GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 602
26 August 2022
* * * *
* * * *
ABC TV’S EVIDENT CASE OF MURDOCHPHOBIA
On ABC TV News Breakfast this morning, Michael Rowland interviewed Bill Shorten (the Minister for Government Services and Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme). Discussion focused on the Albanese government’s decision to set up a royal commission on the previous government’s robodebt scheme. At the end of the interview, the following exchange took place:
Michael Rowland: Finally, Bill Shorten, on a separate topic. Independent MP, Zoe Daniel has flagged she is going to move in Parliament for the setting up of a judicial inquiry into what she described as “outsized media concentration” and the lack of media diversity in Australia. All in the interests of protecting Australian democracy. In your view, do companies like News Corp exercise way too much power in this country?
Bill Shorten: Well, in terms of, Ms Daniel’s motion, she’s entitled to move for what she wants. The government’s said they’re not going to have a specific inquiry into News Corp….I think there is a challenge with media diversity in this country. We’ve seen the increasing concentration of media. One thing I know is that Labor is committed – in terms of, setting back, or rolling back, some of the threats to media diversity – to properly fund the ABC.
Michael Rowland: We’ll leave it there. Bill Shorten, appreciate your time this morning, thank you.
On the previous day, Zoe Daniel, the Teal Independent for Goldstein and former ABC presenter, issued this tweet:
I will move for a judicial inquiry into media diversity because disinformation & lack of trust are the key challenges of our time.Outsized media power & lack of regional and suburban media disempower communities.I ask the parliament to support this motion, for democracy. #auspoI
— Zoe Daniel (@zdaniel) August 25, 2022
It would seem that Michael Rowland took up the Zoe Daniel cause when he interviewed Minister Shorten – who repeated the Albanese government’s position on this matter which had been stated previously by Communications Minister Michelle Rowland.
Hold it there. Michael Rowland assumed, correctly it would appear, that Ms Daniel’s tweet had in mind News Corp – when interviewing Bill Shorten from the ABC’s Melbourne studio. This morning Nine Entertainment distributed two newspapers in Melbourne – The Age and the Australian Financial Review. Nine also runs Channel 9 in Melbourne and the top rating 3AW radio station plus nine.com.au. That sounds like media concentration.
The ABC was airing two television news programs this morning – Channel 2 and the ABC News channel. Also, the ABC was running news programs on ABC Radio Melbourne, ABC Radio National and ABC News Radio. In addition, the ABC produces an online newspaper.
In Melbourne this morning, News Corp’s Herald-Sun and The Australian were on sale and news.com.au was available online. News Corps’ Sky News subscription television channel was available. News Corp does not run any radio stations in Melbourne.
So, if there was a media concentration in Melbourne this morning, the big players – in order – were Nine followed by the ABC followed by News Corp. Yet the ABC’s Michael Rowland supported Zoe Daniel’s view that Australia’s allegedly “outsized media concentration” is due to News Corp. What a load of absolute tosh. News Corp may be influential – but it is of lesser size in Melbourne than Nine or the ABC. Which suggests that your man Rowland is suffering from a severe case of Murdochphobia.
THE FAILURE OF THE McCLELLAN ROYAL COMMISSION TO THOROUGHLY EXAMINE HISTORICAL CHILD ABUSE IN GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS – PARTICULARLY IN TASMANIA
In recent times, The Mercury in Hobart and the ABC have been reporting a current commission of inquiry in Tasmania concerning the Ashley Youth Detention Centre – including on last night’s 7:30 program. There have been reports of sexual assault and physical assault of young detainees in the Ashley institution going back decades. This follows the recently completed Independent Inquiry into the Tasmanian Education Department’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the Independent Investigation into the circumstances of a deceased former employee of the Launceston General Hospital.
Journalists have done well in reporting these matters. However, they have overlooked the fact that all such government institutions could have been investigated by the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It operated for five years from 2013 to 2017 – headed by Peter McClellan QC.
The McClellan Royal Commission conducted 59 Case Studies. Two of these focused on Tasmania and not one looked at historical child sexual abuse in Tasmanian government institutions. The McClellan Royal Commission’s failure in this instance is worth an investigation by the media.
