and The Australian.

So it is News Corp’s “baying tabloid hounds” who are to blame for this ABC controversy. In case Age readers are gold-fish like and soon forget what they read, the point was repeated as Mark Scott defended the ABC’s move into on-line print and opinion which sees it using taxpayers’ funds to dump on-line print and opinion for free.

Scott’s expansionism has drawn criticism, but he sees most of it coming from vested interests. Foxtel hotly opposed the creation of News 24 and the children’s TV network, both of which have eaten into the pay-TV market, and News is still smarting at the overturning of a government deal that would have given them the overseas television network run by the ABC.

Once again the ABC is a victim picked on by “baying hounds” and “vested interests”. When Nice Mr Scott was not talking up the ABC, Mark Baker took over – praising, among other things, the ABC’s election coverage:

The ABC has also had a good election. Its Vote Compass was one of the great media success stories of the campaign, with 1.3 million people completing surveys that tracked their policy preferences. On election night 50 per cent more people were watching the ABC than all the other networks. As the sushi arrives, Scott says he is undaunted by the change of government.

It was a case of praise the ABC and pass the sushi. Mark Baker overlooked the fact that, for the first time in its existence, the ABC played a secondary role in reporting the election campaign. The ABC did not get to present any of the three election debates between Labor’s Kevin Rudd and the Coalition’s Tony Abbott. All three were hosted by Sky News and compered by David Speers. Clearly either the Coalition or Labor – or both – blackballed the ABC’s traditional role as the presenter of the political leaders’ debates – much to Nice Mr Scott’s frustration at the time.

Still, readers of The Saturday Age were told none of this as Mark Baker sucked up to Mark Scott. The caption to Wayne Taylor’s photo referred to the ABC managing director as “Missionary man”. Enough said.



mike carlton abuse levels header


“The Prime Minister is a bludger” – Mike Carlton, Sydney Morning Herald, 12-13 October 2013

[Could this be the very same Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton, who wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald as recently as Saturday 21 September 2013 that “it would be a good idea to give Tony Abbott some time to prove himself as prime minister”.]


Yesterday Crikey ran an email which Sydney Morning Herald columnist Mike Carlton sent to AFR “Rear Window” columnist Joe Aston on the afternoon of last Wednesday. Clue: IT’S AFTER LUNCH.

It turns out that Fairfax Media is being sued for defamation by former News Corporation boss Kim Williams concerning a gossip piece written by Mr Aston. None of this involves Mike Carlton in any way – except, of course, there is some history involved between Carlton and Aston. So Mr Carlton sent this (after-lunch) email to young Mr Aston on Wednesday:


Your “story” on Kim Williams would appear to be a perfect clusterf-ck, wrong in every detail. And expensive, too. (Although, in your favour, you did spell his name correctly.)

Can’t say I’m surprised. As I have said before, you can’t write. You are not funny. You are an unmitigated pissant, a polyp on the arse-end of journalism. Normally I wouldn’t bother to write to a posturing little twerp like you, but in this case I wanted you to know how much I am enjoying your public humiliation. Now go f-ck yourself.


Mike Carlton

Brilliant – don’t you think? And sincere? And oh-so-witty? And written with all the Christian refinement which can be found, every now and then, in the published thoughts of one of Barker College’s finest old boys like your man Carlton.

Crikey’s Matthew Knott has proffered the opinion that this spat might be resolved “over a gin and tonic”. MWD disagrees. The evidence suggests that the spat started after the consumption of several gin and tonics by Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton. Gin is the cause of the problem – not the solution to the problem. Crikey – please note.

[Could this be the very same Mike Carlton who was quoted in The Australian’s “Strewth!” column on 29 August 2013 accusing Joe Aston of “gross corporate disloyalty”? If so, it would appear that Mr Carlton believes that Fairfax Media’s Joe Aston should not bag him but it’s okay for him to bag Fairfax Media’s Joe Aston.]



As MWD readers will be aware, Issue 203 drew attention to this part of the script of Episode 2 of Whitlam: The Power & The Passion – the ABC’s self-proclaimed “definitive” documentary of Gough Whitlam :

Narrator, Judy Davis: Now, the Whitlam government recognised China as one of its first acts. When he went there as Prime Minister, he arrived a hero. He was summoned to meet Chairman Mao and was warned, “no small talk”.

