ISSUE – NO. 524

27 November 2020

* * * *

* * * *


How’s that for an own goal – to mix sporting metaphors.

It was close to Gin & Tonic Time on Wednesday when the ABC put out their upfronts advertising ABC TV’s key news and current affairs programs for 2021.  Clockwise from the top left – the focus was on ABC News Breakfast, Insiders, 7.30 and The Drum starring the likes of Michael Rowland, Lisa Millar, David Speers, Leigh Sales, Julia Baird and Ellen Fanning.

When it was pointed out by Comrade Osman Faruqi that there was not much racial diversity here for the ABC which proclaims all forms of diversity (except political diversity), ABC Communications put out four tweets in an attempt to demonstrate that there are some blokes and sheilas of colour somewhere in the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.  It was catch-up publicity which only caught itself.

As Media Watch Dog’s avid readers will be aware, MWD  was on to the ABC’s hypocrisy, in this instance, yonks ago.  MWD Issue 501 pointed out that the ABC’s main presenters are so white they could fulfil the role of a white sight screen behind a fast bowler in a red ball cricket match.  In view of the fact that The Drum  presenter Ellen Fanning had said on 24 June 2020: “There’s an awful lot of people in the ABC who look just like me and are about my age”, MWD decided to illustrate the point with this image.

But MWD digresses.  The debate continued when the Daily Telegraph’s opinion editor James Morrow raised the sensitive issue of, er, ideological diversity with this tweet:

James Morrow’s position was that there was not a conservative in this lot – which was a montage of the ABC as a Conservative Free Zone. This led to comrade Leigh Sales and Comrade Trioli throwing the switch to denial:

What a load of absolute tosh.  Ideological or political positions are not defined with respect to how individuals vote at elections – or whether, indeed, they do vote.  They are defined by what people believe.

Take Malcolm Turnbull (Liberal Party), Kevin Rudd (Labor) and Bob Brown (Greens) for example.  Presumably they vote for the party they once led.  But on many matters they would share similar ideological or political views – on such issues as tackling climate change, same sex marriage, the United Nations, President Trump and so on.

The ABC covers its lack of political diversity by pointing to how individuals may or may not vote.  However, the important point about diversity turns on whether individuals disagree on policy – irrespective as to how they vote.

The problem with the Conservative Free Zone at the ABC turns on the fact that, within the organisation, almost everyone agrees with almost everyone else on almost everything.

On 25 November 2020, the ABC put out a statement headed: “How the ABC is prioritising diversity, to reflect the current modern Australia”. It referred the need for diversity with respect to gender, age, language, ethnicity, Aboriginal identity, cultural background, visible disabilities, sexual orientation, religious belief and invisible disabilities. An extensive list, to be sure.  But not one reference to any commitment to ideological and political diversity. Enough said.



The evidence suggests that when an inaugural ABC chair or managing director gives a speech, ABC staff are wont to activate the organisation’s file marked “Sir Keith Murdoch (1885-1952)”.

On 12 November, Ita Buttrose AO OBE, the ABC Chair, delivered a pre-recorded lecture (due to COVID-19) to the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. The speech (there was no question/discussion period) was not released until Monday 23 November.  Early into her address, Ms Buttrose threw the switch to Murdoch-phobia:

The truth is the ABC always has operated alongside commercial broadcasters. Commercial radio stations were in place long before the ABC was created. The ABC was expected to both compete with and complement those commercial services. In its early years we did not have our own news service. The news was instead bought from Australian press proprietors like Sir Keith Murdoch, father of Rupert. In 1936, the ABC’s federal news editor urged the ABC to appoint its own news gathering service.

Almost immediately, Sir Keith’s newspapers began calling for a reduction in the ABC’s licence fee, the way we funded then, on the basis that an ABC news service would constitute “improper competition”.  Clearly his thinking influenced his son. Rupert Murdoch is very much a chip off the old block.

