Praying for Phil. It’s not often that newspapers across the country feature the same story on their front pages — there’s usually one outlier, and while cricket generally unites the country, Sheffield Shield matches are usually lucky to get a few columns in the sport section. But the terrible accident at the SCG yesterday that has left 25-year-old batsman Phil Hughes fighting for his life in hospital has managed to make it to the front page of every metropolitan daily, as well as The Australian. The coverage of the match and the emergency response has brought out some of the best and worst reporting, with the ABC lambasted across social media for insensitively tweeting about Hughes’ condition (it later apologised), and the Fairfax metros getting the same treatment for putting a graphic photo of Hughes moments after he collapsed on the front page. While some have argued that newspapers shouldn’t have printed the distressing photos of Hughes, they do capture the fear and urgency of his teammates and opponents as they call for help, which really does say a thousand words. — Sally Whyte

The Oz compares apples with soap. It is misleading of The Australian to go on as it has done in today’s edition about the “bloated” wages costs of the ABC, when it is using a dodgy comparison.

Darren “Lurch” Davidson reported in one of his breathless “exclusives” on page 1 (don’t look for it online, it’s not worth the subscription fee) that: “The ABC spends vastly more of its budget on wages than its commercial counterparts, reinforcing the government’s belief that the public broadcaster should be able to extract 5% through efficiencies rather than programming cuts.”

“A breakdown of costs at the ABC — contained in the unpublished Lewis efficiency review, commissioned by the Coalition — reveals the public broadcaster spent 46% of costs on ages compared with 10.7% for the free to air commercial TV industry,” Davidson claimed.

There’s a couple of things wrong with that claim — the Lewis report hasn’t been publicly released, so we can’t say whether what Davidson reports is accurate, and the three commercial TV networks do not publish wages costs. So where did the data come from? We don’t know if the man heading the review, former CFO at Seven West Media Peter Lewis, used only the commercial free-to-air businesses of Nine, Seven and Ten as a comparison, or the businesses as a whole. Without the Lewis report being released, we have no way of knowing if the comparison is accurate.

Davidson has also made the cardinal sin of comparing apples with soap — his comparative analysis is totally meaningless because the ABC has a completely different business model to Australia’s commercial media. The comparison is with the ABC costs structure in toto: radio, TV, news and current affairs, including radio, local, regional, classic FM, News Radio and Radio National, websites, plus commercial staff, programming and management for TV and radio and the corporation as a whole.

A proper comparison would be comparing ABC TV’s staffing with those of the Seven, Nine and Ten networks, and the costs. The commercial networks would never release that data, so the comparison is useless, like this morning’s report. It is no good depending on a report prepared for the government, which is then used to justify cost cuts, not efficiency savings. — Glenn Dyer

Rats in the ranks. ABC management needs to watch out for “negative leaders” within their own ranks who will undermine change efforts, warns a British government communications expert who steered the BBC through its reform programs. Russell Grossman, now the director of group communications for the UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, says his experience is that “change that doesn’t work is because of either passive or active resistance to that change”, and confronting that resistance is necessary to achieve the desired results.

His first experience with these counter-agents of reform goes back to his days as BBC’s head of internal communications, in part because of the types of people who tend to be employed at public broadcasters. “They’re full of people who are intelligent, articulate, worldly and, to a degree, cynical,” Grossman told Crikey sister publication The Mandarin. “You had people who could very well understand the theory and drivers behind the change and actively did not agree with it; intellectuals if you like. You would more likely see people like that in organisations like the BBC.”

At the time, the BBC wasn’t so much cutting jobs, as the ABC is now, but telling staff to do their jobs differently and take a more audience-focused view rather than solely follow the interests of producers. But these negative leaders made the task that much harder by undermining the change in front of their subordinates. “Negative leaders are people who you often find in the middle of an organisation in the hierarchy,” Grossman said. “These are people who often have the most to lose. They’re the people who have typically been in the organisation for a long time and the status quo actually represents their power base.” — Harley Dennett (more at The Mandarin)

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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