Barry Jones : And the story goes, that Gough then went in and said, “Mr. Chairman, what do you think would have happened in the 60s if it were Khrushchev had been assassinated rather than John F. Kennedy?”


Mao [Actor]: One thing for certain. Onassis would not have married Mrs. Khrushchev.

As MWD Issue 203 demonstrated, Mao never said this to Gough Whitlam in 1973 – as has been affirmed by Dr Stephen FitzGerald who was present at the meeting. MWD suggested that the alleged saying may have been invented by Gore Vidal who knew J. F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy (who became Jackie Onassis) very well.

Since last week’s MWD, Nancy has received numerous suggestions from readers as where the joke commenced – the most valuable came from “Pavement Frippery”. Here’s a list:

Perhaps It Was The Soviet Union’s Molotov
On 31 December 1972 (i.e. the year before the Mao/Whitlam meeting), Betty Beale commenced her column in The Star as follows:

The year just ending was the “most”, no matter how you look at it. Everything from the most, incredible hoax – Clifford Irving’s “autobiography” of Howard Hughes and the most dramatic exit from official life – Martha Mitchell’s, to the most astute historical observation which reportedly came originally from Vyacheslav Molotov.

It was repeated at the U.N. two weeks ago when some American and Soviet diplomats were discussing the transition of our government following President Kennedy’s death. The American diplomat, who told how smoothly the sudden switch in administrations had been carried out, asked the Russian what would have happened if Khrushchev had died in office. The Russian said there would have been some repercussions within the USSR. “But internationally,” he continued, “I doubt very much if Mrs Khrushchev would have married Mr Onassis.”

So, there you go. According to Betty Beale, writing in December 1973, the instigator of Kennedy/Khrushchev joke was Vyacheslav Molotov – not Mao Zedong. And here are (yet) more sources:

Or Perhaps Leonid Brezhnev
On 10 June 1988, Hal Stewart wrote an article titled “Soviet View” in which he made the following comment:

While discussing how current actions and decisions can affect the future, President Nixon is said to have asked Chairman Brezhnev, “What would have happened if Lee Harvey Oswald had shot Khrushchev instead of Kennedy?” After thinking, Brezhnev replied, “It is unlikely that Mr Onassis would have married Mrs Khrushchev”.

Or Perhaps Gore Vidal
Writing in The Sunday Times on 4 June 1989, Frederic Raphael made this succinct comment when reviewing the book A Woman Named Jackie, viz:

Gore Vidal, Jackie’s distant “relation” flits in and out of this scrapbook… but his best quip is uncited. Asked, on one occasion, what would have happened in 1963 if Khrushchev, not JFK, had been assassinated, he is said to have replied, “With history, one can never be certain, but I think I can safely say that Aristotle Onassis would not have married Mrs Khrushchev.”

As Raphael noted, there was no source for the (alleged) Vidal quip.

Or Perhaps Robert Maxwell
Writing in the March 1992 issue of Vanity Fair, Edward Klein quoted John Campi, as the source for the claim by – wait for it – Robert Maxwell that this was a comment that Maxwell himself made to Brezhnev:

Americans were impressed by his [Robert Maxwell’s] size, his plummy upper-class British accent, and his natural storyteller’s wit. “He once told me a story about his meeting with Brezhnev,” said John Campi, vice president of promotion for the Daily News. “Brezhnev asked him what would have happened if Khrushchev had been assassinated instead of Kennedy. And Maxwell replied, “Well, one thing is for sure, Mr Onassis would not have married Mrs Khrushchev.”


Or Perhaps Mikhail Gorbachev
In the 2009 publication Ifferisms: An anthology of aphorisms that begin with the world if, the following extract appears:

In the late 1980s, when Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost and perestroika began to open up the former Soviet Union to the freewheeling journalistic tendencies of the West, a reporter asked Gorbachev an unexpected counterfactual question: “What effect on history do you think it would have made if, in 1963, Chairman Khrushchev had been assassinated instead of President Kennedy?” Clearly, this was not a question for which Gorbachev could have been prepared, but he proved himself as adept as any witty Western politician when he answered with a straight face: “I don’t think Mr Onassis would have married Mrs Khrushchev.”