7.30’s SARAH FERGUSON/PETER GARRETT SOFT INTERVIEW IGNORES MIDNIGHT OIL’s EMITTING PAST
Media Watch Dog has no particular objection to suck-up interviews – except that Jackie’s (male) co-owner is never the recipient of such largesse. So Hendo was keen enough to watch the (expected) soft interview of Midnight Oil lead-singer Peter Garrett by ABC TV 7.30 presenter Sarah Ferguson on 22 August. Here’s how the ABC described the occasion:
It’s been a long journey for Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett – one that leads from Sydney’s pubs to concert halls around the world, from the halls of power in Canberra, to the red centre of the continent. But that journey is coming to an end as Midnight Oil is on their final concert tour. It’s already taken them across Europe and North America and on the weekend the band played at Mundi Mundi from where Peter Garrett speaks to Sarah Ferguson.
The interview commenced with a reference to Midnight Oil’s campaign for Indigenous rights over the years – and a segment was shown of Peter Garrett singing Beds are Burning, which contains the following lyrics:
The time has come
To say fair’s fair
To pay the rent
To pay our share
The time has come
A fact’s a fact
It belongs to them
Let’s give it back
Let’s go to the transcript:
Sarah Ferguson: It, of course, was a call for Australians to give back to Indigenous people what had been stolen from them. Decades on we’re looking at a referendum to establish a Voice to the Parliament. How significant is that going to be for you and the band?
Peter Garrett : I think it’s really, really important to us.
Ms Ferguson did not ask – and Mr Garrett did not say – whether any members of the Oils have given back any of their privately owned land to Indigenous Australians. But, then, it was not that sort of interview.
Then Comrade Ferguson (born 1965) put it to Comrade Garrett (born 1953) that “the generation who rushed out and bought” Midnight Oil’s 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 album in 1982 – “they’re the ones who failed the world on climate change and I’m not including you and the band in that charge”. She added that your man Garrett and his “followers [were] simply overwhelmed by the power of the fossil fuel lobby and the politicians aligned with it”.
How about that? The fact that Midnight Oil burnt the oil (to coin a phrase) before and after was all the fault of, wait for it, the fossil fuel industry and politicians. Peter Garrett seemed to agree – despite the fact that he was a Labor Party parliamentarian between October 2004 and August 2013. He went on to apportion the main blame to “our banks, our financial regulators and our governments”. It was as if someone forced such boomers as Garrett to buy cars and to travel against their will.
Sarah Ferguson continued to bang on about global warming and all that. But no one mentioned Midnight Oil’s personal contribution to global emissions.
Look at at this way. Comrade Garrett and his merry band of leftist performers toured the world for over four decades from distant Australia on jet planes and by road. Midnight Oil performed with electric guitars under carbon-emitting bright lights and sang into carbon-emitting microphones supported by a carbon-emitting sound system. And they did live gigs – so their audiences made their own contributions to carbon emissions in travelling to and from Midnight Oil concerts. And then there are their carbon-emitting albums and all that which is needed to produce them.
The interview ended – as it commenced – with a suck-up about Midnight Oil’s exit from the stage as a band:
Peter Garrett: So when we get to that final moment, yeah, look, it will be emotional, it will be big, and it’ll have weight to it. But I also think we’ll probably have a great feeling of gratitude, to have been enabled to do this thing, which is so special.
Sarah Ferguson : You said gratitude. Well, from us, from your fans everywhere, gratitude back at you. Thank you very much. Peter Garrett.
Peter Garrett : Thank you, Sarah. Thanks.
And so it came to pass that the eco-catastrophist 7.30 presenter expressed her gratitude to Peter Garrett and his Midnight Oil band for over four decades of unnecessary carbon emissions. Can You Bear It?
* * * * *
Jackie (Dip Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute) comments for MWD.
