GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG

ISSUE – NO. 526

11 December 2020

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  • DAVID SPEERS & MICHAEL ROWLAND IGNORANT OF US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION SYSTEM

It was former ABC TV Insiders  presenter Barrie Cassidy who came up with the you-beaut idea of handing out a (virtual) Wooden Spoon Award for poorly performing politicians. He did so during his regular slot on the ABC TV News Breakfast program each Friday.

It was just as well that no one developed a Wooden Spoon Award for journalists.  Otherwise your man Cassidy would have got one for falsely predicting that Bill Shorten would defeat Scott Morrison in the May 2019 election. But MWD digresses.

David Speers, Comrade Cassidy’s replacement on Insiders,  has taken over the Friday slot on News Breakfast – along with the role as judge and jury of the Wooden Spoon Award. Today he gave the gong to – you’ve guessed it – Donald J. Trump. Here’s how the presentation commenced:

Lisa Millar: Do we have a Wooden Spoon this week?

David Speers: Look, I’ll give one for the year. I’ll give one for the year. And I don’t think I can go past Donald Trump. I know it’s an obvious one.

Michael Rowland: Good choice.

David Speers: For a number of reasons right. One is, losing an election by, how many votes is it now, Michael? 8 million?

Michael Rowland: A gazillion, yes.

David Speers: But not accepting the result. That sort of trashing of institutions was the hallmark of his presidency, but trashing the institution of an election process and democracy…

What a load of absolute tosh.  As such senior ABC journalists as Comrades Speers and Rowland should know, United States presidents are elected if they win a majority of votes in the Electoral College – which is elected essentially by states.  For example, if Donald Trump or Joe Biden wins Florida (a swing state) then the winner would have all Florida’s delegates to the Electoral College.

Viewed in this light, Trump did not lose to Biden by 8 million votes (pace Speersy) or a zillion votes (pace your man Rowland). Instead Joe Biden has won the Electoral College by 306 to 232 votes.  This is the same margin by which Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016.

In fact, Trump would have prevailed in November 2020 if he had won the states of Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin – he lost by 0.3 per cent, 0.2 per cent and 0.6 per cent respectively.  That is, by around 44,000 votes across three states.  Which is a long way south of a Gazillion – or even 8 million. In fact, the correct figure is 7 million. It was a tight contest.

Sometimes the ignorance of Trump-hating journalists astounds. And the memory.  It seems that some ABC TV presenters have forgotten how many Democrats and others never accepted the legitimacy of the Trump presidency.


MWD Exclusive

  • FIRST IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS OF THE ABC’s “BLACKBURN REPORT” WHICH DETAILS A LACK OF IMPARTIALITY ON SUCH ABC TV PROGRAMS AS THE DRUM  AND INSIDERS DURING THE 2019 ELECTION CAMPAIGN

The ABC is a member of the Right-to-Know Coalition. But it’s oh-so-secretive when it comes to its own documents.

Last night, the persistence of Senator McGrath (Liberal National Party, Queensland) forced the release of the ABC Editorial Review: Impartiality of the Federal Election 2019 by former BBC journalist and current Victorian public servant Kerry Blackburn.  The document was released by Senator Scott Ryan, President of the Senate.  ABC chair Ita Buttrose wrote to Senator Ryan on 10 December 2020 expressing the ABC’s “strong objection against its production on public interest grounds”. You would think that the Blackburn Report was akin to a top-secret national security document.

After each election, the ABC contracts out research as to the impartiality of its coverage.  This is not a good test of political balance within the public broadcaster since – at election time – ABC managers take considerable care to see that political leaders and political parties get equal coverage in accordance with their estimated support base. This is not always the case at other times.

This makes the latest “Blackburn Report” of special interest.  As would be expected, Ms Blackburn found that ABC news and current affairs accurately  reported Australian national politics during the 2019 election campaign.  Not so such influential panel shows as ABC TV’s The Drum (6 pm Mondays to Fridays) and ABC TV’s Insiders (9 am Sundays).