On 19 September 2011, in an article in The Boston Globe titled “Jackie’s Fear”, James Carroll wrote:

A few years ago, Mikhail Gorbachev lectured at Harvard’s Kennedy School. In the Q & A, a student asked him to speculate on the difference to history it would have made if the 1963 assassination had targeted Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev instead of John Kennedy. Gorbachev gravely considered the question, then answered: “I do not think Aristotle Onassis would have married Mrs Khrushchev.”

Or Perhaps Chou En-Lai
According to the International Military Forums’ website in 2012, the source of the Kennedy/Khrushchev joke was Chou En-Lai:

Henry Kissinger once asked Chou En-Lai to say what might have happened if Nikita Khrushchev had been assassinated instead of John F. Kennedy. After a moment’s thought Chou En-Lai answered: “I don’t think Mr Onassis would have married Mrs Khrushchev.”

Or According to the ABC, Certainly Our Very Own Gough Whitlam
In Paul Clarke’s documentary Whitlam: The Power & The Passion – which the ABC advertised as “definitive” – an actor was employed to re-enact a conversation between Mao and Whitlam in 1973 which never took place.

A Joke With Many Fathers
The Kennedy/Khrushchev conversation has been variously sourced to Vyacheslav Molotov, Richard Nixon, Robert Maxwell, Leonid Brezhnev, Gore Vidal, Mikhail Gorbachev and, of course, Gough Whitlam in the ABC’s very own “definitive” documentary. No wonder Phil Craig the ABC Head of Factual, maintains that these days history on the ABC is, er, “lyrical”.

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This highly popular segment of MWD usually works like this. Someone or other gets it into their mind that it would be a terrific idea to write to Nancy’s (male) co-owner. He responds in kind. And then, lo and behold, the exchange is published in MWD’s Correspondence segment to overwhelming reader interest.

This week Henry Gallagher of St Ignatius College, Riverview wrote to Gerard Henderson about Hendo’s column in last Tuesday’s Sydney Morning Herald. See here. And Nancy’s (male) co-owner replied. He’s that kind of guy.

Also, this week Glenys Stradijot of The Friends of the ABC (Victorian branch) continued her exchange about the ABC and facts – or, rather, lack of facts. And, again, Hendo replied. And, once again, the correspondence is published – in the public interest, of course.


Henry Gallagher to Gerard Henderson, 17 October 2013

Dear Mr. Henderson,

As I am the Riverview student you alluded to in your statement in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 15th of October entitled “Bill Shorten win puts paid to emerging conspiracy theory”, I am writing to you in response to a mischaracterisation in your article:

During the election campaign, The Age’s political editor Michael Gordon quoted a Riverview student critical of Abbott’s position on asylum seekers. The student said: ”We think it’s important to remind Tony Abbott, as a very outspoken Catholic, that he should take Jesuit ideals into account in his decisions.” No such specific reprimand was directed at Shorten, whose policies on asylum seekers are not dramatically different from those of Abbott.

I would like to point out that the letter that sparked that particular article was clearly addressed to all the Jesuit educated members of Parliament at the time, Christopher Pyne, Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce, Joe Hockey and also Bill Shorten. While that was a specific quote in answer to a question regarding Mr. Abbott, Michael Gordon makes clear reference to the broader receivership in his article, and we certainly condemn all who act without compassion towards the less fortunate.

I have attached a copy of the letter’s text in case you were interested, as I don’t believe a full copy is readily available online. Interestingly enough, Mr. Shorten was the only one out of the five to respond to our statement as he telephoned us to discuss the issue.

With best wishes,
Henry Gallagher

Gerard Henderson to Henry Gallagher – 18 October 2013

Dear Mr Gallagher

Thanks for your email – concerning my Sydney Morning Herald column of 16 October 2013.

I am aware of who you are since I read Michael Gordon’s accounts of your letter in The Age, the Canberra Times andThe Sydney Morning Herald. Your photograph appeared in the first two newspapers.

