David Flint’s “Defence of the shock jocks” in The Australian
this morning is more of the bilge we have come to expect from him. He
is, remember, the author of those gushing “Dear Alan” letters penned to
The Parrot during his disastrous time as chairman of the now defunct
Australian Broadcasting Authority.
It would waste space here to
rebut his usual litany of arch-reactionary twaddle. Enough to say that
Flint has been wrong about everything from the Iraq War to the Cash for
Comment Inquiry (from which, oh dear, he had to withdraw in confusion
after a blundering on-air chat with John Laws).
But it is worth
highlighting his ignorance of the workings of talkback radio. If I have
his drift, Flint seems to believe that the open line is the undefiled
answer to that conspiracy of the left-wing media “elites” he finds
plotting at every keyboard.
“While they [the lefty elitists] can filter their letter columns, they just cannot control talkback,” he blathers.
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Talkback callers are invariably asked what they want to say before they
go on air. This is to discard the lunatics, the drunks, the defamatory
and the sub-judice. But it also allows the presenter to select which
opinions to put to air. Some of us try to choose a representative cross
section. Alan Jones, when he was at 2UE, was notorious for airing only
those callers who agreed with him, or who wanted to brown nose him, or
– better still – do both. I doubt that he has changed at 2GB.
the event of a caller pulling a swifty and daring to disagree with the
oracle, it is simple to fade the volume and talk over the top, end the
call or, if things get desperate, chop it with the seven second delay
system. It is an editorial process as easily manipulated as the letters
pages or the opinion columns. The startling thing is that a former
chair of the ABA does not have a clue that this is so.
of Flint’s dopey notions is that “in the past 10 years, the ascent of
John Howard has given a new impetus and authority to talkback. He chose
not to have his words mediated and interpreted by a hostile media.
Instead, through talkback radio and also breakfast television, he
speaks directly to the people…”
This is pure smarm. When
Howard’s in trouble he will appear only with those presenters who,
either by ignorance or design, give him an arm-chair ride. You’re doing
a wonderful job for Australia, Prime Minister…why, thank you, Alan. It
is magnificent, no doubt, but it is not journalism.
Flint’s rant about the supposed failure of multiculturalism (along with some similar floss from Miranda Devine in the SMH today) is merely more of the new political correctness from the new elite they presume to speak for.
worked perfectly well before the Howard government came along. But, as
Malcolm Fraser said at Melbourne University last month, “ the [Liberal]
party has become a party of fear and reaction. It is conservative and
not liberal. It has not led in positive directions, it has allowed and,
some would say, promoted race and religion to be part of today’s
With a lot of help from David Flint’s friendly shock jocks, of course.
And David Flint responds:
Carlton’s email is a textbook example of that logical fallacy,
argumentum ad hominem. I shall recommend it for use in the classroom.
While a presenter can attempt to filter talkback, at least you get
through. Compare that to the letters columns. And if a presenter tries
to censor views, the audience soon wakes up to that, and can change the
dial. The PM doesn’t back away from the hostile interview – in fact he
shines in them. The choice of the programmes he appears on probably has
more to do with their ratings, which for some reason upsets Mr Carlton.