Kerry Blackburn conducted an in-depth analysis of two episodes of The Drum (6 May & 8 May) and two episodes of Insiders (14 April & 12 May). In each episode, 45 to 53 per cent of comments were pro-Labor or anti-Coalition and only 13 to 18 per cent of comments were pro-Coalition or anti-Labor, with the rest neutral. By way of explanation Ms Blackburn offers that the prevalent news stories at the time of these programs favoured Labor, however she is forced to admit that this explanation “can only take the assessment so far”. Regarding The Drum Ms Blackburn concludes that:

It [the news environment] doesn’t explain the almost total absence of positivity for the Coalition. They might have been behind in the polls, but the gap wasn’t so huge to render them irrelevant…..

Subconsciously at least, even if nobody came right out and said so, a Labor victory was effectively considered a foregone conclusion. The reviewer noted two presenter slips which referred to Bill Shorten as the Prime Minister, with only one picked up and corrected. Many news stories on the ABC, and elsewhere, started from an assumption that Labor would shortly be in government; there was no other explanation for some of the angles taken.…

Hearing more on panels, from commentators and contributors whose experience and advocacy was more aligned with ideas from the right of politics, would have afforded an opportunity for greater scrutiny of Coalition policies. It would also likely have provoked other panellists to probe and to test those ideas, and conversely would have supported greater testing of Labor’s strategy and policies.

Turning to Insiders, Ms Blackburn concludes that:

While the conclusion is that Insiders met the impartiality standard, the ABC is encouraged to reflect on how it might improve the reflection of a diversity of perspectives during an election period. While the intent for the Insiders panel is that it is non-partisan, the effect of this during the programs reviewed – where so many issues were determined to have played so well for the Labor campaign – was that there was not sufficient challenge to the prevailing consensus. As a result the return of the Morrison government was never seriously contemplated.

One solution would have been to have secured more conservative-leaning political commentators as panellists. Those conservative voices could have articulated, with conviction, that there was a Coalition path to victory. Theirs would still have been a professional judgement, drawing on evidence, albeit they might have a particular starting point. Audiences are generally sophisticated enough if they are given adequate information, to make up their own minds about what weight to place on a contribution. The missing narrative was available: a few commentators were articulating just that view in the pages of The Australian and The Spectator for example.

It is understood that some of the more well-known conservative voices have chosen not to appear on the ABC. But Australia is a big country and 40% of those who voted preferenced the Coalition. Impartiality requires the reflection of a diversity of principle relevant perspectives, particularly when the matter of contention is at a critical point. The final weeks of a federal election campaign meet that threshold.

Ms Blackburn offers up three recommendations for the ABC’s slate of panel discussion shows:

Recommendation One: the ABC is encouraged to review the composition of panellists on The Drum to achieve a better balance of voices from across the spectrum of ideas and politics, in particular where a program is covering an issue where controversy is at its height, e.g. during an election period

Recommendation Two: It is hoped that the ABC will find useful the detailed content analysis of the two Insiders programs. It is recommended that the ABC consider how it might ensure a better reflection of the range of principle political perspectives, particularly at election time.

Recommendation Three: It is recommended that the ABC consider the Impartiality standards in their widest possible interpretation; the Editorial Policies and the accompanying guidance notes (for example the sections on open-mindedness) can support the achievement of better editorial outcomes. The Editorial Policies are not a journalistic straitjacket and can be part of the solution to better serving audiences.

No wonder that Ms Buttrose, on behalf of ABC management, sought to prevent Australian taxpayers  – who fund the public broadcaster – from reading the “Blackburn Report”.

The report’s findings are consistent with what Media Watch Dog has been arguing for ages. There are many ABC panels where everyone agrees with everyone else in a left-of-centre or green/left way.

