A tweet from the ABC’s Mark Colvin caught my eye last night:
Fairfax mgmt spox @ SMH today, asked if paywall will be undermined by ABC: “After next election, I don’t think the ABC will be a problem”.
— Mark Colvin (@Colvinius) June 18, 2012
Then today this pops up on the front of The Australian:
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
Given the market vacuum opening, Australia can no longer afford a heavily taxpayer-funded ABC locked into a fashionable “writers festival” political culture that caters to a dedicated “true believer” minority. The ABC carries a special responsibility at this point in history.
That means commitment to the central policy questions: the decline in productivity and competitiveness, rising protectionism, the need for tax reform, the implications of industrial re-regulation, the loss of trust in politics, the rise of entitlement, the ramifications of population ageing, the resources boom and lethargy in education and health systems.
It requires an approach more mainstream, more intellectual and more independent.
The media restructuring should mean a greater journalistic onus with opportunity for the public broadcasters.
While there is a lot of deserved attention being paid to the future of Fairfax in light of Gina Rinehart’s current play for control, should we actually be asking about whether the ABC is about to cop yet another thrashing from their competitors, and perhaps the Coalition?
It’s a potentially frightening echo of James Murdoch’s 2009 speech where he called for the BBC to be reined in to remove competition for commercial operators. If Fairfax believe that the ABC will not “be a problem” after the next election, does it matter who owns them? The statement from Fairfax seems to be a fairly clear call for the Coalition to neuter the ABC, to reduce its reach and prevent it from competing with the commercial news providers who are hoping that new paywalls will save their businesses. Under these circumstances can Fairfax’s editorial independence, which journalists are rightly trying to protect, mean anything if their commercial survival hinges on electing a Coalition government?
Meanwhile, Kelly’s call for the ABC to become “more mainstream” is nothing more than an attempt to shift the goal posts and define anyone that doesn’t share the worldview of The Australian as being a fringe dweller. Indeed, it’s worth holding the paper that Kelly is published in up against the demands he makes of the ABC, for example, where was The Australian when high income earners squealed about losing their private health insurance rebate? Questioning entitlement mentality? Not when they could take the opportunity to bash the ALP.
While we regularly question some aspects of the ABC here at Pure Poison we also realise that the ABC is a vital part of Australian democracy that needs to be protected and properly resourced, let’s hope that an ABC even further diminished is not in our future.