With friends like these, their ABC hardly needs enemies

May 04, 2018

With friends like the green left activist fringe and the heart of groupthink in the Canberra Press Gallery, the ABC hardly needs enemies. After the ABC’s political editor Andrew Probyn was called out for bias by the broadcasting regulator, the national broadcaster has received support from all the wrong quarters.

Australian Conservatives policy is to revise the ABC’s charter to guarantee impartiality, limit funding and to the merge the ABC with SBS.

An opinion piece in The Australian newspaper reports the Australian Communications and Media Authority upheld a complaint about Probyn’s unsubstantiated and opinionated attack on former prime minister Tony Abbott in a piece to camera during a news report last October on the main ABC national television bulletin.

Probyn asserted that Abbott was “the most destructive politician of his generation,” as he reported on a climate change speech the former prime minister made in London.

Whatever you think of Abbott, the Coalition or the global warming debate, this was an open and shut case of strong and contentious opinion being conveyed as fact in a news reports. This was Auntie caught showing her slip.

The ABC’s tactical response was to keep schtum. If the $1.1 billion plus communications behemoth, its myriad programs and 4000 employees could just keep quiet on the episode for a while, it might just blow over. Not a bad tactic.

Doing next to nothing has often worked in the past. The national broadcaster has traditionally responded to constant claims of green left bias by recruiting more high profile green left contributors. Defiance and denial seems to work because they have never encountered a communications minister prepared to take them on. Probyn most likely is being lionised within ABC ranks for sticking a finger in the air, not only to conservatives but to all those who would have the ABC pay more than lip service to its charter.

Probyn was a news reporter working for the public broadcaster and he relayed his own jaundiced and, as it happens, extreme view of Abbott as fact. This is the problem that surfaces time and again at the ABC. It is bound by its charter to be objective and pluralistic. It is not. That is a fact.

To read Chris Kenny’s full article, click here.

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