Take Insiders for example.  During the 2019 election campaign, the left of centre Barrie Cassidy was in the presenter’s chair and Michael Bowers of the leftist Guardian did the “Talking Pictures” segment.  The panellists were as follows:

  • 14 April – Annika Smethurst, Mark Kenny, Niki Savva
  • 21 April – Patricia Karvelas, Andrew Probyn, David Marr
  • 28 April – Karen Middleton, Peter Van Onselen, Malcolm Farr
  • 5 May – Sarah Martin, Fran Kelly, Dennis Atkins
  • 12 May – Annabel Crabb, Malcolm Farr, Lenore Taylor

It’s difficult to find one of these Insiders panellists who was broadly supportive of Scott Morrison or who thought that the Coalition would win the election on 18 May 2019. Not one.

The likes of Michael Stutchbury and Gerard Henderson (neither of whom is still on the Insiders panel) along with the likes of Phil Coorey and Mark Riley might have provided a different perspective.  But Insiders producer Sam Clark and, presumably, Insiders presenter Barrie Cassidy thought otherwise.  The “Blackburn Report” presents a dissenting view.


MEDIA WATCH DOG  TO TAKE WELL-EARNED BREAK

As avid readers know, mere mortals take holidays – but journalists describe themselves as having a Well Earned Break. In view of the fact that many of MWD’s  fave programs are already on a WEB, MWD itself heads off this afternoon at Gin & Tonic time for a period in the wilderness.  Until resuming on Friday 29 January 2021 with a look back on the star media performers in 2020.  God Willing.

Lotsa thanks to the avid readers who sent in their material, advice, abuse and so on.  MWD could not get by without you.  Due to time constraints, not all correspondence is acknowledged – but all is read.

MWD is produced every Friday by a very small but highly efficient staff who type the manuscript, help with the research, do the graphics etc.  Thanks also to the anonymous Mysterious Mr M who acts as what he terms a “spell checker” – after lunch, of course.  In spite of this, MWD allows for an occasional John-Laws-Style-Deliberate-Mistake to keep readers focused.

All the best for Christmas, Hanukkah, the New Year and all that – from the Sydney Institute Team.  And remember Keep Morale High.

PS: Gerard Henderson’s column will continue in The Weekend Australian over the holiday season.


Can You Bear It?

  • DAVID CROWE’S SHOUT-OUT FOR FEMALE SPEAKERS AT THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB NEXT YEAR

What a stunning performance by Nine Newspapers’ David Crowe – he of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age – on ABC TV’s Insiders on Sunday.  Let’s go to the transcript at the observations/predictions segment at the end of the program and focus on what your man Crowe had to say:

David Speers: Let’s get some final observations, then…

David Crowe: Look, there’s so many things to wish for in 2021. But, you know, things like – sorry, I’ll start again. I want to talk about the National Press Club. It’s gone through a horror 2020, like a lot of community groups and clubs around the country. There’s been a changing of the guard to a new president – Laura Tingle’s coming in to replace Sabra Lane. In the report that’s just been done on the year so far, we reached 35 per cent of the presenters being women. We need more speakers. We want to lift that goal. So my message is – if you know somebody who’s a good speaker or you want to get out there and say something –  remember the National Press Club. Let’s hope for a strong 2021 where we can have people in the club and have great speakers.

David Speers: Indeed. PK?

Patricia Karvelas: I couldn’t agree more. We should have more women speaking everywhere….

These days Insiders is a “I couldn’t agree more” kind of program as journos, overwhelmingly current or former members of the Canberra Press Gallery, often agree with each other on essentially everything – in a Canberra Press Gallery kind of way. Last Sunday didn’t disappoint in this regard.

However, it was surprising that Comrade Crowe devoted his final Insiders’ thought for the year to talk about the National Press Club – lament  its gender imbalance in so far as the NPC speakers are concerned and pitch for more sheilas to volunteer as NPC performers next year.  Could it be, because according to today’s “CBD” column in Nine Newspapers (re which see below), your man Crowe was elected this very week to, you’ve guessed it, the National Press Club’s committee and was appealing to his voter base?  If so, Can You Bear It?

