Announcing his new ABC editorial policies, ABC Managing Director Mark Scott singled out Media Watch for comment, noting:
I have encouraged the Director of Television to work with the Media Watch team to review their format and content next year to ensure there is more opportunity for debate and discussion around contentious and important issues. It is a popular program, has a loyal following and I hope, a long future at the ABC.
Mr Scott plans, obviously, to abolish Media Watch and create something quite different.
My concept was the equivalent of an opinion column – all it ever was was one person’s opinion of media performance over the past week.
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If Media Watch is to become a place where debate flourishes (rather than the expression of comments) and different voices are heard, it will certainly not be Media Watch. It will be The 7.30 Report.
Or it could be an entirely new program – possibly called “media issues”, in which Alan Jones is given yet another platform from which to say why it’s perfectly all right for him to take cash for comment, or to plagiarise other extreme-right demagogues, or to pass off Freddy Forsyth’s latest spy novel as his own real-world research.
It would be interesting to see the executive producer of A Current Affair justify the nasty garbage he broadcasts; and Piers Akerman explain himself; and the editors of Murdoch’s tabloids dissemble about newspapers’ right to exploit the community’s most offensive prejudices, I suppose.
But it certainly wouldn’t be Media Watch. The place for that would be Four Corners.
I created Media Watch as a critical review of the standards of journalism in Australia. The essence of the concept is that it is an expression of critical opinion – not the ABC’s opinion, not a debate or a diversity of views. The ABC under David Hill and Brian Johns gave total support to that concept. Jonathan Shier did not.
It’s nice that Mr Scott describes Media Watch as popular, and with a long future. It’s less attractive that he wants a new format and different content.
Mr Scott has no experience of television production, I understand, which must be something of a handicap. Can I simply suggest to him, from my perspective as someone with a little familiarity with the creation, writing and presentation of television programs, that his concept of a castrated Media Watch has absolutely no future?