So there you have it.  Ita Buttrose believes that what Sir Keith Murdoch said about the ABC close to a century ago is relevant today.  It’s become an ABC mantra. For example, former ABC chair Justin Milne ran out the Keith Murdoch quote in a speech he delivered on 11 July 2018. And former ABC managing director Mark Scott did the same in his Commonwealth Broadcasting Association Lecture on 9 September 2009. It would seem that the thought of the late Sir Keith is the go-to quote when the ABC speech-writers prepare a draft speech for the Chair or managing director.

Indeed the Sir Keith Murdoch 1936 – reference is one of only two sourced direct quotes in Ita Buttrose’s 4840 word speech. The other one is from Ralph Nader (1934 –    ). Early in her Ramsay Lecture, the ABC Chair made the following claim:

Recently one of our detractors said there was a need to curb the spread of public broadcasters into every technological and programming niche. “They should be ring-fenced into set stations, networks and roles, lest they crowd out a thousand flowers in a thousand digital niches.” I thought, my goodness, is the ABC being equated to a weed?

My goodness.  However, the ABC has refused to provide a source for this (alleged) quote – which MWD has not been able to source via a Google search. My goodness, indeed. Immediately after this comment, Ita Buttrose said:

Elsewhere left-wing critics accuse us of being patsies for conservative causes and the same commercial interests that seek to tear us down.  The old adage still holds that if you are offending everyone, you must be doing something right.

Now this is a serious assertion.  According to the ABC Chair, there are “left-wing critics” of the public broadcaster who “accuse” the ABC of being “patsies for conservative causes and the same commercial interests that seek to tear us down”.

Well, who are they?  Again, the ABC will not say. Re which see today’s Correspondence segment.  It is quite extraordinary that the ABC Chair has made serious claims in a significant address to an important organisation – concerning which the ABC refuses to provide sources.

Look at it this way.  The major left-of-centre or left-wing parties are the Labor Party and the Greens.  Both argue for more ABC funding – neither wants to tear down the public broadcaster.  The same can be said of the various left-of-centre policy  forums – such as the Lowy Institute, the United States Studies Centre, the Australia Institute, Whitlam Institute, Per Capita, the Evatt Foundation  and so on.  Likewise with such left-of-centre or left-wing publications like The Saturday Paper, The Guardian, Crikey – even the Green Left Weekly. None of these left-wing newspapers want to tear down the ABC. On the contrary, they want to build it up.

So who are the ABC’s “left-wing critics” to whom Ms Buttrose refers?  It can only be assumed that her silence to this instance suggests that the claim was just made up.  It is common for ABC management to run the line that the public broadcaster is okay because it is criticised on  occasions by both the Coalition and Labor.  This overlooks the fact that the ABC criticises both parties – but from the left.  The ABC is essentially a Green/Left organisation which rarely criticises the Greens on policy issues.

Sure, there are some ABC viewers/listeners/readers who object whenever a conservative or even a social democrat gets a voice on one of the ABC platforms. This has led to some conservatives and social democrats being de-platformed by the producers of some ABC programs.  But these are overwhelmingly social media trolls who have no impact on ABC funding irrespective of whether the Coalition or Labor is in office in Canberra.

Early in her speech, Ita Buttrose commented that there “are calls to defund the ABC, even to privatise it”. There are a few.  But no senior figure in the parliamentary Liberal Party or Nationals has advocated such a move and no serious and informed commentator believes that this will happen.

In her address, the ABC chair said:

…What is it about public broadcasting that those who want to defund it claim is not in the best interests of a democracy like Australia? The ABC is crucial to Australian democracy.  It’s the voice the voice of Australian democracy in fact. It is free of political and commercial influence. It delivers on its statutory charter without fear or favour.

So why are some individuals and some commercial media outlets campaigning loudly for its demise. Don’t they understand the value of public broadcasting? I fear not.