[Er, no. Not really – now that you’ve asked.  As I recall, this is the very same David Crowe who had to change the title of his book on the 2019 election which he had decided on before the Hoi Polloi went to the polls on Saturday 18 May 2019.  Comrade Crowe – Nine Newspapers’ top political correspondent – simply assumed that the Coalition – under Scott Morrison’s leadership – would lose the election and agreed to the title Venom: The Vendettas and Betrayals that Broke a Party. When Prime Minister Scott Morrison prevailed, and the Liberal Party was not broken by the election result, the book’s title was changed to Venom: Vendettas, Betrayals and the Price of Power. No wonder, with “expertise” like this, Comrade Crowe was invited back on to the Insiders’ couch this year. – MWD Editor.]

  • NINE’S “CBD” COLUMN CHANNELS PAUL BARRY’S MEDIA WATCH

While on the topic of matters Crowe, Nine Newspapers’ “CBD” column today – by Samantha Hutchinson and MWD fave Stephen Brook – contains two out of three pieces on the media.

The first one , titled “Friendly Fire”,  is on the battle for spots on the eight member National Press Club committee in Canberra.  It contains the commercially significant information that your man Crowe defeated Michael Keating [which Michael Keating is this? MWD Editor] for a slot on the committee by 137 to 15 votes.  Really. And it reveals – er, what the heck.

The second media piece, titled “Like A Rocket” advises that the ABC News Breakfast  co-presenter and MWD fave Michael Rowland should have, but didn’t, win one of the inaugural ABC Pride Awards.

MWD is sure that the lads and lasses in the Central Business Districts of Melbourne and Sydney can talk about nothing else than which journos are winning elections in Canberra and receiving gongs in Melbourne. Can You Bear It?

  • THE SMH’s MUST-DO SUB-EDITOR MUST GET SOME NEW IDEAS

While on the topic of the Sydney Morning Herald, MWD just loves it when editorial writers tell politicians in general and governments in particular what they “MUST” or “SHOULD” do. Some journalists go into political life and attempt to achieve change – Labor’s Bob Carr and Liberal Party’s Pru Goward, for example. While others write editorials.

What a stunning list of headlines over the Sydney Morning Herald’s editorials this week. Here they are:

  • Monday – “Albanese’s Labor must offer voters a clear alternative”
  • Tuesday – “Premier must adopt ICAC plan for water rights”
  • Wednesday – “NSW must play the long game to win back AAA rating”
  • Thursday – “Reforms must aim to keep drug users out of court”
  • Friday – “Rio’s barbaric WA destruction must never be repeated”

To which MWD responds – The Sydney Morning Herald MUST get a new sub-editor for its editorial page who has some fresh ideas. Can You Bear It?

  • FRIENDS OF THE ABC (LINDFIELD BRANCH) PERSON THE BARRICADES OUTSIDE PAUL FLETCHER’S LINDFIELD OFFICE

While the Sydney Morning Herald was telling Labor leader Anthony Albanese what he MUST do on Monday, the Friends of the ABC – who seem to have renamed themselves ABC Friends – rocked up to Communications Minister Paul Fletcher’s office in leafy Lindfield on Sydney’s North Shore.  They were responding to the heads-up put out at Gin & Tonic Time the previous Friday:

Here’s hoping the Friends of the ABC have a good defamation insurance policy.  For the ABC Four Corners program titled “Inside the Canberra Bubble” – which was reported by Louise Milligan and which aired on 9 November 2020 – did not “expose” that Attorney-General Christian Porter had had an affair with anyone. Even so, the tweet was re-tweeted by Louise Milligan in her activist-journalist mode.

Well, how did the demo by North Shore middle-class radicals go? – MWD hears avid readers cry. On Tuesday, the occasion was reported in a post titled Latest News from ABC Friends – which carried ABC’s official logo.