If Peter Garrett wants to publicly atone for his decades as a high-emissions kind of guy, he could finish Midnight Oil’s final tour dressed in a low-emitting sackcloth and wearing a pair of Helen Garner’s hand-me-down sandals. It would be a low-emitting gesture of repentance during which non-electric guitars are used and stage lights replaced with candles. Travel to the Oil’s various gigs should be by electric vehicles only, equipped with very long extension cords.
I would suggest that in his sackcloth tour Comrade Garrett put these words of repentance to his Beds are Burning music:
The time has come
To say fair’s fair
The Oils emit
We are aware
The time has come
A fact’s a fact
We are ashamed
So let’s get sacked
JONATHAN GREEN’S BLUEPRINT FOR LAMINGTONS – THE VERY LATEST
It was Hangover Time on Saturday 20 August and Jackie’s (male) co-owner was walking the said Jackie around the block – or was it the other way around? – when Blueprint for Living came into his ear from ABC Radio National.
The program was introduced by MWD fave and Blueprint presenter Jonathan (“Proudly the ABC’s Sneerer-in-Chief”) Green. This was what Comrade Green had to say:
Jonathan Green: Two questions for you – what has your fridge and freezer got to do with making the perfect lamington, and why do little boys pee in fountains? And before you say it, the answer in either case is not “because it’s there”.
This is Blueprint. I’m Jonathan Green with places, spaces, food, gardens and design lovingly compiled here in Wurundjeri country. Lamingtons part two: the cutting and coating – with Annie Smithers shortly. And a short history of peeing boy fountains…
It turned out that Annie Smithers’ “Kitchen Rudimental” segment was about to depict “the complete lamington”. And someone or other was going to deal with the big issue of our time: “The origin of little boys peeing in fountains”.
That was enough. Hendo removed the earpod and headed straight for home with Jackie for an early morning stress-reducing Gin & Tonic. There’s just so much a taxpaying canine-walker can take concerning such topics on a Saturday morning. Can You Bear It?
MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY JOURNALIST IMOGEN CRUMP THROWS THE SWITCH TO “LOOPHOLERY” TO EXPLAIN AUSTRALIAN POLITICS
MWD just loves it when Imogen Crump, editor of the University of Melbourne’s Pursuit and Research news website, appears in the “Newspapers” segment of the ABC TV News Breakfast program.
On 23 August, Comrade Crump fronted up at the ABC’s Melbourne studio in inner-city Southbank [where else would it be? MWD Editor]. She led off the segment with yet another report on former prime minister Scott Morrison’s unwise, but valid, decision to appoint himself to five additional ministerial positions in 2020 and 2021. By 23 August this was somewhat old news: YAWN.
The Pursuit editor advised viewers – who already knew – that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese would release the Solicitor-General’s report on the matter later that very day and added:
Imogen Crump: …So Albanese will make public that information to Cabinet first, I think it’s this morning. And then, later on this afternoon, it’ll be made public for everyone to read. So, and then, I guess it’s a process of considering what happens next. There doesn’t seem to be any suggestion of illegality. But I guess it just comes back to that kind of loopholery that –
Lisa Millar: Loopholery?
Imogen Crump: It’s a new word.
Lisa Millar: It is a very good Tuesday morning word.
Imogen Crump: – You know that potential over centralisation of power and transparency and clarity….
So there you have it. Imogen Crump advocated for the need for clarity shortly after using the word “loopholery”. Can You Bear It?
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) and the Soviet Union’s conquest of the Baltic States.
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. It is currently judged by Jackie – Nancy’s successor.
STEP FORWARD PATRICIA KARVELAS FOR SUGGESTING HYPOCRISY ON THE GRATTAN INSTITUTE’S BEHALF WHEN IT COMES TO POLITICAL HANDOUTS
It’s been a difficult time of late for ABC Radio National presenter Patricia (“Please call me PK”) Karvelas. The Wednesday 24 August edition of Tim Burrowes’ Unmade newsletter is headed “Australia’s most influential radio show has never had fewer listeners. The ABC’s audience problem is getting worse”.
These days your man Burrowes – formerly of Mumbrella, as MWD recalls – is into independent journalism and runs Unmade. The current edition of Unmade challenges the ABC’s claim that RN Breakfast is Australia’s most influential radio show – and asks this question: “Can a radio program which only averages 64,000 listeners across Australia’s five biggest cities really be the most influential?”
