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Jul 4, 2014

Brown Studies: meet the appointee who wants to sell the ABC

If you thought Albrechtsen was the only ideological appointment to the ABC appointments panel, think again. Co-appointee Neil Brown, a QC and former Liberal Party deputy leader, reckons the ABC should be sold, or, failing that, hobbled so it doesn't compete with the commercial media sector.


The government has appointed two right-wing culture warriors to a panel that makes recommendations about who’ll sit on the ABC and SBS boards, and luckily for us (though perhaps not for the ABC and SBS), both leave vast bodies of writing on what they think is wrong with public broadcasting in Australia.

Yesterday we brought you Australian columnist (and former ABC board member) Janet Albrechtsen’s greatest hits, and several readers got in touch to ask why we hadn’t done the same to co-appointee Neil Brown, a QC and former Liberal Party deputy leader. Brown’s not as well-known as Albrechtsen, but a bit of digging reveals him to be similarly prolific, if on the relatively lower-profile Spectator Australia, where he has a regular column called “Brown Study”. Here are the former communication minister’s must-read columns, for those who want a taste to his views on public broadcasting.

In the current issue of Spectator, Brown hopes attempts to make the ABC and SBS more “commercial” are rejected. His reasoning is, well, novel:

“What the proposals will do is make both organisations much stronger and pervasive, continue to blur the distinction between private and public enterprise and expand state-owned broadcasting to the prejudice of the private sector.”

Commercial public broadcasters, you see, will expand, octopus-like, until there’s no room left for pure commercial rivals. Indeed, Brown goes through, with distaste, recent expansions to the ABC, like Double J and White Paper (Radio National’s new tablet magazine). Presumably he won’t be recommending any entrepreneurial types to the board, then.

In March,
Brown covered familiar ground, namely the conservative outrage at the ABC’s co-publishing of the Edward Snowden NSA leaks with The Guardian. He wished the government had used it as an excuse to get tough with the ABC, but feared the opportunity was squandered:

“The ABC now knows it can ignore the government with impunity. It has an opinion-making empire to promote its official views, most of its news is opinion, its ‘fact checking’ is the new way of declaring its own approved version of the facts and the role of Media Watch is apparently to intimidate the commercial media. All of this will simply entrench its left-wing mindset and will be arrayed against the government at the next election. It will be a powerful force.”

In February, Brown wrote that the ABC was now so powerful it was impossible for governments to take it on. “The only solution of any practical value today is the one that should already have been adopted: sell it.” A government appointment hasn’t mellowed his views, as his interview in today’s Australian reveals. He told the newspaper:

“I think [the ABC] should be sold … The best thing to do might be to start again.”

But ABC types can take some comfort in the fact that Brown confesses he’s rather a fan of many of the ABC’s programs. As he wrote in May:

“Our criticism of the ABC loses its credibility if we do not praise it on those occasions when praise is deserved. So I have to say that its coverage of Anzac Day was superb.”


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23 thoughts on “Brown Studies: meet the appointee who wants to sell the ABC

  1. klewso

    A Murdoch “Brown Knows”?

  2. Richard

    Did not enjoy that trip to Brown Town.

  3. SusieQ

    What a twit and a hypocrite. So its ok for his private sector ‘mates’ to expand their business but not the ABC? Surely the private sector should welcome the competition? Isn’t that what its all about? Why is it such a problem? Oh and if you get rid of the ABC, who will cover ANZAC Day in the future? No one.

  4. Remi

    He calls his own column “Brown Study”?!? Wow. Evocative.

  5. Mark M

    The liberal party represents the liberal party, its donors and its mates, and I’ve yet to see a thinner skinned bunch than this lot. Any criticism or independent thought is attacked in an overt and spiteful way.

    Of course the ABC should “ignore the government with impunity”. It’s the independent broadcaster and should report the news. You might say the libs believe they are above criticism, but that isn’t really what is going on. I think the fear criticism and believe that they can simply silence their critics to make them go away. Of course, media watch will be under threat because it continues to have a laugh at the inept journalism from News Ltd – more mates of the Libs, which we all love because we know how ridiculous those jokers can be. I wonder how much of a mess this government can leave behind. Looking pretty incredible so far.

  6. SusieQ

    Good grief, imagine just commercial TV – cooking shows followed by talent shows followed by sport followed by cooking shows…..and don’t get me started on what radio would be like…..its a future too awful to contemplate.

  7. dazza

    These two on the panel?? Surely you jest.

  8. Steve777

    “The ABC now knows it can ignore the government with impunity”. I would hope so. Unlike China’s CCTV, it’s job is not to be the Government’s propaganda arm. Murdoch looks after that.

    And what about this: “…and expand state-owned broadcasting to the prejudice of the private sector.” Well yes, if commercial broadcasters insist on broadcasting crap.

