It’s clear that there is institutional bias in ABC news and current
affairs broadcasting. This bias is overwhelmingly anti-conservative and
is demonstrated by the many examples I have presented to the Senate via
estimates hearings and in speeches since 2002.
does a magnificent job in providing Australians with a public broadcast service.
I have always made that point. Indeed I recently gave public credit to the ABC
at the additional estimates hearings last February for its coverage of the
Boxing Day tsunami.
broadcasting of this sort is a vital part of Australia’s
heritage and there is unquestionably a place for the ABC as a public broadcaster
and for the high levels of public funding now provided to it.
My complaint is neither with the broad scope
of ABC programming (although some of its entertainment programming is decidedly
outré), nor with the overwhelming majority of broadcast and support staff
employed by the ABC.
It is simply that the natural bias of many of
its leading broadcasters, coming as they do from a background in liberal arts
and working in a broadcast culture that has (wrongly) come to presume that it
possesses the only acceptable wisdom in political and social affairs, is
permitted by the ABC to flow through into what is broadcast on the publicly
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I do not believe this is the result of
direction (no one is making these people do this). In fact, the problem is much
worse: it is that there is no acceptable direction of broadcasters by the
management of the ABC that results in proper balance and objective
The bias manifests itself in many ways:
- The ABC charter requires it to perform as
Australia’s public broadcaster, presenting a full range of views from within the
Australian community and globally in an objective and even-handed
- It has instead allowed itself the indulgence
of taking on the role of leading the way in social advance – so-called social
advance. It manifests itself in increasing bias towards “progressive” thought
that plainly does not mirror the attitudes of the bulk of the Australian people.
It demonstrates this by denigrating people and points of view that do not fit
the received wisdom of the liberal arts community.
- It shows itself in ridiculous examples such as
the editorial ban on referring to Australian Defence Force personnel serving in
Iraq as “our troops” on the specious grounds that “the ABC does not own the
The ABC has tried to justify its editorial ban
on the use of ‘our troops’ on the grounds of balance but that is Orwellian
newspeak: it is perfectly feasible for an Australian broadcaster to
refer to “our troops” while still presenting balanced and objective reporting of
their role overseas. Nowhere in its charter is the ABC required to
be an arm of the extra-parliamentary opposition.
These problems have been growing within the
ABC for the past three decades.
It would be invidious outside the Senate
examination process to single out individuals who from my point of view lapse in
their duty to be completely objective on air. But the leading ABC news
and current affairs programmes AM, PM, The World Today, The 7.30 Report, Lateline and Four Corners have become the chief vehicles for pushing a
My only objective in pursuing issues of bias
and lack of balance in ABC broadcasting is to ensure that the ABC meets the
requirement of its charter to present balanced news and commentary on Australian
and world affairs.
This is an objective that clearly matches the
legitimate demands of the many Australians who themselves believe the ABC has allowed its broadcast material to become the
plaything of special interest groups and a vehicle for putting forward
particular views on social and political issues.
Many Australians make contact with me in
regard to their own complaints about the ABC. Many more have done so since last
week’s estimates hearing. The issue of imbalance and bias in ABC
broadcasting can be resolved immediately by ABC management if it has the will to
do so. A determination to perform this significant public service should be
enforced by the Board of the ABC.
There is no requirement for a new charter or
changes to the existing charter.