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, Ms Adler is way
out of line when she accuses Lateline of unprofessionalism for interviewing Latham outside the agreement that Latham had with Enough Rope, MUP and News Ltd.

At the same time as she questions the integrity of Lateline,
Adler describes News Ltd as “terrific media partners,” cheerfully
ignoring the fact the Murdoch papers started the fight by breaching
their own embargo.

Adler is essentially saying that an ABC News and Current Affairs
program should go soft in pursuing the biggest political story in a
long while because an outsourced entertainment program has entered into
a deal with outside commercial interests.

If Aunty’s News and Current affairs division were to take that
attitude, it would be surrendering its professionalism and
independence. 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 presenter of an outsourced entertainment program (Denton owns the company that makes Enough Rope) was able to wield more influence with ABC management than an in-house news and 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 and Current Affairs program, Lateline didn’t have
any obligation to abide by a deal made by another program with outside
commercial interests. This is not the first time ABC management has
sacrificed the independence of its own journalists for the sake of
appeasing outside interests (Denton’s company is an outside interest),
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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