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TV & Radio

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.

Myriam Robin — Media Reporter

Myriam Robin

Media Reporter

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 comments

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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.