Ita Buttrose is in denial.  The key criticism of the contemporary ABC has nothing to do with Australian democracy. Australia is a politically pluralist society.  But the ABC is not a politically pluralist organisation.  Rather it is a Conservative Free Zone – without even one conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.

ABC management will not address this issue. It advocates for all kinds of diversity – except political diversity. Instead Ms Buttrose describes legitimate criticism of one-sided ABC programs as “malicious garbage”. This is unprofessional language.

Ita Buttrose spent most of her business life in the commercial media.  However, since becoming the ABC Chair, she now regards commercial media as an inferior media product:

Often the way that concentrated commercial media organisations, such as the Nine Group and News Corp, present their news is skewed.  It often reflects the views of the editors or proprietors or the perceived preferences of their audiences and advertisers.

And that’s fine. That’s the way it is and that’s the way they do it and it works for them. At the same time, they also break news stories and expose corrupt behaviour.

There’s room for all of us with our differences and our expertise – and our flaws. But as I’ve already pointed out, the ABC is free from commercial and political pressure and is accountable to the public, and that’s the clear distinction.

It would seem that the ABC chair has forgotten that commercial media outlets have to appeal to their viewers/listeners/readers – otherwise they would be out of business.  They are tested in the market place every day. The ABC, on the other hand, does not have to be accountable – since it is funded by the taxpayer per courtesy of the government of the day and is not dependent on ratings for advertising revenue. Consequently, it is not tested in the market place.

Ms Buttrose maintains that the ABC is Australia’s most trusted source for news. It’s just that, every night, ABC TV’s News comes no higher than third in a four horse race – behind Network 9 and Network 7.

At the Ramsay Lecture, the ABC Chair decided it was a you-beaut idea to criticise the Coalition government with reference to the raid by the Australian Federal Police on the ABC’s Sydney office last year commenting:

The AFP’s actions did nothing for Australia’s reputation overseas either. In the days following the raids The New York Times decreed that Australia may well be the world’s most secretive democracy. “No other developed democracy holds as tight to its secrets,” wrote The Times. “The raids are just the latest example of how far the country’s conservative government will go to scare officials and reporters into submission.”

In fact, this was not a comment from The New York Times editorial board – but from Damien Cave, the newspaper’s Sydney correspondent. In any event, the statement is false. The Commonwealth government does not instruct the Australian Federal Police about how it carries out its responsibilities.  The ABC Chair – and ABC speech writers – should know this.  So should the New York Times’ man in Sydney.

In her Ramsay Lecture, Ita Buttrose complained about the ABC’s critics.  But in a speech that ran for over half an hour, the ABC Chair did not concede that any criticism of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster is valid.  Not one – it was as if the public broadcaster is without fault. That says a lot about the ABC’s culture which, alas, seems to have been embraced by its current Chair.

Can You Bear It?


Isn’t it great to know that Nine Newspapers’ “CBD” column is on-the-ball when it comes to the big news in business.  Here’s how the “CBD” writers Samantha Hutchinson and Stephen Brook commenced their column in the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday – under the heading “Mainland media folk lead a Tasmanian invasion”:

Following our revelation that ex-Ten boss Paul Anderson had moved to tiny Pearces Creek near Byron Bay to become a pecan farmer, we have fresh news about another media tree change.

Glossy magazine editor Kirsten Galliott is about to become a Tasmaniac. She has decided to “blow her life up” by buying a home in the desirable Hobart suburb of Sandy Bay and is moving next month with her husband and family. Galliott will continue with her gig as editor-in-chief of the Qantas magazine, flying frequently between Hobart, Sydney and Melbourne. “I will be interested to hear who else is going – I will need some friends down there,” she says. Allow us to make some suggestions, Kirsten.

And so it came to pass that Comrades Hutchinson and Brook gave Comrade Galliott some advice about who she might find in Hobart Town for her “first dinner party”.  “CBD” mentioned that ABC Radio presenter Sabra Lane is heading to Hobart and could fill one guest place.  As avid readers will recall, Ms Lane’s move was discussed in MWD Issue 514, 18 September 2020.