ABC Friends reckons that “over 80 northern Sydney residents rallied outside Minister Fletcher’s Bradfield electoral office” – following the urging of Comrade Milligan and others.  However, the pic used by ABC Friends suggests that the teeming (North Shore) masses amounted to a number well south of four score.  You be the judge – see photo below.

For the record, the speakers were Janine Kitson (convenor, Northern Suburbs of Sydney Branch of ABC Friends), Abigail Boyd (Greens MLC) and Rose Jackson (Labor MLC).  Former Labor senator and ABC Friends’ president Margaret Reynolds sent out a message as did former ABC journalist Quentin Dempster.  Later on, the Middle Class Comrades delivered an ABC Friends 2021 calendar to Minister Fletcher – which is published in print form.  Shame – what about carbon emissions and all that?

There was a NSW Police presence at the protest and, no doubt, Paul Fletcher’s staff was advised to lock the office door – the Minister was in Canberra.  This made it possible for Comrade Kitson to conclude the mass protest as follows:

Sadly, when we took the calendar to his office, Mr Fletcher’s Office glass doors had locked us out. I hope this is not a sign that Mr Fletcher will allow democracy to slide to new lows in the New Year.

To what MWD responds, Groan – and Can You Bear It?

At Louise Milligan’s Urging, the Teeming Masses of Sydney’s Affluent North Shore Protest Against Minister Paul Fletcher on Monday

Not Time Bombs But Calendars. Two Lindfield ABC Types Present an ABC Friends Calendar to Paul Fletcher – In His Absence

 

  • SPEERSY DROPS THE NUMBER OF INTERRUPTIONS WHEN YOU REALLY NEED ONE

While on the topic of the ABC and women, how is ABC TV Insiders presenter David (“Oh Yes, I’m the great interrupter”) Speers going in this regard?  Well, he’s getting better it seems.

As avid readers will recall, the Insiders montage on 29 November 2020 depicted Prime Minister Scott Morrison briefly interrupting Social Services Minister Anne Ruston on one occasion during a media conference – but only to briefly contest the use of the term “Bonk Ban” by journalist Phil Coorey.

Insiders’ producer Sam Clark took exception to the Prime Minister interrupting a woman and Insiders banged on about this. However, MWD subsequently reminded avid readers that Speersy had interrupted Coalition Energy Minister Karen Andrews on 8 occasions during a 15 minute interview (25 October 2020) and interrupted Labor shadow minister Terri Butler on no fewer than 7 occasions in a 13 minute interview (1 November 2020). How frightfully rude for a man to treat a woman or two – don’t you think?

The evidence seems to indicate that your man Speers had benefited from attending Nancy’s Courtesy Classes (sponsored by MWD). Last Sunday he only interrupted Labor frontbencher Penny Wong on 4 occasions during a 15 minute interview.

What’s more, Speersy must have been in courtesy-mode not to interrupt when Senator Wong blamed the Morrison government for tens of thousands of Australians being unable to get home before Christmas. This overlooked the fact that the Coalition Berejiklian government in NSW has admitted around 80,000 Australians into quarantine – while the figure for the Labor Andrews government in Victoria is far, far lower.

In other words, if Victoria had taken its fair share of returning Australians there would be no log-jam of Australians attempting to be home by Christmas.  Where is Speersy, the great interrupter, when you really need him?  Can You Bear It?


  • ABC CHAIR ITA BUTTROSE TO DEFEND ABC – AS TOLD BY NIKI SAVVA

Did anyone read Niki Savva’s column in The Australian on Thursday?  It seems that Ms Savva had received a leak from inside the ABC that ABC Chair Ita Buttrose will reject all or most of the issues raised by Communications Minister Paul Fletcher in his letter dated 1 December 2020 concerning the ABC TV Four Corners’ program “Inside the Canberra Bubble”. This was discussed by Gerard Henderson in his Weekend Australian column last Saturday – see here.