In your email you claim that there was a “mischaracterisation” in that part of my Sydney Morning Herald column which read as follows:

During the election campaign, The Age’s political editor Michael Gordon quoted a Riverview student critical of Abbott’s position on asylum seekers. The student said: ”We think it’s important to remind Tony Abbott, as a very outspoken Catholic, that he should take Jesuit ideals into account in his decisions.” No such specific reprimand was directed at Shorten, whose policies on asylum seekers are not dramatically different from those of Abbott.

This statement is an accurate report of what you said to Michael Gordon. It is not a mischaracterisation. Tony Abbott was described by you as a “very outspoken” Catholic who “should take Jesuit ideals into account”. No such specific comment was directed at Bill Shorten.

It is true that your original letter, which led to the Fairfax Media story, was addressed to Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, Barnaby Joyce, Christopher Pyne and Bill Shorten. It is also true that the specific quote from you – which was used by Michael Gordon – referred only to Tony Abbott. Moreover, the photographs of you were published alongside photos of Tony Abbott – there were no photos of Mr Shorten.

Certainly Michael Gordon’s piece referred to Messers Hockey, Joyce, Pyne and Shorten. But, certainly, Mr Abbott was the focus of his article. I seem to recall that the then headmaster of St Ignatius College, Riverview implicitly criticised Tony Abbott in the lead-up to the 2010 election. This suggests that criticism of the Liberal Party leader seems to have become part of the contemporary Riverview tradition.

My wife (Anne Henderson) and I have done a lot over the years to help asylum seekers and detainees seeking protection in Australia. Indeed, two students at your school are part of an asylum seeker family which has been helped by us. So I have a first-hand knowledge of this issue.

I should counsel you against moral superiority – which is not, as I recall, part of the tradition associated with Ignatius of Loyola.

In your letter, you refer to “the so-called ‘refugee problem’”. This ignores the fact that boat people are dying at sea at the rate of 4 per cent. To put it into perspective, this is the equivalent of 4000 deaths out of an AFL Grant Final attendance of 100,000. Obviously, this is a real problem – not a “so-called problem”.

Your assertion that the leaders of the Coalition and Labor “trade human lives for political expediency” is no more than evidence-free emotion – and not reflective of what you term the “Ignatian heritage”.

The same can be said of your undocumented assertion that the Coalition and Labor “choose the lowest common denominator to woo the populace” and speak “of economic problems rather than the dignity of the human person, especially the most vulnerable”. These comments are so imprecise as to be all but meaningless.

Australia has settled hundreds of thousands of refugees – under both Coalition and Labor governments – and continues with a generous refugee and humanitarian intake. However, until recent years, no Australian government has had to cope with unauthorised boat arrivals at the rate of over 2000 a month and a death by drowning rate of 4 per cent of all embarkees. This monthly number of boat arrivals is around the figure of unauthorised boat arrivals for the entire seven year period of Malcolm Fraser’s government. You, and your Riverview colleagues who signed your letter, seem unaware of the full extent of this problem. Moreover, you have refrained from proposing what the Commonwealth government should do.

Best wishes for the success of your studies.

Yours sincerely
Gerard Henderson

* * * * *


Glenys Stradijot to Gerard Henderson – 14 October 2013

Dear Mr Henderson

Thank you for your reply. It contained much interesting information and comment.

FABC believes the ABC should have a rigorous and fair complaints procedure.

As you have failed to mention ACMA, I am guessing that you might believe the process, whereby a complainant can seek ACMA review in some instances where they are dissatisfied with the ABC’s handling of a complaint about a serious matter, is inadequate? Excluding the problem of ACMA not having jurisdiction to deal with complaints about ABC online content, are there any other reasons why you might think the process involving ACMA does not provide a satisfactory process for independent, external review with regard to complaints about ABC programs?


Gerard Henderson to Glenys Stradijot – 16 October 2013

Dear Ms Stradijot

I refer to your email of 14 October 2013 in response to my email of 9 October 2013 which – at your request – listed numerous serious factual errors in ABC documentaries over recent years. I note that you made no comment on this material – beyond describing my evidence as containing “interesting information and comment”.