Good question. The point here is that in Sydney, 2GB’s Ben Fordham averages 132,000 listeners at breakfast time while in Melbourne 3AW’s Ross Stevenson and Russel Howcroft average 134,000 listeners. Comrade Burrowes makes the point that since PK took over RN Breakfast from Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly at the end of 2021, the program’s audience share has consistently fallen with the one exception of the survey which covered the May 2022 election.
In MWD’s (humble) opinion, RN Breakfast – like so many ABC programs – is boring because it focuses on so many issues which are primarily of interest to the political class with an emphasis on fashionable left-wing causes – some use the term “woke” in this context. It is very much a case of the Green Left talking to the Green Left about the Green Left’s fave causes with little or no debate.
But there is good news for Comrade PK. She has won MWD’s prestigious Five Paws award for her interview with Danielle Wood, the CEO of the Grattan Institute. On 22 August, Comrade Wood was on RN Breakfast to plug the Grattan Institute’s latest report titled New Politics: Preventing Pork-Barrelling. Pork-barrelling is defined as “using public money to target certain voters for political gain”.
As Aaron Patrick wrote in the Australian Financial Review on 23 August, the report “serves as a supporting argument for the Labor government’s planned anti-corruption commission, which the Grattan Institute argues should police politically directed grants”.
The message from the report plugged by ABC fave Danielle Wood on RN Breakfast was that politically directed grants are bad. Towards the end of the interview, Comrade Wood condemned politicians for rolling out creative grant programs in order to get a political advantage. She declared that this is a “waste of taxpayers’ money”. Then PK raised a, er, sensitive matter. Let’s go to the transcript:
Patricia Karvelas: I’m gonna have to ask you this question. I was told by somebody in government that the Grattan Institute actually started because of a discretionary grant. Is that right?
Danielle Wood: It did start with an endowment from the federal [government] –
Patricia Karvelas: Which is apparently a discretionary grant, a political grant.
Danielle Wood: Not the sort of grants that we were looking at in this report. So what we’re looking at is ones where they sort of spread confetti money across the country.
Patricia Karvelas: I suppose the point is, is there any hypocrisy?
Danielle Wood: Uh, it – I don’t think it was done with any political motivation. It was seen that there was a need for an independent think tank that would sit in the political centre and do evidence-based policy and it was set up from scratch so I don’t, I don’t think that would fit within any definition of pork barrelling.
Patricia Karvelas: Danielle Wood, absolute pleasure to speak to you.
Danielle Wood: Thanks for having me Patricia.
Talk about double standards. In 2006 the Howard Coalition established the United States Studies Centre in Sydney with an initial grant of $25 million. There was disappointment that the USSC was to be based in Sydney – not Melbourne. So in 2008 the Rudd Labor government gave a $15 million handout to the Grattan Institute which was matched by $15 million from the Brumby Labor government in Victoria. In other words, a taxpayer funded handout totalling $30 million.
In short, the Grattan Institute is only in existence today because of discretionary grants from Labor governments. As PK implied, it’s somewhat hypocritical for the Grattan Institute’s current leaders to bang on about political pork-barrelling when their own organisation’s initial funding would not pass the standards they now recommend for others.
Patricia Karvelas: Five Paws.
CRIKEY’S MURMURER CHARLIE LEWIS MOCKS LINDA HURLEY – BUT CLAIMS TO HAVE DONE SO WITH AFFECTION
Writing in Nine Entertainment newspapers on 25 August, Chip Le Grand referred to Eric Beecher (chairman, Private Media) and Peter Fray (managing editor, Private Media, editor-in-chief Crikey) as possessing “towering egos”. You can say that again. Which helps to explain why this duo invariably lectures others about the need for high standards in the media and so on.
So how are journalistic standards working out at Crikey these days? – MWD hears you cry. Not too well – it seems.
On 22 August, Crikey published an article by Charlie Lewis, the newsletter’s “Tips and Murmurs” editor. It appears that your man Lewis is paid by Private Media to be funny. You be the judge.