As readers are aware, Paul Fletcher raised concerns about the ABC TV Four Corners’  program “Inside the Canberra Bubble” which focused on the private lives of Minister Alan Tudge and Attorney-General Christian Porter. As Ms Savva put it:

There will be no concessions from Buttrose in her reply. The charge of bias will be rejected. There will be no apology or any hint of it — nor any retreat from the decision to broadcast. She will inform Fletcher all proper processes were followed. She will defend the ABC’s processes, and she will assert that the board’s role in ­ensuring that news gathering is accurate and impartial has been properly discharged.

So the ABC chair, on behalf of the ABC Board (which includes the ABC managing director), will reject all of the criticisms of Four Corners’   “Inside the Canberra Bubble”. To which MWD responds: Quelle Surprise!  This is what the ABC has always done with respect to criticism, however valid.  It’s called being in denial.

By the way, MWD was enthralled by Ms Savva’s defence of the Four Corners’  expose of Mr Tudge’s affair with a senior female staffer in 2017 and Mr Porter’s (alleged)  flirtations with a woman in a Canberra restaurant in 2017 – which the woman denies. This is what Niki Savva had to say:

Whatever the shortcomings of that Four Corners episode, in my view people have a right to know as much as possible about the character of the people they are asked to elect to govern them. They can then decide whether or not to vote for them.

How about that? Ms Savva, who describes herself as a “conservative leftie” (whatever that might mean), reckons that all of us have a right to know almost everything about the character – read personal lives – of politicians.  Including, it would seem, relationships between politicians and journalists.  Now, that would be interesting – especially if this new method of Canberra Press Gallery reporting is backdated.


  • ABC MANAGEMENT APPARENTLY NOT INTERESTED IN CLAIMS BY EX-ABC REPORTER SENATOR SARAH HENDERSON ABOUT SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT THE ABC IN MELBOURNE DURING THE 1990s

As avid Media Watch Dog readers are aware, this blog is interested not only in what appears on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster – but also in what does not appear (including what is censored) and who are de-platformed.

In recent times, the ABC – in spite of its interest in contemporary and historical child sexual abuse – has not reported (i) the comment made by ABC chair Richard Downing (1915-75) in 1975 that “in general, men will sleep with young boys” which has never been publicly condemned by his successors, (ii) the ABC’s very own case of historical child sexual abuse which saw the late ABC producer Jon Stevens plead guilty to the offence – he was facing other charges when he died recently, (iii) the civil case brought by one of Stevens’ victims this year, (iv) the fact that ABC leftist faves Richard Neville (1941-2016) and Bob Ellis (1942-2016) had sex with underage girls – and so on.

As MWD reported last week, ABC managing director David Anderson and senior ABC communications staff Nick Leys and Sally Jackson will not answer the simple question as to whether the ABC will show the 2020 BBC Two documentary The Unbelievable Story of Carl Beech (aka “Nick”).

Beech, who is currently serving a long term of imprisonment in Britain, was a fantasist who falsely alleged that he had been sexually abused by such high profile Brits as Sir Edward Heath and Lord (Leon) Brittan. The ABC shows many BBC Two documentaries but will not advise as to its intentions concerning The Unbelievable Story of Carl Beech – which has been reviewed favourably in both the left-of-centre Guardian and the right-of-centre Spectator.

MWD will keep readers informed of any developments.  And now for something somewhat similar.

On Monday 7 December 2020 – shortly before ABC Four Corners showed its “Inside the Canberra Bubble” program presented by Louise Milligan – ABC managing director and editor-in-chief David Anderson appeared before Senate Estimates.

As avid readers are aware, ABC journalists take a special interest in sexual harassment in the workplace.  How strange, then, that (as far as MWD can work it out) the ABC did not report this exchange between Liberal Party Senator for Victoria Sarah Henderson and Mr Anderson at Senate Estimates.  Let’s go to the transcript after Senator Stoker raised the issue of the ABC code of conduct with respect to its staff:

Mr Anderson : We have things like a sexual harassment policy that means that there is no tolerance of sexism and no tolerance of an abuse of power that sits within the ABC.