In response to your query, my position is that I believe that ABC managing director Mark Scott should do what he is paid to do. Namely, act when necessary as the ABC’s editor-in-chief. This, after all, is what Mr Scott promised to do when he was appointed ABC managing director in 2006.

If I made an historical error in my Sydney Morning Herald column on a Tuesday – however small – it would be corrected on-line immediately and there would be a correction in the print edition on a Wednesday, or I would notify readers the following Tuesday.

However, if an ABC documentary contains an historical howler, ABC management takes no action. Instead, viewers are expected to lodge a formal complaint – which is despatched to ABC bureaucrats in the Department of Audience and Consumer Affairs in Canberra. Then a further complaint can be made to bureaucrats at the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Complaints lodged with the ABC or ACMA are frequently contested by high profile and highly paid ABC presenters and producers – and the process takes not weeks but months.

I do not have time for – and do not see the point of – such a process where often decisions are made by bureaucrats who lack the relevant qualifications to make such judgments.

et me give one example. In Paul Clarke’s documentary Whitlam: The Power & The Passion, Mao Zedong is depicted in 1973 as making a joke to Gough Whitlam about Nikita Khrushchev and J.F. Kennedy. This joke is an urban myth and has been attributed to the likes of Leonid Brezhnev, Mikhail Gorbachev, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Gore Vidal, a Russian diplomat and more besides (including Gough Whitlam).

The fact is that the ABC documentary got it wrong. Totally wrong. Mark Scott should acknowledge this in his capacity as ABC editor-in-chief. As he would if he were, say, editor-in-chief of the Sydney Morning Herald. What’s the point in lodging a formal complaint to the ABC and/or ACMA about an indisputable howler? In any event, errors are made accidentally and do not warrant a formal complaint since they do not result from malice or bad behaviour.

From your correspondence, it seems that the Friends of the ABC are more interested in (taxpayer funded) bureaucratic processes than in the immediate acknowledgement of errors.

Best wishes
Gerard Henderson

Glenys Stradijot to Gerard Henderson – 16 October 2013

Dear Mr Henderson

Thank you for your information and views, which I again appreciated receiving.

I am sorry that you have misinterpreted what FABC is seeking to achieve.

While I expect that we would disagree on many matters regarding the ABC, it may be that there are also matters on which we would agree, and my expression of “interest” in the information and comment that you provided is genuine. I was not in a position to comment, simply because I have not read the detail in the references that you provided.

Not having the time to do that myself, I had already begun to seek a FABC volunteer to search for the detail in at least some of the more recent programs for which you provided references. My priority is to have them search the more recent references you provided because it will place more effective pressure on the ABC to maintain high standards if FABC raises serious examples which are current, and due to the difficulty of FABC securing a suitable volunteer who has sufficient time to do such work.

In seeking your views on the adequacy of the aspect of the ABC complaints process which involves ACMA, I in no way implied that the ABC should not itself correct errors, and in a timely and appropriate manner. (It’s editorial policies require it.) However, in instances that the ABC may not be doing its job with regard to such matters, for serious matters, there also needs to be independent oversight. So I had been seeking information and your views, which I thank you for having provided, on the adequacy of that process.

I would welcome receiving copies of future complaints you have about the accuracy of ABC programming. And if, at any time, you would like to get a better understanding of FABC’s concerns and thoughts on ABC matters which concern you, I would welcome speaking with you on the phone.

Glenys Stradijot

Gerard Henderson to Glenys Stradijot – 18 October 2013

Dear Ms Stradijot

Thanks for your note.

Perhaps I did not express myself clearly enough in my earlier emails. I have no specific criticisms of Friends of the ABC and I do not know much about its work. I am certainly not proposing that the FABC should follow up my criticisms concerning historical howlers in ABC TV documentaries. In my view, such work would achieve little – if anything.

As Phil Craig (ABC Head of Factual) has made clear, the ABC under his watch (i) is interested in the “lyrical” – rather than actual – truth, (ii) does not bother much with fact-checking and (iii) is quite happy to re-cycle urban myths in what it presents as “definitive” documentaries.

Since the ABC appears to have abandoned any commitment it might have once had to historical accuracy, I believe that this issue is a lost cause. For the moment, at least.