Then “CBD” suggested that some ex-Mainlanders already living in southern Tasmania might fill some chairs around a fashionable Sandy Bay dinner table. Such as “acclaimed actor” Pamela Rabe, theatre and TV director Roger Hodgman and the Marta Dusseldorp/Ben Winspear couple “who have plans to reboot Tasmania with a creative recovery” – whatever that might mean. Plus “writer and gourmet farmer” Matthew Evans and wife Sadie Chrestman. “CBD”’s  dinner party suggestions concluded: “Throw in Mona [i.e. the Museum of Old and New Art] founder and multimillionaire David Walsh and that’s enough for Galliott’s first dinner party.”

Really. What about the locals? – who are neither ABC presenters nor acclaimed actors nor theatre directors, nor thespians, nor gourmet farmers? And does a Tasmanian-born local have to be a multi-millionaire – like your man Walsh – to get a place at the Galliott dinner table?

Jackie’s co-owners have lived in Hobart and Launceston.  If Comrades Hutchinson and Brook had asked, they would have advised that the locals speak English and can handle not only a knife and fork but also fine glassware.  How condescending can a “CBD” column get. Can You Bear It?

[Hang on a minute.  As I recall, MWD Issue 521 mentioned that the leftist writer Robert Dessaix (nee Jones) is currently living in Hobart Town. He recently told Sunday Life that he found his birth mother to be a “bit common” – having come from a “ghastly suburb in Sydney” your man Dessaix should be on the “CBD” list as suitable material for a Sandy Bay dinner party attended by members of the Hobart intelligentsia. – MWD Editor.]


There was enormous interest in last week’s inaugural segment titled “Rumours Received in Jackie’s Inbox”. It referred to a rumour – not subsequently denied – that ABC management in Brisbane has advised ABC reporters to travel 30 minutes from the inner-city to Caboolture in the outer suburbs to find out how the other 90 per cent live.  Or something like that.  MWD will advise avid readers of any change in the ABC reporting following the (rumoured) meeting between ABC types and Caboolture Man and Caboolture Woman.

It would seem that ABC managing director David Anderson would be well advised to do much the same with ABC’s Melbourne-centric staff.  To work out why, look no further than the interview between ABC TV News Breakfast presenter Paul Kennedy and The Age’s Sumeyya Ilanbey during the program’s “Newspapers” segment on Tuesday.

At the commencement of the segment, Ms Ilanbey made some useful comments about the overreaction of the South Australian Liberal Party government in its response to the perceived COVID-19 breakout last week.  At the end of the discussion she made some thoughtful criticism of the overreaction of the Queensland Labor government to re-opening state borders.

In the middle of the discussion, The Age journalist expressed sympathy with such Labor MPs as Joel Fitzgibbon and Murray Watt who are attempting to demonstrate Labor’s interest in the plight of coal miners and their families in Queensland and NSW – in view of the fact that the Labor Party leadership seems more interested in appealing to city voters whose prime focus is on renewable energy, climate change and all that.

Let’s go to the transcript:

Sumeyya Ilanbey: ….what the Labor Party across the country, but particularly in Queensland, is facing is a real dilemma. And I think it’s easy for, you know, a middle class or an upper middle-class person who’s university educated in a well-paid job, living in a city with a lot of job opportunities to say: “Oh, how can you even think coal or gas is part of our future? It is incredibly bad for our climate”.

And yes, it completely is, but if you – if you’re not university educated, if you live in, you know, rural or regional Australia, if you haven’t been able to attend school or if, you know, all your other job options are low paying jobs, I think it’s a bit of a moralistic high ground for city dwellers and for middle class people not, you know, to judge someone who wants to continue working in the coal mining industry. And I think we need to be a bit more strategic about how we sort of present it and how we sort of, how we convince people and how we bring them along into a renewable future. As opposed to completely, I guess, shouting at them….