Senator Henderson:  I’m sorry to interrupt. I take exception to that. I worked at the ABC for nine years, Mr Anderson, and I really take exception to that, Sorry Chair….

Following a gap, Senator Henderson continued:

Senator Henderson: As I mentioned before, I just want to declare that I worked for and on behalf of the ABC between 1989—I was 12 at the time!—and 1997, and Mr Anderson and I worked around the corner from each other at Ripponlea. I did take issue with the comments that you made, Mr Anderson, because certainly when I was at the ABC there were a number of incidents I saw where sexism was tolerated and action was not taken. Very serious inappropriate workplace behaviour was tolerated, and no action was taken. I just want to put that on the record. Obviously that was during that period, but that’s why I took issue with what you said. You mentioned that you sought assurances from someone as to the integrity and impartiality of the story [i.e. “Inside the Canberra Bubble”] tonight. Who did you seek assurances from?

Mr Anderson : Both Gaven Morris and John Lyons as well as Connie Carnabuci, our head of legal, and Mr McMurtrie over here….

How about that?  Faced with Senator Henderson’s comment that she knew of sexual harassment which took place at the ABC TV Melbourne studio in Ripponlea between 1989 and 1997 – the ABC managing director completely ignored her comments and responded by talking about the Four Corners’ program. Moreover, not one ABC journalist reported the exchange. Not one.

So this is the situation.   The ABC chair (Ita Buttrose) and senior ABC managers (David Anderson, Gaven Morris, John Lyons, Connie Carnabuci, Craig McMurtrie) reckon it was quite okay for Four Corners to cover the (alleged) sexist behaviour of Attorney-General Christian Porter when he was a student at the University of Western Australia in the 1990s.  However, ABC management has no interest in inquiring into (alleged) sexual harassment at the ABC TV Melbourne studio in the 1990s. How about that?

Stand by for many “An ABC Update” in 2021.


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.

  • TIM BOWDEN (ABC Rtd) HELPS OUT WITH AN EMAIL FROM TUNCURRY TO “POISONOUS” HENDO RE THE ABC

As avid readers know too well, Gerard Henderson much values the friendships with such veteran ABC types as Phillip Adams AO, AM, Hon DUniv (Griffith), Hon DLitt (ECU), Hon DUniv (SA), DLitt [sic] (Syd), Hon. DUniv (Macquarie), FRSA, Hon FAHA and Tim Bowden AM, BA.  Hendo gets invited on to Comrade Adams’ little wireless program Late Night Live (ABC Radio National) every quarter of a century.  He was last  on LNL in 2015 and the time before that was 1990.  So Hendo’s looking forward to his next LNL circa 2040.

Meanwhile, every now and then the somewhat angry Tim Bowden fires in a mocking email to Jackie’s (male) co-owner from somewhere or other.  Mr Bowden invariably receives a courteous response from Gerard Henderson AC (Always Courteous) – most recently this week. Here we go:

 

Tom Bowden to Gerard Henderson – 8 December 2020

Dear Gerard,

Your ceaseless vendetta against the ABC –

After all these years your latest poisonous piece slagging the ABC in the weekend Oz should not surprise, and it doesn’t. However I am moved to respond because of the raw deal the ABC is getting from the Morrison Government, which is hardly surprising since their ranks are heavy with members of the barking mad IPA (including the Prime Minister Morrison AND God help us, the current Communications minister Fletcher.

As you would know one of the policy platforms of the IPA is to sell the national broadcaster. What chance has the poor ABC got when Government ranks are top heavy with IPA members who presumably share this view.

Of course there is no public call from the general public (particularly in the bush) for this to happen, and I think the last time I saw a survey about the ABC some 80 per cent of Australians said they liked the ABC and supported it.

I don’t know whether you ever see the magazine Update sent out to Friends of the ABC (because you aren’t one) but the June edition had some depressing analysis of the IPA cheerleaders in the Liberal Party.

