At the precise point in history when it could be most needed by Australians, why is the ABC diverting attention from its core broadcasting mission by attempting to enter the world of “soft diplomacy”?
Last week’s speech by ABC managing director Mark Scott advocates the creation of an expensive new ABC global television service as “an important way of putting Australian democracy on display, putting Australian values on display”.
But there’s a much more important place for the ABC to put Australian democracy on display — at home. At a time when commercial media is grappling with a business model that may no longer sustain serious journalism, the ABC’s role has never been more critical, or sensitive.
Scott’s foray into international diplomacy coincides with a growing public campaign mounted against the ABC and BBC by the Murdoch empire, which wants to muscle public broadcasters out of producing free quality content so the commercial media sector (mainly itself) can monopolise the field and charge for its “quality journalism”.
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The Murdoch war on public broadcasting must be regarded as a serious threat to the independence and funding of the ABC and BBC, if only because of News Corporation’s considerable reserves of political capital and its track record of harnessing that capital ruthlessly in its own commercial self-interest.
Surely Mark Scott, who has been articulate in running the ABC and leading the defence against the Murdoch assault, must see that by engaging in flights of empire building of his own, he is creating a golden opportunity for his harshest critics to attack him in vulnerable territory.
Australia, not the world, needs the ABC more now than ever. This is not the time to build global empires.