The darker side of public broadcasters

Adrian Hempel writes: Re. “Caro’s flotsam and jetsam: Rorschach tests Schapelle, Woody and the ABC” (yesterday). I agree with Jane Caro’s assessment that the BBC One nature documentary video she showcased yesterday is evidence of the quality of output of public broadcasters. I wonder, though, if she’s aware of the background of the video she featured immediately before it. It tells another story of public broadcasters and the political pressures to which they are often subjected.

The video is of a recent speech given by Irish drag performer Panti Bliss (aka Rory O’Neill), and was prompted by recent actions of RTE, the Irish public broadcaster. In a recent appearance on an RTE television chat show, Panti was engaged in a discussion on same-sex marriage. Without naming names, she used the word “homophobic” to describe some opponents to Irish same-sex marriage. After being pressed by the host, Panti named a conservative Catholic lobby group and two journalists.

In response to subsequent legal threats, RTE issued an apology to those named, removed the interview from its website, and (perhaps most controversially) paid 85,000 euro of Irish taxpayers’ funds to the “aggrieved”.

A new way to go

Bruce Graham writes: Re. “Toyota decision should herald the immediate end of car tariffs” (Tuesday). Bernard Keane is correct that we really do not need any of those car import duties any more. But do we really want more and cheaper cars? Are Bangkok and Delhi our models of a modern functional city? Los Angeles perhaps? Or is London more appealing? The car industry consistently argued against anything that would inhibit the sale of cars (sales taxes, registration levies) or the use of cars (fuel taxes), and particularly lobbied against taxes that were biased against big (Australian-made) cars.

A truly rational car policy, devoid of industry concerns, would include congestion taxes, sales taxes, and increased fuel taxes. The differential effects on rural drivers wold still need to be considered in a nuanced policy shift.  I am not holding my breath.

Gavin Greenoak writes: In view of the withdrawal of Toyota and the closure of GM Holden, and the fact that the contribution by the classical petrol engine to anthropogenic global warming has been calculated to be as high as 60%, has no visionary seen the unprecedented opportunity thus presented? Are we to abandon an infrastructure, and skilled workforce when it might readily become the very nucleus of meeting the clear and obvious need for a different means of future travel?

Keep free TV free

Julie Flynn, CEO of Free TV Australia, writes: Re. “Television: the land where the age of entitlement never ends” (yesterday). Bernard Keane and Glenn Dyer’s latest diatribe is misleading and wrongheaded. Commercial free-to-air broadcasters continue to be the most heavily taxed and regulated broadcasters in the developed world. Last year free TV broadcasters spent $1.36 billion on Australian content and remain the major underwriters of the Australian production sector.

Australian viewers do rely on free-to-air television, but we know they are accessing content in a variety of ways, and broadcasters are changing and innovating to meet that challenge. We will continue to argue for a regulatory environment that recognises those changes and enables the industry to continue to deliver quality Australian programming to all Australians for free.

What does the fox say?

Gary Woodman writes: Re. “Aussie dollar slide hurts Foxtel” (Monday). Regarding Foxtel, may I remind readers that in Australia, the fox is an introduced pest doing enormous damage to the Australian environment.