So what chance has Aunty got with this lot?

Are you a member of the IPA Gerard? I’d like to know. Meanwhile despite your never-ending carping criticisms about the ABC you might like to reflect on an Australia without it.

Regards,

Tim B

Tim Bowden

Tuncurry NSW 2428

 

Gerard Henderson to Tim Bowden – 11 December 2020

My Dearest Timothy

Many thanks for your email of 8 December 2020 – it made my day/week/year.  How wonderful to hear from you after all these years – or is it decades?

I note that you have not changed much from the day when you presented Backchat (an earlier version of Media Watch) on ABC TV circa 1986-1994.  As I recall, in those days of yore, your modus operandi was to act supercilious and to dismiss any criticism of the ABC with a smirk (at best) or a sneer.

How sad that you did not like my column in The Weekend Australian on Saturday titled “Letter to ABC’s chair is well within minister’s remit”.  I note that you did not make even one criticism of what I wrote – and chose to dismiss my article as a “poisonous piece of slagging”.  That’s abuse – not analysis.  Which suggests that, in your time on the sunny NSW North Coast, you have not changed much from your days at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

In response to your missive, I make the following comments:

  • You say the ABC is getting a “raw deal from the Morrison government”. There are some, however, who believe that the ABC should be able to get by with an annual taxpayer handout of over $1 billion a year.
  • I note that you believe that the Institute of Public Affairs is “barking mad”. My dog Jackie is barking – while remaining as sane as possible in the household in which she lives.
  • Just because a politician is a member of an organisation does not mean that he or she shares its views. I do not know how you can presume what, say, the Prime Minister believes by assessing any organisations of which he is (apparently) a member.
  • If the IPA did run the government, I doubt that the Coalition would continue to increase ABC funding year by year. This would suggest that you are exaggerating the organisation’s influence.
  • I note that you have endorsed the view of Mark Buckley who wrote “IPA is Wrecking our Democracy” which appeared in the Friends of the ABC Update magazine (July 2020) having previously been published on 15 May 2020 in John Menadue’s Pearls and Irritations. Your man Buckley, like you, seems to regard abuse as a substitute for argument – in that he regards the IPA as “crudely elitist, ideologically stunted, narrow minded, greedy and, in most cases, fully imported” (whatever that might mean).
  • I note that Comrade Buckley believes that the IPA’s executive director is Mike Nahan. I seem to recall that Dr Nahan’s been a member of the Legislative Assembly in Western Australia since 2008 – but what would I know?
  • I assume you approve of Comrade Buckley’s over-written style, with the references to “robber barons” and the like. I also note that he takes Lincoln Steffens seriously. As you may or may not know, Lincoln Steffens coined the phrase: “I’ve seen the future and it works”. The reference was made to the Soviet Union under the rule of Lenin, Stalin and the like.  Your man Buckley should be able to find better sources for inspiration.
  • In answer to your query, I am not a member of the IPA. But I do recall occasionally, at Gin & Tonic Time, that perhaps I am still a member of the Holy Name Society and a subscriber to the Holy Name Monthly. Or perhaps not.
  • As to the ABC, its future is not in danger and will outlive both of us – and more besides. The ABC’s problem is that its lack of plurality and political diversity has led to a situation where many traditional ABC viewers/listeners have walked away from ABC news and current affairs programs. If the ABC listened to its critics it would have greater support in the community – including within the Coalition parties.
  • The essential problem with the ABC is that it is a Conservative Free Zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets. The fact that you, the Friends of the ABC and so on are in denial about this does not help the public broadcaster’s cause.

In conclusion, I should state how most mornings at Hang-Over Time I think of you in Tuncurry and reflect on how my taxes, while in private sector employment, have helped sustain you on a taxpayer funded ABC superannuation pension.  And all I get in return is sneering abuse along with a copy of The Thought of Comrade Buckley. Is there no justice in the land?

Lotsa love

Hendo

 

 

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Until  Friday 29 January 2021

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