Yesterday I was cancelled by SBS. For those who do not know it, SBS is an Australian taxpayer-funded TV station known affectionately as the Soviet Broadcasting System. Its purpose is to give the Left a second TV station (after the ABC) of their own.
Knowing these things, I was shocked on Tuesday when Miss Worthington of SBS phoned to discuss having me on an Insight edition to be called “Women in Islam” (inspired by the cat meat comments of the Grand Mufti).
Out of fairness to Miss Worthington I gave her the usual cautions – do you know that I am a right winger, that I think SBS is a pack of Lefties, that the Comrades would not want me anywhere near, that I have very strong views on Muslims etc?
I even referred her to my blog setting out my views. She was comfortable with all that and carried out a long formal “pre-interview” of my views. About an hour later she emailed me to say “after consulting my colleagues we believe you will make a valuable contribution to the program”. Yesterday morning she contacted me again about arrangements for my flight to Sydney.
Then something happened. Apparently there must then have been another meeting of the Comrades — probably of the Central Committee — and as a result it was decided that Miss Worthington had got it wrong and I was to be uninvited, no reason given other than they had too many people on the show – “it was decided we had too many talent and need to cut back”.
Miss Worthington then sent me an email headed SBS Forum Cancellation – although the forum has not cancelled, just me.
I am concerned for poor Miss Worthington. Will Yezhov make her disappear for committing Acts Against the Safety and Security of SBS? I hope not, but I did try to warn her.
The interesting thing is that I am very well qualified to speak at this forum. I am a taxpaying, white, Anglo-Celtic, fourth generation Australian. I have been a criminal lawyer for over 40 years, I am very well read on Muslim issues, I have a high media profile and comment regularly on radio, TV and the newspapers on current issues, including Islam. My views, although conservative, reflect mainstream Australia.
Does any of this matter? I don’t think so. Do I really care? Not at all. But perhaps it is a small illustration of how difficult it is for people like me to be heard on SBS and the ABC.
Allan Hogan, Executive Producer of Insight, writes: Re. “How I was ‘cancelled’ by the SBS politbureau” (3 November, item 2). It’s flattering to know that Peter Faris actually cares he was cancelled by Insight. At least he doesn’t accuse us of being irrelevant or boring or unwatched. He’s just mad he didn’t get a gig. Our crime, it would appear, is being a bunch of communists. Apparently, in a forum of 40 guests discussing the Muslim community, the absence of Mr Faris will tilt the scales dramatically in favour of Soviet totalitarianism. And I thought I had managed to keep my change of name from Stalin to Hogan a deep secret. My years at 60 Minutes (no communists there!!) taught me that mad, inflammatory people make great television forums — perfect if you’re looking for a heated stoush. It was with that in mind that I asked Associate Producer Anne Worthington to contact Mr Faris, following the publication of his intriguing views about rape and the justice system. For a while I thought he could make a useful, or at least noisy contribution to the debate. But, as is often the case in organising a guest list of 40 people for our forums, as some guests drop out and others become available it’s a challenge to maintain a balance between opposing voices. Sometimes the only way to maintain that balance is to uninvite people who have already been invited. It’s embarrassing, and I apologise to Mr Faris, but it would be more embarrassing to make an unbalanced program. Well, that’s what the Comrades of the Central Committee reckon anyway. Our program this Tuesday (SBS TV, 7.30pm) will include a range of voices on the role of women in Islamic societies, and on the reaction to Sheikh Hilaly’s controversial sermon. The success of the program will not be diminished by the absence of Mr Faris.