As explained, I do not make formal complaints to the ABC – since it is a waste of time. So I am not able to take up your offer to send such complaints to you. If you wish to keep up with my work, you can follow my material in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Sydney Institute Quarterly and my Media Watch Dog blog etc.

Best wishes
Gerard Henderson

* * * * * *

Until next time. In the meantime, keep morale high.

* * * *

“I think Henderson is seriously ill. There’s enough there for an entire convention of psychiatrists.”
– Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton – After Pre-Dinner Drinks tweet to Jeff Sparrow, 8 October 2013

“Wrong, you got caught out, off to Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog for you! :- ”
– Tim Wilson tweet to Jonathan Green and Virginia Trioli, 8 October 2013.

“Nancy as ever will be the judge”
– Jonathan Green to Tim Wilson and Virginia Trioli (conceding to the arbitral authority of Nancy), 8 October 2013

[Gerard Henderson’s analysis of the ABC] is absolutely simplistic.”

– ABC managing director Mark Scott talking to ABC presenter Jonathan Green on ABC Radio National Drive, 2 May 2013.

“Oh my God; you’re as bad as Gerard Henderson.”

– Dr Peter Van Onselen (for a doctor he is), The Contrarians, Sky News, 20 September 2013.

“The nation mourns Gerard Henderson. He’s in perfect health.”

– Phillip Adams, via Twitter, 2 July 2013 (favourited by Virginia Trioli)

“Old Australian saying. ‘He wouldn’t know a tram was up him unless the bell rang’. Wholly appropriate to Gerard Henderson”

– Phillip Adams, via Twitter, 7 May 2013

“I said publicly once that I thought that Gerard’s views on the ABC came not from his brain but from his spinal cord”

– Tim Bowden as told to Phillip (“I was a teenage Stalinist”) Adams, Late Night Live, 11 June 2013 – Queen’s Birthday Public Holiday.

“Gerard Henderson is a crank”

– David Marr at the 2013 Sydney Writers’ Festival (as reported by Mike Carlton)

“The great Australian media nutter Gerard [Henderson is an] ungrateful bastard”.

– Mark Latham, Q&A, 10 June 2013.

“[Gerard Henderson] is a moral dwarf …Gerard, pull your head in”

– Professor Sinclair Davidson, 24 April 2013.

“[Henderson] You are mad. In the 18th century you would have been caged, with the mob invited to poke you with sticks.”

– Mike Carlton, 5.23 pm (Gin & Tonic Time) 25 March 2013

“I like to think of Gerard [Henderson] as the Inspector Clouseau of forensic journalism”

– David Marr, ABC News 24 The Drum, 21 March 2013.

[Media Watch Dog is] not a moan, more of a miserable dribble”

– Peter Munro, 21 March 2013

“You are a fool, Henderson, a malicious and mendacious piece of shit… Now F_ck off”

– Mike Carlton, 11 March 2013 (Hangover Time).

“[Gerard Henderson is] an internet pest”

– Dr (for a doctor he is) Jeff Sparrow, 26 February 2013.

Jonathan Green: “Nancy, will be taking notes, I suspect”

Michael Rowland: “Nancy…yes. We’ll get a nice write-up on Friday. Good morning as well, Gerard. Thanks for watching, by the way.”

ABC 1 News Breakfast, 18 October 2012

“Gerard [Henderson] is a complete f-ckwit”

– Malcolm Farr, via Twitter, 29 June 2012 (circa pre-dinner drinks)

“What a haughty flapping half-arsed buffoon he [Henderson] is”

– Bob Ellis on his Table Talk blog, 8 May 2012 (before breakfast)

“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

“Henderson…What a pompous, pretentious turd you are.”

– Mike Carlton, Saturday 13 August 2011 (after lunch)

“Go to the Sydney Institute Media Watch Dog website to marvel at [its] work”

– Mark Latham The Spectator Australia 11 June 2011.

Media Watch Dog – “disgraceful”, “sick”

Professor Robert Manne, April Fool’s Day 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.

“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

“Gerard Henderson is big enough to take care of himself, but that doesn’t stop us worrying about him from time to time. 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.

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.