Paul Kennedy: Yeah, I don’t think people in the city are criticising those who are working in that area though, the lower paid employees. But yeah, this is – is there much new in this story? I know they’ve isolated the word “treasures”, they want to treasure those jobs – but I’m not sure how much of a big shift this is.

What a load of absolute tosh – Paul Kennedy’s response, that is.  Paul Kennedy (but not Sumeyya Ilanbey) holds the view that those working in the coal and gas industries are “lower paid employees”. Hopelessly wrong, born of city-centric ignorance. Miners are among the highest paid workers in Australia.  Moreover, wages in the coal and gas industries are substantially higher than in the renewables industries.

One of the reasons why workers want to preserve jobs in the coal and gas industries turns on the fact that they are well paid in remote areas of Australia where other employees are not so well paid. In other words, mining benefits local economies.  But Paul Kennedy is unaware of this. Comrade Kennedy – go out and meet Mount Isa Man/Woman (via Caboolture Man/Woman) if you know how to get there.  Can You Bear It?


Jackie’s (male) co-owner Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous) is a bit of a fan of ABC Chair Ita Buttrose AO – at least when it comes to courtesy.  After all, Ms Buttrose addressed The Sydney Institute on the topic of Manners in November 2011. For the record, her talk – which included a question/discussion period – was well (and courteously) received.  As would be expected.

So it was unexpected that – on Thursday 12 November 2020 – Ita Buttrose rocked up at the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation in Sydney and gave a speech in which she bagged unnamed ABC critics for uttering “malicious garbage”.  That’s somewhat cowardly and not at all courteous.  Especially since there was no question/discussion period during which courteous questions and comments could be directed at the ABC Chair about who her criticism was directed at. In any event, Ms Buttrose’s speech (without a Q&A) is analysed elsewhere in this issue.

Right now, MWD is fascinated by how The Ramsay Centre’s chief executive officer Simon Haines introduced the ABC Chair in what was a nearly four minute talk to camera in front of the Pandemic cliché, a bookcase stacked with (apparently) learned tomes.  Here’s how it commenced:

Simon Haines: Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Ramsay Centre’s online lecture series for 2020. I’m Simon Haines. And today we return to a vital theme, which has recurred frequently in our lectures this year and last, namely, freedom and the various kinds of threats to freedom currently facing us in the West and elsewhere. Now, today’s speaker is going to focus on freedom of the press, a topic that I must say is close to my own heart, including as a long-time resident of Hong Kong.

Now, perhaps the greatest, indeed the founding document concerning freedom of the press, is John Milton’s magnificent polemic against licensing and censorship of the press dating from 1644, called the Areopagitica: “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience above all liberties”, he wrote.

The Fourth Estate, as it was reputedly named by Edmund Burke – or at least Carlyle said it was Burke, though others speculate that it may have been the brilliant essayist and journalist, a great favourite of mine, William Hazlitt. Anyway, whoever it was that coined the term The Fourth Estate, ever since it was first recognised as a political force has proudly stood for that grand liberal principle to utter and to argue freely, according to conscience. So today, we’ve invited as our guest speaker, a leading representative of the Fourth Estate in Australia.

That’s all pretty helpful, then.  Clearly we mere mortals have a need to know that Dr Haines (for a doctor he is) was a long-time resident of Hong Kong.  And it’s handy to be aware that “The Fourth Estate” was a term coined by Edmund Burke. Or perhaps it was Simon Haines’ (deceased) bestie William Hazlitt. However, Thomas Carlyle thought that the honours should go to Burke but….Groan.  [Interesting. I always thought that The Fourth Estate was a restaurant in Washington DC – MWD Editor.]  And it’s sure helpful to be able to flash a reference to Milton’s Areopagitica if you happen to be invited on ABC Radio National’s incomprehensible The Minefield.

