I have the utmost regard for Louise Adler. As someone who’s worn many
hats in her varied career – publisher, broadcaster, academic – Louise
is a ruthless defender of her own patch.

And she’s done a pretty good job as spruiker for Melbourne University
Publishing throughout the Latham media stoush. However, Louise is way
out of line accusing the ABC of unprofessionalism in rushing its Latham
interviews to air while praising News Ltd as “terrific media partners”.
One only needs to take the vaguest glance at the chronology of this saga to confirm where the fault rests.

As well documented by Crikey last week, it was News Ltd, through its
various mastheads, that broke ranks and started revealing bits of
Latham’s vitriol several days ahead of the scheduled release of the
diary extracts in the Weekend Australian. The ABC rushed to air because
the value of its interviews were being undermined by the revelations in
the Murdoch papers. Whether it was right for the ABC to put Enough Rope
to air in place of Lateline is another matter, but there was certainly
nothing wrong with the ABC protecting the value of its Latham material
after News Ltd started letting loose bits of the extracts.

As for Lateline vs Enough Rope, Andrew Denton’s successful lobbying of
Russell Balding to air Enough Rope in place of Lateline is a disturbing
watershed moment in the life of the national broadcaster.

The producer and presenter of an outsourced entertainment program was
able to wield more influence than an in-house news & current
affairs program. Enough Rope got its Latham interview as part of a
promotional deal with News Ltd and MUP. Lateline got its Latham
interview through good journalism. As a news & current affairs
program, Lateline didn’t have, or at least shouldn’t have had, any
obligation to abide by deals with outside commercial interests. In any
case, if you believe Peter Charlie, the EP of Lateline, it was never
his intention to upstage Enough Rope. This is not the first time ABC
management has sacrificed the independence of its own journalists for
the sake of appeasing outside interests, but the high profile nature of
this case shows that management no longer bothers to make a pretence of
covering it up.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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