Thursday, August 17, 2006

ABC cheered

In The Australian today, Herald Sun columnist Paul Gray contributes another of his occasional columns continuing his searing criticism of the ABC’s “endemic culture of ideological bias”.

It should not be assumed that Gray is a reflexive right-wing wingnut though, since not long ago he very sensibly wrote a column condemning the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which he opined “was the one thing worse than a crime; it was a mistake. ... it has emerged as one of the West’s great foreign policy debacles in modern times”. Further, Gray called for “someone” to apologise to Mark Latham because retrospectively he (Latham) was correct in opposing the war in Iraq (“Apologise to Latham”, The Australian, 21 March 2006).

In today’s column, Gray calls for “credit where it’s due”, and gives “two cheers to the ABC”, because “at last, Aunty shows signs of taking some conservatives seriously”. Gray’s ebullience seems primarily due to the ABC’s “excellent coverage” and “sensible treatment” of “provocative conservative thinker” Mark Steyn’s recent visit to Australia.

I couldn’t agree more that the ABC gave excellent accommodation of Steyn’s views, notably the latter’s call to invade and conquer Syria, in order to effect regime change there and set up another beacon of democracy in the Middle East (Lateline, ABC-TV, 9 August 2006). With the recently invaded and conquered Iraq rendered a catastrophic basketcase, the thought of doing it all again in Syria really is a truly “provocative” idea. Thanks Mr Steyn, thanks Aunty.

Another positive sign of the ABC’s rehabilitation, according to Gray, was the recent incident where Helen Razer pulled the plug on her interview with film-maker Bob Weis, when Weis accused historian and ABC board member Keith Windschuttle of “Holocaust denial” over his published views on Aboriginal history.

Gray has some ideas as to why we might be seeing this supposed thaw in the ABC’s ideological winter: “Perhaps new ABC managing director Mark Scott ... is changing the culture as no MD has done before. Or perhaps the new board of directors is asserting itself.” Hmm, and perhaps Gray could flip a coin to settle that particular question, since he doesn’t appear to have any real insight on it.

Or perhaps Gray’s perception of the ABC’s ideological bias is based on a narrow and selective audit from the profusion of ABC programming. He opines that “the ABC’s main problem goes beyond news and current affairs. It’s also about lifestyle and entertainment shows, where there is no charter requirement for impartiality, such as theoretically holds sway (very theoretically, you might say) in news and current affairs.”

In support of this line of criticism, Gray cites: “Unfunny jokes about setting fire to the Pope on The Glasshouse, gay kisses on Spicks and Specks and extended Andrew Denton interviews with eccentric Christian ‘peace campaigners’ who attack military bases...”

So, out of thousands of hours of programming, Gray has managed to point to perhaps an hour of content that he finds objectionable, arguably on somewhat narrow and subjective criteria.

Has Gray identified a really serious problem here? Or perhaps it should more rightly be asked: Is Gray really serious?


Post a Comment

<< Home