The article was titled “The greatest hits of Her Excellency Linda Hurley”. Comrade Lewis attempted to make a case for Australia becoming a republic by mocking the fact that Mrs Hurley, the Governor-General’s wife, is a Christian who is devoted to singing. She is a member of the Australian Military Wives Choir which provides friendship to women whose husbands/partners are members of the Australian Defence Force. A good cause, don’t you think? And she is known to sing at the Presbyterian Church of St Andrew in Canberra.
In Crikey on 16 August, Comrade Lewis attempted to mock Linda Hurley’s practice of doing hula-hoop exercises in the morning while reading The Bible. Then, on 22 August, your man Lewis, clearly Crikey’s Sneerer-in-Chief, referred to Linda Hurley’s “pristine, unpretentious voice” with “that slight curl of nerves around the edges”. Funny, eh?
Comrade Lewis’ report included a YouTube clip of Mrs Hurley recording a vocal tribute to the Shepherd Centre and commented: “It’s so earnest and literal, like someone writing their first ever poem for a wedding speech.” More abuse. Crikey’s house murmurer made no reference to the fact that the Shepherd Centre is a charity devoted to helping children with severe hearing loss. In short, support for the Shepherd Centre is a worthy cause.
Then on 25 August, Comrade Lewis had another go at the Governor-General’s wife, under the heading “`The weirdest and greatest thing ever’: more praise for Linda Hurley’s singing”. First up, Crikey’s murmurer dismissed any criticism that he had sneered at Mrs Hurley. Not at all, apparently, since it was but a “joke…made with affection”. Really.
It appears that your man Lewis and his superiors Comrades Beecher and Fray believe that good journalism involves mocking the Governor-General’s wife. Sure in the knowledge that Mrs Hurley cannot respond to such third-rate journalism.
Charlie Lewis – Media Fool of the Week.
PAUL BARRY BRIEFLY TRANSITIONS TO ABC CRITIC OVER COVERAGE OF THE UK’s TAVISTOCK CLINIC
On 17 August it was one of those rare occasions on ABC’s Media Watch where host Paul Barry criticises the ABC – this time for the ABC’s lack of coverage of the closure of the UK’s Tavistock gender identity clinic. Avid readers who get their news from non-ABC sources will be aware of the story.
Your man Barry seems to have finally come to the shocking realisation that there may be a little bit of balance lacking within the ABC. Better late than never, as the saying goes. Barry took issue with the ABC’s notable lack of reporting on the announced closure of the Tavistock gender identity service. As he notes, the story was covered by Crikey, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Australian and the Newcastle Herald.
Britain’s National Health Service announced that it will close the Tavistock gender clinic next year in the wake of recommendations from Hilary Cass, former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, who is leading a review into the clinic’s services.
The review found a number of problems with the Tavistock clinic. See if you can pick which one of the below issues raised by the interim Cass report the ABC decided to run with when it finally covered the story on 21 August on ABC News Online? The story was written by Janelle Miles.
- The interim report recommended that regional service centres should be established, as a singular centre is not adequate to deal with the increasing number of young people presenting with gender distress.
- Cass found that“primary and secondary care staff have told us that they feel under pressure to adopt an unquestioning affirmative approach – and that this is at odds with the standard process of clinical assessment and diagnosis that they have been trained to undertake in all other clinical encounters.” – So, essentially, staff were discouraged from practising medicine.
- “Diagnostic overshadowing” was flagged as a significant issue – once young people are identified as having gender distress, their other health issues go unaddressed. Many of the children and young adults referred for gender services at Tavistock had comorbid mental health problems and a third had autism or
- The safety and benefit of puberty blockers – used to delay the onset of puberty – are strongly questioned, with Cass stating that there are “critically important unanswered questions” about their use. The report states that “brain maturation may be temporarily or permanently disrupted…as well as possible longer-term neuropsychological consequences”.
