The ABC’s biggest wankfest is off and running: the 2007 Local Radio Awards, possibly the self-obsessed broadcaster’s most self-indulgent exercise.

Program makers wonder about the quarter mill it seems to cost to fly all the finalists into one place, wine and dine them, put them up, give them travel allowance, taxi vouchers, just so they can sniff each others’ bums and give each other gongs. Are these the ABC’s priorities?

Management legitimise it by inviting pollies from all persuasions. At last year’s awards, held in Adelaide, the guest of honour in Adelaide was La Donna Vanstone, flanked by former lord mayor turned Labor minister and lady muck Jane Lomax-Smith.

Many ABC staff – even in local radio – think this is all a scandal, but they won’t speak out about it because they know it’s ABC Radio director Sue Howard and senior VP at ABC News Paul Mason’s baby. They watched their “yes” men and women climb the corporate ladder while the unbelievers are dropped in quicksand.

Its methods of operation are open to question, too. Everyone was shocked one year when Jon Faine was named as a finalist, even though the individual state selection committee that was choosing the finalists for that category had ruled out his entry. The national committee overruled the local committee and, surprise, surprise — Faine won on the night.