Then it was time to refer to Ms Buttrose’s qualifications for becoming “a leading representative of The Fourth Estate”.  Dr Haines went on and on – including such need-to-know information that the ABC Chair served as a trustee of the Centennial and Moore Park Trust from 2012 to 2020.  Yawn.  Then there was this – after over three and a half minutes:

The Ramsay Centre is very pleased to welcome Ita Buttrose to speak to us on the ABC, democracy and the importance of press freedom.

Ita Buttrose: I’m pleased to have been asked to deliver this lecture…

When it was all over, 35 minutes later – without a question asked or a comment allowed – it was back to our host.

Simon Haines: We are indeed fortunate to have been able to hear this wide ranging and instructive lecture on public broadcasting, democracy and the role of press freedom around the world, from the Chair of the ABC, Ita Buttrose. On your behalf, my warm thanks to her for agreeing to speak to us. And thank you all for listening. Do join us again soon. This is Simon Haines saying goodbye for now.

Well, good bye to all that. Which may have been a term invented by Burke (according to Carlyle) or Hazlitt (according to Haines) or perhaps Milton, or maybe Robert  Graves (according to Jackie).  Also, Dr Haines never asked Ms Buttrose what the conservative Burke might have thought about a taxpayer funded public broadcaster which is a Conservative Free Zone.  Alas, the sensitive issue remained unasked. Can You Bear It?


Wasn’t it great to see ABC TV News Breakfast co-presenter Michael Rowland on television on Wednesday? Your man Rowland was in hotel quarantine following his return from the US where he had reported on the US presidential election.

Sky News sent the likes of Chris Kenny, Rita Panahi and James Morrow to the US for the election. On returning to Australia, they went back to work from quarantine. All three appeared on Sky News panels and Chris Kenny even presented the The Kenny Report from his hotel room.

Not so Michael Rowland. He appeared on ABC TV News Breakfast on Wednesday to talk about doing time in quarantine – despite the fact that tens of thousands have done quarantine since late March. And this was basically a news program.

In any event, Comrade Rowland spoke about his favourite day of the week in quarantine.  To wit, Wine Appreciation Day – of which he provided a pic. And he told viewers (if viewers there were) about how he’s into yoga, downloading apps, searching for a few YouTube videos, push ups and so on. Frightfully interesting, don’t you think?

Believe it or not, Comrade Rowland wound up by comparing himself to the Steve McQueen character in The Great Escape prisoner-of-war movie based on a true story in which many Allied POWs died. Talk about self-indulgence. Can You Bear It?

As avid readers will recall, in MWD Issue 57 (11 June 2010) Matt Canavan drew attention to that part of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Scoop in which the snobbery of the leftie journalist Pappenhacker was revealed.

Waugh’s line was that a wealthy communist, university-educated chap named Pappenhacker believed that the best way to undermine the capitalist system was to be rude to the members of the proletariat.  This would make them angry and help to bring about a revolution. Your man Pappenhacker specialised in being rude to waiters. Others, it seems, target taxi drivers (as did Margaret Throsby – See MWD Issue 500). And then there is Julian (“I just love flashing my post-nominals”) Burnside AO AC and Virginia Trioli – See MWD Issue 504.


As avid readers are aware, “Sandalista Snobbery Space” is devoted to recording the snobbish views of the well-educated leftist Pappenhackers of our day. Here is a recent sighting:

In his “Gadfly” column in Morry Schwartz’s The Saturday Paper on 21 November 2020, Richard Ackland had this to say:

…The blindingly logical way ahead is with renewables-based electricity and renewables-based hydrogen. Except that furniture salesman Craig Kelly, MP, who does most of the government’s important thinking, won’t have a bar of it. This is so, even as disturbing rumours swirl that the locals are rallying to toss the hydroxychloroquine enthusiast from his padded seat and send him back to selling filing cabinets. There is possibly a limited role for gas when the sun is not blowing, and the wind is not shining, and the batteries have gone flat.