Not surprisingly, the ABC chose to focus on the first problem identified by Dr Cass. It is almost an afterthought in a larger article about a young person’s positive experience of transitioning. The report’s discussion on puberty blockers was explored thoroughly by other news outlets that covered the story – Janelle Miles summed it up with a throwaway reference that the report “did not provide definitive advice on the use of puberty blockers”.
So, in the view of the article – and there is clearly a view being presented – the issue with the Tavistock clinic was simply that there were just not enough children being treated there.
On ABC radio, the issue was covered by Josh Szeps on ABC Sydney Afternoons on 17 August. Your man Szeps presents as more balanced than many of his ABC comrades so doesn’t get much of a run in MWD. Szeps interviewed Professor Philip Morris, President of the National Association of Practising Psychiatrists. Morris offered a nuanced perspective and disagreed with the approach taken by Tavistock and some clinics in Australia.
A different perspective is why Morris and colleagues with similar views have had trouble getting a run on the ABC – as Morris comments to Szeps: “It’s great to be invited, you know, the people who’d been looking at this from the perspective of what’s best for children, have been sort of standing – it’s like being at a dance hall and been waiting for the ABC to offer to take us for a dance”.
As Dr Cass states, there has been a rapid increase in children and young people seeking treatment for gender identity distress – so it is all the more important for the taxpayer funded public broadcaster to present a range of perspectives. If it weren’t for comrades Barry and Szeps, ABC viewers would have no idea there was more than one view on the topic.
By popular demand, Media Watch Dog continues to cover journalists who give soft interviews to the important and self-important alike. You know, the kind of fawning occasion where journalists are oh-so-impressed with their interviewee that no challenging questions are asked and too much gushing’s all the rage. And then there is the fawning comment, sometimes on Twitter.
PATRICIA KARVELAS THANKS JIM CHALMERS FOR GIVING AN HONEST ANSWER, IMMEDIATELY BEFORE HE BEGINS TO CLARIFY IT
MWD fave Patricia (“Call me PK”) Karvelas is this week’s recipient of the prestigious Five Paws Award for her interview with Grattan Institute CEO Danielle Wood. However, in the interest of balance, MWD also wanted to draw attention to an interview PK conducted with Treasurer Jim Chalmers on Thursday 25 August.
Midway through the interview, PK pressed Minister Chalmers on whether he is considering bringing forward the proposed changes to childcare subsidies, which are currently scheduled to begin in July 2023, to January 2023. From the transcript:
Patricia Karvelas: Are you prepared to bring forward the start date for your changes to the childcare system to January 1 next year to boost women’s workforce participation? Is that on the table?
Jim Chalmers: Well obviously we’re up for a conversation about that Patricia, like we are across all of these other issues. But we need to be conscious of the budget constraints. The fact that we have that trillion dollars in debt and it would cost a substantial amount to bring it forward. And there may be other issues around our ability to stack the system up in time as well. But obviously
Patricia Karvelas: But you’re considering it at the moment?
Jim Chalmers: Well people will have views about it, I’ve had a think. I have been considering it – is the truth of it. But there are substantial costs associated with it and there may be some operational difficulties as well that we need to be conscious of.
Jim Chalmers then continued at length about the benefits of the changes. Here is PK’s reaction to the Treasurer’s revelation that he has considered bringing forward the changes:
Patricia Karvelas: Okay. So, of course it would be a higher price tag – that’s how it works, if you brought it forward. You said you have been considering it and thank you for being honest about that. Sometimes in interviews you don’t get that kind of honesty [Chalmers laughs], which is frustrating. So thank you.
So, it was heaps of gratitude from PK because the Treasurer gave her what she viewed as an honest answer. Unfortunately, things took a turn when she asked a follow up:
Patricia Karvelas: So, are you asking your own department, and obviously there is another department that’s involved, to look at ways to try to see if there are ways that you can implement that given that is such a big choke on the economy? Women’s workforce participation?
Jim Chalmers: Well, I don’t want to give Australian parents false hope here. And the reason I was up front with you about the fact that when we came to government. And we obviously had a conversation – Jason Clare, Anne Aly and others – about the best time to start this. But I want to be up front with your listeners Patricia. The cost is most likely prohibitive and there are issues, operational issues, as well.