  9. arnold ziffel

    I remember his period as a government minister.
    The good news is that he achieved very little then and I hope history repeats itself.

  10. Daemon

    It’s a source of constant amazement to me, that elderly men, who should be either kicking up daisies (my preference) or locked up in an old peoples home out of sight, (a reasonable alternative if they are kept away from the phone), can talk so much rubbish, and the media give them air time.

    I was asked on radio this morning about a certain fat miner and I am still gob-smacked that he got any air time.

    Old people are fine, as long as they are cogent, capable of meaningful speech and able to use the toilet themselves. After those 3 are gone, read soylent green for a few ideas.

    It would be good to revisit him in a year when he’s drooling down his shirt, having learned a few lessons from Malcolm Fraser, who can at last think properly, and remind him of how fucking useless people like him are.

  11. Daemon

    An opinion making empire – hmm. Let me think.. what other net drains on oxygen apart from Mr Brown, does that remind me of? Oh… I know. That American chap, Ripoff Mordick.

    If the ABC is the voice of the people and LimitedNews is the voice of the LNP, surely that’s balance (forgetting of course that ABC employ journos, whereas LimitedNews tend to stick pretty much with tame typists.

  12. Kevin Herbert

    Brown’s another self-appointed culture warrior…and also a rusted on Zionist. Check out what Aussie academic Scott Burchill says about him & his ilk who practice ‘corkscrew journalism’:

    “The term “corkscrew journalism” originated in the film The Philadelphia Story directed by George Cukor in 1940. Halliday defines it as “instant comment, bereft of research or originality, leading to a cycle of equally vacuous, staged, polemics between columnists who have been saying the same thing for the past decade, or more.”

    This is an accurate description of much broadsheet commentary in Australia. Predictability and unoriginality is rife and compounded by its growing distance from the concerns of media consumers who have little, if any interest in cheerleading for one media conglomerate or another”.

    Says it all really…check out Burchill’s great analysis via a Google search.

  13. AR

    In Blighty (barrack room arabicish for ‘wounded’)the Spectator is a sheltered workshop for undead thatcherites, the olde, claret sodden backwoods squireocracy and the whining, overentitled, under-able children of that gum boil decade, the 80s, Loadsamoney & Mondeoman.
    The ‘currencylad’ version sold in Oz is a weekly laugh at rationality.

  14. Suzanne Blake

    Outstanding news thanks Cickey.

    The ABC needs ti be gutted of its political reporters and start again with complete balance, indepedance and trust.

  15. beachcomber

    It’s going to take decades to unpick the harm that the one term Abbott Government is doing to our nation.

  16. Liamj

    Yes MarkM, these overprivileged apparatchiks are incredibly thin skinned.. why is that?
    Sorry to repeat myself, but imho its because they spend their lives either being or surrounding themselves with syncophants, hence they never learn to politely take criticism or defend their views.

  17. zut alors

    It seems brown has a penchant for quality Anzac Day coverage. Perhaps the ABC won’t be sold off after all as he’s unlikely to risk his precious parade being interrupted by commercial breaks blatantly touting Anzac biscuits/tampons/beer/ice cream/boots/car seatcovers etc.

  18. AR

    ORAC – I see that exhuming you hasn’t helped the spelling, grammar, syntax or typing.

  19. Kevin Herbert

    Suzanne Blake:

    oh you really are SO SO controversial !!!

    You really know how to stir things up with the force of your argument ably supported by overwhelming logic ,you dissident you.

    You need to meet Janet Albrechtsen & compare notes.

  20. Elbow Patches

    Oh why do the grey brigade get up in the morning at all if all they want to do is paint our whole world the same shade of tedious grey and make us all eat grey soup. If they mess up the ABC I’ll be extremely upset. Of course ABC did a good job on Anzac Day…now why do you suppose that is? They are a damn fine institution. Of course some of their content will get up people’s noses at times…but it varies a lot as it reflects the tastes of a varied audience. It balances what is available via commercial networks. Mr Murdoch is his own worst enemy if he wants a share of this pie cos he doesn’t respect his audience except for those made in his own image. Hands OFF our ABC you meddlers! I’m getting pretty darn mad. As hell. And I won’t. Take it …any MORE! Sorry for the outburst.

  21. Elbow Patches

    Omg he’s Brown, but he seems so grey.

  22. Patrick

    I hope they do try and follow through with his idea to sell the ABC. The backlash would be titanic. Suzanne did you know that the ABC is the 2nd most trusted institution in Australia with 70% of Australians trusting it (2nd only to the High Court). I guess you are in the 30% minority. And yes the survey does include other TV, newspapers and online news businesses which get a trust score of less than half the ABC.

  23. klewso

    That’s why they want to get rid of it – out of jealousy and to limit that contrary, “uncontrolled”, view to Murdoch’s.


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