The ABC and Independent Thought
With all the talk of ‘fake’ news coming from certain self-serving politicians these days, it has always been reassuring to me that in Australia we have an independent news service in the ABC, as well as other ABC radio, television and online programs made by skilled producers with integrity and honesty being the core of their daily labour.
Ever noticed how the people who are talking most about ‘fake’ news are actually creating it themselves? They make up one tweet and if that doesn’t float, they can just as easily make up another. Unfortunately people keep reading this sensationalism. But it’s now reached a point of serious dimensions, with these tweeters and opinion-leaders being some of the very same people who are making attacks on our own publicly-funded independent broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation – which continues to report facts, not fakery.
The ABC has suffered budget cuts of $400 million over the last four years. How much more flak can it take?
And it’s happening at a time when despite the potential of globalised communication technologies to open up our thinking, there’s an increasing trammelling of our ideas along channels of commercialisation: for example, the collection of data in order to sell us commodities; the requests to allow Google/Facebook/Twitter to know where we are in order to track our movements during the day for security or commercial interests.
Australians need a communications network that has proven it can be trusted for the facts in news reporting and a humanitarian approach in programming. These standards are what the ABC stands for.
This credo is based on an understanding of the role of one pillar of democracy, the fourth estate, to hold those in power accountable to the people who have elected them to office. That’s what public broadcasting is about. That, and its role in reflecting our society to us as it is, through educational and entertainment programs, rather than swamping us with imported product that reflects the values of other more dominating cultures in the world.
Sure, there are many media outlets that produce fake or at least commercially self-interested news – and the ABC is not associated with them. Here are some examples:
Many commercial ‘women’s magazines’ actually concoct photos of celebrities from made-up stories and use a convoluted process of false checking to justify alleged quotes.(https://www.facebook.com/ABCMediaWatch/videos/photoshopping-jen-and-brad/2102916236449511/)
Some commercial TV presenters encourage censure, judgement and even lewd offensive language against women while pretending that it was the fault of a junior female producer in allowing the incident to occur. (https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/jul/02/sky-news-presenters-apologise-hanson-young-leyonhjelm)
A commercial television breakfast show slides into advertorial to promote chocolates even though it has run a story about the harm in Australians’ obsession with sugar. Hypocrisy, you might ask?(https://twitter.com/ABCmediawatch/status/1004681937439477762)
I could go on … pointing out the deficits of commercial media influenced so heavily by the financial interests of their owners, in line with advertisers’ payments. And how much they’d like the ABC out of the way, or ‘privatised’ – as if that would be helpful to Australians, in the regions or cities – yet another privatisation so people have to pay individually for what has previously been a public service paid for out of general taxes.
Instead I’ll point to the ABC’s long-term trustworthy reputation, and the steady stream of supporters of the ABC who made their way to the Teachers Federation Conference Centre near Central in Sydney on Sunday – until it was brimming with goodwill and precious reminiscence about the ABC’s special position in our democracy to reflect the public’s values.
Among those attending were some legendary names:
Tom Keneally declared his imagination was formed by the ABC when he was young;
Magda Szubanski called the budget cuts to the ABC ‘an attack on the soul of this nation’;
Kerry O’Brien said support for the ABC was strong across the political spectrum and the welfare of the ABC was something too important to allow for political ‘divisions and divisiveness’ about it.
We live in serious times when the Liberal Party’s peak council has recently voted in favour of privatising the ABC. Easy to say but devastating in its possible repercussions.
Let’s get serious and express our support for the ABC.
You can contact https://www.abcfriends.org.au
And you also have the power of your vote at election time.
Text: Christine Williams – I trained as a journalist in ABC Television and Radio News, and went on to work on programs in Talks & Documentaries, Education and Young People’s Programs. Although the names of the programs are now long forgotten – The Other End of the Dial, Class of ’82 – I’m still a regular watcher of, and listener to, the ABC, and I know that a credo of honesty still holds sway throughout the organisation.
Photos: www.smsa.org.au/tom-keneally-centre/; wiki; Christine Williams