It seems Jim Chalmers felt the need to immediately start clarifying his previous answer, which had earned praise from PK for being exceptional honest. A cautionary tale about the pitfalls of practising Fawn Again Journalism.
NOW MORE THAN EVER – THE ABC AS WHITE AS A WHITE CRICKET SIGHT SCREEN DESPITE ADVOCATING DIVERSITY (IN OTHERS)
In his booklet Now More Than Ever: Australia’s ABC (Monash University Press, 2022), ABC managing director and editor-in-chief David Anderson declared:
We…know that if the ABC is to be truly effective in representing the diversity of experience in Australian life, we must ourselves achieve greater diversity.
Quite a commitment to be sure. But how is Mr Anderson going in attempting to achieve this outcome? – Media Watch Dog hears avid readers cry. Not too well, it would appear. A couple of examples illustrate the point.
- On 8 August 2022, ABC chair Ita Buttrose AC OBE addressed the ABC’s 90th Anniversary Gala Dinner at the taxpayer funded broadcaster’s inner-city Ultimo headquarters. Halfway through her address, the ABC’s chair praised the ABC and ABC staff. Quelle Surprise. This is what she had to say:
We will never please everybody. We know that. Complaints about the ABC are business as usual. During the term of the previous government, some said ABC journalists went too hard against the government. Others claimed that ABC journalists were somehow cowed and humiliated into compliance. What nonsense! Just look at the work of reporters like Mark Willacy, Louise Milligan, Laura Tingle, Patricia Karvelas and Anne Connolly, fearless and tireless. Resolutely independent.
Now Jackie’s (male) co-owner also has an AC (albeit of a different kind) but does not possess an OBE. Hence his post-nominal “Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous)”. Being a courteous kind of guy, Hendo is gentle with his criticisms of real ACs and more besides. However, he does object to the use of an exclamation mark! (except when used with a sense of irony). Especially when it is used by someone with an AC/OBE package!! For the reason that if a strong point has been made – no exclamation mark is necessary!!! But if the point has not been made – then the use of one or more exclamation marks will not do the job!!!! This, Jackie’s (male) co-owner believes!!!!!
But MWD digresses. It’s difficult to accept Ms Buttrose’s assertion that the ABC journalists she mentioned are “resolutely independent”. [This seems to be the take from Nine Newspapers’ Age and Sydney Morning Herald which claim each day to be “Independent. Always”. Could Nine be about to join the Guardian/ABC Axis? – MWD Editor.]
Perhaps Ita Buttrose is unaware of the fact that 7.30 political correspondent Laura Tingle accused the previous (Morrison) government of “ideological bastardry”. And that Louise Milligan told ABC TV viewers when interviewed by Virginia Trioli on 16 May 2017 on ABC TV News Breakfast that her book Cardinal: the Rise and Fall of George Pell (MUP 2017) was written “from the complainants’ point of view”.
How resolutely independent is that? As for Patricia Karvelas, she barracks for Green Left causes as any objective analysis of her work would indicate.
- There is another point. All names in the ABC Chair’s little list – Comrades Willacy, Milligan, Tingle, Karvelas and Connolly – all present as Anglo-Celtic or, more generally, Western European types. None presents as a person of colour capable of adding to the ABC’s racial diversity.
The reality is depicted in a photograph below demonstrating the Top 20 of ABC’s news and current affairs presenters. Here they are:
Indigenous Australian Stan Grant is the only person of colour in this lot. As MWD has commented previously, the ABC’s fave presenters could fulfil the task of a White Sight Screen behind a fast bowler in a red-ball Cricket Match.
So there you have it. Mr Anderson manages the public broadcaster’s overwhelmingly white presenters and lectures others about the need for diversity. And Ms Buttrose could not find one woman or man of colour to single out for praise when praising some of the ABC’s (allegedly) “resolutely independent” reporters by name.
[To be fair to I.B. AC OBE, her speech was probably drafted by Nick Leys and his team at the ABC Communications Strategy Department. Could it be that your man Leys is besties with the all-white Famous Five – i.e. Comrades Willacy, Milligan, Tingle, Karvelas and Connolly? Just a thought. MWD Editor.]