So there you have it.  Comrade Ackland, a fave of the sneering inner-city sandal-wearing set in Sandalista Land, reckons that gas might be somewhat useful energy-wise when there’s no sun or wind and only flat batteries.  He forgot to mention water which, as MWD  recalls, is useful when it comes to hydro-electricity. And then there’s gas, which is out of favour in such Saturday Paper salients as Melbourne’s Fitzroy North or Sydney’s Newtown.

But MWD digresses.  It seems that “Gadfly” believes that it is a put-down to refer to Craig Kelly as a “furniture salesman”. It’s true that the Liberal Party member for Hughes once worked for his parents’ furniture business.  But what’s wrong with furniture salesmen – or furniture saleswomen? Moreover, what’s wrong with “selling filing cabinets” – or buying them?

So there you have it.  The leftist Richard Ackland, he of the Sydney inner-city Sandalista Set, reckons it’s okay to look down on furniture and filing cabinet salespersons.  How snobbish can a Saturday Paper  columnist get?

[As I recall – the late Ben Chifley, prime minister of Australia 1945-1949, was a train driver before entering politics.  I wonder where contemporary train drivers sit on Comrade Ackland’s Ladder of Contempt.  – MWD Editor.]

Media Watch Dog’s Five Paws Award was inaugurated in Issue Number 26 (4 September 2009) during the time of Nancy (2004-2017). The first winner was ABC TV presenter Emma Alberici.  Ms Alberici scored for remembering the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 23 August 1939 whereby Hitler and Stalin divided Eastern Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union.  And for stating that the Nazi-Soviet Pact had effectively started the Second World War, since it was immediately followed by Germany’s invasion of Poland (at a time when the Soviet Union had become an ally of Germany).

Over the years, the late Nancy’s Five Paws Award has become one of the world’s most prestigious gongs – rating just below the Nobel Prize and Academy Awards.


On Monday in the Nine Newspapers “Media” section, former News Corp executive Les Hinton was interviewed by Bevan Shields concerning his one-time boss Rupert Murdoch.  As those who have read Hinton’s book The Bootle Boy: an untidy life in news (2018) will know, he is broadly supportive of – but not grovelling to – Murdoch.  As Hinton told Shields, he “doesn’t kiss” Murdoch’s photograph “before bed each night”.

Hinton is of the unsurprising view that “the power of the press and therefore Murdoch’s influence has been on the wane for decades”.  Consequently, Les Hinton cannot see any reason for Kevin Rudd’s proposal that there should be a royal commission into News Corp’s influence in Australia which, believe it or not, Rudd regards as a monopoly. Les Hinton then told Bevan Shields:

It’s fascinating, the timing some politicians show in becoming hostile towards Murdoch and his newspapers. Kevin Rudd, of course, was happy to visit a strip club dive in Manhattan with Col Allan. As publisher of the Wall Street Journal, I sat with him in Washington as he joined senior Obama administration members and some of America’s best-known CEOs at a Washington conference we organised. His wife joined us and Rupert and Rudd chatted happily. His transfiguration since the Murdoch press savaged him has been quite something.

In London, Gordon Brown as prime minister couldn’t get close enough to the company. Brown’s wife even invited Rupert’s then-wife and female News executives to a pyjama party at [the stately prime ministerial country retreat] Chequers. But things changed quickly once The Sun said Brown wasn’t good enough to be in Number 10 and he was kicked out in the 2010 general election.

Bevan Shields – thanks for the intel – Five Paws


As revealed in The Australian’s  “Media” column on Monday, former News Limited executive chairman John Hartigan has rejected an offer to take up one of the two ABC Board position which fall vacant before the end of the year.  Harto, as he is called, was well qualified for the position. It’s just that he recognises that ABC Board members have virtually no influence over ABC programs – including the important area of News and Current Affairs.

