Those guardians of truth on the board of the ABC are absolutely right to be
concerned about the national broadcaster being captured by self-serving elites –
so here’s hoping that Windschuttle, Albrechtsen and Co. finally do something about
Australian Story
.


Screening in the prime-time slot of 8pm Mondays, the Walkley-award-winning Australian Story
is the preferred program for people who want to be profiled in an
unambiguously positive light, untarnished by difficult questions or opposing
voices. The show has a long history of puff pieces – including a misleading profile of Bali Nine drug smuggler Scott Rush which failed to detail his prior convictions and a half-hour weepy on how the media had airbrushed David Hookes’s “other woman” out of his life story which conveniently didn’t mention that she was one of several.

Then there’s last night’s episode – a half-hour hagiography on the
life of Wizard Home Loans founder and Packer mate Mark Bouris.


Interspersed with lots of footage featuring the handsome
tycoon playing devoted dad, dedicated son, diligent boss and die-hard footy fan,
there were glowing tributes to Mark from his family, his employees and his
mates, including James Packer who, along with his late dad, was a big investor in
Wizard.

Mark also said lots of things about himself, his business, his family and
the Packers. The episode was called Making a Mark but a better title might
have been The Corporate George Clooney. Just by the by, there was mention of the fact that Mark has ambitions to
launch a bank to go up against the big four. And we also heard about plans to
take the Wizard brand to the world, with the Packer empire again being offered a
cut of the action. As James Packer revealed last night, Consolidated Press
Holdings made five times its initial investment of $25 million when Wizard was
sold in late 2004 to GE Money for more than $400 million.

When Bouris sold his
stake in Wizard he took his payment in GE stock instead of cash, and he is still
Wizard’s chairman. In Packer’s estimation, the Wizard founder is obviously the antithesis of
Jodee Rich, and it was an indication of the billionaire’s regard for him that he
was prepared to make a rare appearance on a network he doesn’t own to sing
Bouris’s praises and and plug their new venture.


The only vaguely discordant note came when Mark’s mum complained that he
spent all his time either working, with his kids or watching footy. She felt he
needed to find another interest. We were led to believe that there were armies
of women just dying to get his attention, with various references made to his
babe-magnet aura.


Bouris’s achievements in business are
undoubtedly impressive, but is it the role of a public broadcaster to devote
precious airtime to a puff piece when the man and his business partners
have enough financial clout to pay for positive spin? It was a fine corporate
video but lousy public television and lazy journalism.


But don’t hold your breath waiting for the ABC board to insist that
Australian Story lift its game.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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