Queensland
Liberal Santo Santoro and Greens’ leader Bob Brown share an
obsession with the ABC’s news and current affairs output. Senator
Santo frets and worries about bias and the use of banned words and
phrases like “ours” and Senator Bob
frets and obsesses about the bias against the Greens.

As we reported yesterday Senator
Santo used Monday’s Senate Estimates hearing on the ABC to reveal the
extent of his obsession with 973 questions, more than 2,500 pages of
transcripts of ABC broadcasts, dozens of tapes and 28 monitors across
the country constantly listening to and watching the programs
transmitted by the national broadcaster.

And in the same hearing Sideshow Bob revealed a similar fascination for numbers, percentages and share:

Senator BOB BROWN – I have here the figures – Mr Green, you
would be aware of these – of the ABC’s Election Coverage Review
Committee for the last election campaign, in which the Greens got over
seven per cent of the vote in both houses of parliament. But the Rehame
report which followed the election showed that between 29 August and 9
October, which was the review period of the election, the Greens got on
radio only 5.2 per cent of the coverage; on television, 4.5 per cent;
and online, 3.5 per cent. Can you explain that?

Mr Green – The figures are before you. Are you suggesting that there is some problem with that?

Senator
BOB BROWN – Yes. I am suggesting it is right out of kilter – that the
Greens got just over 50 per cent of the coverage from the national
broadcaster that their vote indicated and that successive opinion polls
had indicated they ought to have had in a fair, unbiased run to the
election.

Mr Green – The percentages that you have in front of
you are a reflection of the stories that were covered in the context of
the election. There is not necessarily any correlation between those
figures and what primary vote may be achieved in the election outcome.
I do not have those figures in front of me, but my recollection in
terms of dealing with this matter is that that percentage varies widely
in different parts of the country; so this is an Australia wide average
in terms of percentage of air time.

Senator BOB BROWN –
According to these figures, the sitting member in Cunningham, Michael
Organ, a Green, had 11 minutes and 28 seconds of voice time; however,
the coalition got 16 minutes and 53 seconds, and the ALP got 17 minutes
and 21 seconds. Here you have a sitting member being cheated out of
reasonable coverage in his own electorate. Can you explain that?

Mr Green – The brief to the programmers was that Mr Organ should be treated the same as the other parties.

Senator
BOB BROWN – I put it to you that that is very clear bias and that the
ABC is being influenced by the continued right-wing attacks, by the
continued attacks of the far Right, and is moving to give some succour
to the whingers and complainers of the Right and to give them some
unjustified comfort by this drift away from the neutrality and the
balance of the past. It is inexplicable to me that a sitting member
should be so shoddily covered by the ABC in a district. You were saying
districts were loaded. Well, they are loaded in the wrong direction, if
you ask me, Mr Green. The ABC TV news in Tasmania provided 7.7 per cent
of coverage to the Greens but they got 13 per cent of the vote. Polling
had consistently shown that that was the minimum level of vote to be
expected in the Senate. Half of that is about where the ABC comes in in
terms of coverage. Don’t you think that the Green electorate has a
right to fair and equal coverage from the ABC?”

Sideshow
Bob is a touchy green, isn’t he? At least he uses an external
monitoring service Rehame rather than the shadowy group that Senator
Santo uses.