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.
GERARD HENDERSON AND THE ABC’S JUSTIN STEVENS ON ABC’S (EXTRA) FAKE NEWS ABOUT CARDINAL GEORGE PELL
The ABC is a member of the Right to Know Coalition. But the taxpayer funded broadcaster’s managers and editors rarely answer questions about the ABC or respond to correspondence. It’s much the same with the ABC’s misnamed Communications department headed by Nick Leys and Sally (“No comment”) Jackson – since it rarely communicates with anyone.
Set out below is an email sent on 25 August to Justin Stevens, the Head of ABC News, Analysis and Investigations. It’s no surprise that Mr Stevens did not reply or even acknowledge the correspondence. But it’s worth writing to ABC management – if only to demonstrate the public broadcaster’s unwillingness to communicate with taxpayers who raise considered points with Australia’s very own Conservative Free Zone. Now read on – if you wish (aka s’il vous plait).
Gerard Henderson to Justin Stevens – 24 August 2022
Subject: Re Last night’s ABC News and Current Affairs report on George Pell
Good morning Justin
Congratulations on your promotion to Head of ABC News, Analysis and Investigations.
As you may or may not know, ABC news and current affairs have effectively censored the considered and documented books written by Fr Frank Brennan, Keith Windschuttle and myself following the unanimous decision of the High Court of Australia (on 7 April 2020) to quash Cardinal George Pell’s convictions for historical child sexual abuse. This despite the fact that ABC news and current affairs gave wide scale coverage to Louise Milligan and her book Cardinal before the High Court decision. And despite the fact that Louise Milligan told Virginia Trioli on ABC TV News Breakfast program on 16 May 2017 that her book was written “from the complainants’ point of view”.
* * * * *
It would seem that the ABC’s long campaign against George Pell is continuing. As you will be aware, last night ABC TV devoted 1 minute and 45 seconds to Danny Tran’s report of Justice Michael McDonald’s decision in the case of RWQ v The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne. As Justice McDonald found, George Pell (the second defendant) played no active role in the hearing.
The report commenced as follows:
Presenter: A court has cleared the way for the father of one of George Pell’s alleged victims to continue civil action against the Catholic Church and the Cardinal. The father of the late choirboy, allegedly abused by Cardinal Pell, is suing for compensation, despite the Cardinal’s criminal conviction being quashed by the High Court. [emphasis added].
The reference here is to “RWQ” – who is the father of the man who was referred to as “R” in the County Court of Victoria and “B” in the High Court of Australia. It is both false and misleading for the ABC to describe “RWQ” as the father of one of George Pell’s alleged victims. The High Court of Australia quashed Pell’s convictions with respect to both “J” (the surviving complainant) and “R” (the deceased). Consequently, neither “J” nor “R” can be accurately described as “victims” of Pell – alleged or otherwise.
The High Court unanimously ruled that Pell’s convictions be quashed and verdicts of acquittal entered. The court took the rare step of stating that “there is a significant possibility … that an innocent person has been convicted”. All allegations against Pell at the Cathedral in 1996 were dealt with, and no allegation was sustained. What was alleged against him has been found by the highest court to be unproven. Consequently, the High Court found that “the compounding improbabilities caused by the unchallenged evidence … required the jury, acting rationally, to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant’s guilt”.
The reference to “RWQ” as the father of George Pell’s “alleged victim” would be akin to referring to Mr Chamberlain as “the father of Lindy Chamberlain’s alleged victim”.
In his report, Danny Tran failed to tell ABC viewers that evidence presented to the County Court of Victoria – which was accepted by Chief Judge Kidd along with the prosecution and defence alike – was that “R” told his mother that he had never been sexually abused. Also, Chief Judge Kidd found that “R”’s death was not related to anything that may have occurred in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in the mid-1990s.
In my view, a fair report by the ABC of the latest development concerning Cardinal Pell would have included these facts.
cc: David Anderson, Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, ABC
* * * *
Until next time.
* * * * *