ABC managing director and editor-in-chief David Anderson has a seat on the ABC Board. However, like his predecessor Mark Scott, Mr Anderson does not act like editor-in-chief in a commercial media organisation. Consequently, no one runs the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

But MWD digresses.  Harto told The Australian that he would be “unable to bring about sensible reforms” on the ABC board and added:

…I have enormous respect for the majority of things the ABC is involved with. But as an ABC board member, I don’t think the things that they fail in are things that I would have been able to remedy….

People of a similar persuasion to me have tried, and failed, to make changes. I don’t think my presence could make a difference. I think the staff are in control of the organisation, rather than the best endeavours of the management. And the board doesn’t exert enough pressure for the changes that are needed.

 They’re not wholesale changes that are needed. They’re around the edges, but they go to the heart of what the ABC is. It’s about its focus and independence. I just think there are some sensible changes that need to be embraced, partly because the organisation is so broad.

John Hartigan: Five Paws

This overwhelmingly popular segment of Media Watch Dog usually works like this. Someone or other thinks it would be a you-beaut idea to write to Gerard Henderson about something or other. And Hendo, being a courteous and well-brought up kind of guy, replies. Then, hey presto, the correspondence is published in MWD – much to the delight of its avid readers.

There are occasions, however, when Jackie’s (male) co-owner decides to write a polite note to someone or other – who, in turn, believes that a reply is in order. Publication in MWD invariably follows. There are, alas, some occasions where Hendo sends a polite missive but does not receive the courtesy of a reply. Nevertheless, publication of this one-sided correspondence still takes place. For the record – and in the public interest, of course.


As readers of today’s issue are aware, ABC Chair Ita Buttrose’s speech titled “The ABC, democracy and the importance of press freedom” contained many assertions – but virtually no evidence. Gerard Henderson wrote to the ABC seeking evidence for Ms Buttrose referencing (alleged) unnamed right-wing and left-wing critics of the ABC.  Alas, without success.  He first approached Sally Jackson (Communications Lead, ABC News) who flicked the matter to Nick Leys (Head of Communications) who went into “No Comment” mode. Here we go.

Gerard Henderson to Sally Jackson – 25 November 2020


I have just read Ita Buttrose’s address to the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation on 12 November.  As you will be aware, the ABC chair does not cite sources for some of her quotes.  So it is difficult, at times, to work out who/what Ms Buttrose has in mind.  Consequently, I would be grateful if the ABC could provide evidence with reference to certain parts of the chair’s speech.

۰ Page 4 –  who is the detractor referred to in this comment – and what is the source?

Recently one of our detractors said there was a need to curb the spread of public broadcasters into every technological and programming niche. “They should be ring-fenced into set stations, networks and roles, lest they crowd out a thousand flowers in a thousand digital niches.”

۰ Page 5. What is Ms Buttrose’s evidence in support of this claim?:

Elsewhere left-wing critics accuse us of being patsies for conservative causes and the same commercial interests that seek to tear us down.  The old adage still holds that if you are offending everyone, you must be doing something right.

Who are the “left-wing” critics Ms Buttrose has in mind?  I assume they are serious commentators/organisations who/which have made public statements to this effect.

I would be grateful for a response by the close of business on Thursday 26 November 2020.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson


Nick Leys to Gerard Henderson – 25 November 2020

Hi Gerard,

How are you?

We don’t have any further comment on the Chair’s speech.




Gerard Henderson to Nick Leys – 25 November 2020


Welcome back.  I had forgotten that you had re-joined the ABC. It’s great to know who at the ABC will not be answering my questions.

As to your question – My Morale is High.

As to your answer – I’m surprised that the Chair of the ABC – an organisation which asks lotsa questions of others – does not answer questions herself.  Could it be that the ABC has quit the Right to Know Coalition? (I don’t expect an answer).

All the best for Christmas and the New Year to you and the family.


PS: It seems that Ita Buttrose’s missives are similar to Papal Encyclicals. They  are delivered as sermons concerning which no correspondence is entered into.


* * * * *

Until next time.

* * * * *