Razer's Class Warfare

Dec 14, 2017

Razer: the only thing dumber than most ABC-bashing is the ABC itself

The frequent claim that the ABC has been dumbed down has itself been dumbed right down. But that doesn't excuse the ABC's decline.

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

Stop the dumbing down of the ABC,” is a headline that hints at a very defensible anxiety. But it’s also one you and I might use as a guide to a history of a more general “dumbing down”.  Which is to say, the frequent claim that the ABC has been dumbed down has itself been dumbed right down. Once, there were sharp minds to dissect the truly dull. Now, our best hope is for a butter-knife precision.

Guardian media writer Amanda Meade is not a bad butcher. But her recent “death by a thousand cuts” take on ABC’s Radio National could do with some honing. Just as this week’s Sydney Morning Herald comment on “dumbing down” uses the measure of time to make its central case, so does the Graun’s: the day will bring us fewer minutes of current affairs and news analysis, ergo the ABC is dumb.

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31 thoughts on “Razer: the only thing dumber than most ABC-bashing is the ABC itself

  1. Andrew

    In my impression the ABC News is giving greater exposure to election speeches by the PM than by the opposition in the Bennelong by-election

    1. leon knight

      I have not seen any critical coverage on the ABC over the dirty website trick the LNP came up with against Kristina – tactics like that are just gobsmacking in my view, but the ABC will be complicit with the MSM in letting LNP skulduggery through to the keeper…and the good folk in Bennelong will probably fail to whup Turnbull for his arrogance and deceit.

      1. Desmond Graham

        LNP is is in Queensland – didn’t know they are campaigning in cockroach territory

        1. Helen Razer

          I think we just have to accept that this is now commonly used to mean Coalition, Des.

  2. electme

    “Have you heard Fran Kelly?”
    ALL of her summer stand-ins are far more listenable.

    1. old greybearded one

      Two minds with but one thought Electme.

  3. old greybearded one

    I am going to disagree with you. I think it is being dumbed down, just not how you suggest. I think Kelly herself is a symptom. I am an RN listener and I find her shallow and lacking in agility (or preparation). Ellen Fanning was worth three and I really miss James Carlton. The rubbish that replaced Jonathan Green on Sunday’s, the endless repeats of Life Matters which is now interesting on about 1 day in 4. It used to really have bite and it used to be about more than whinging issues. The ABC has too many token women..ie ones who really are not good enough. They seem to lose the ones who are. Many areas of the arts which were interesting to those of us in the regional deserts have gone to podcasts. Wonderful when you don’t even have NBN lite, I don’t think.

    1. Coral SeeNQ

      I totally agree with you about the regional distribution of sophisticated programming as part of the responsibility of Radio National and ABC television being completely abandoned. There is no serious literature discussions, philosophy, knowledgable program hosts, just mediocrity and venal self-interest in political reporting for as far as I can see. The responsibility of the ABC to provide and keep a certain heightened cultural, and intellectual millieu for the citizenry of this country, for their edification and sheer pleasure, and as an economic function of building human capital has absolutely disappeared. I guess we don’t want the plebs to get too up themselves, dumb is good,( it used to be greed). If the ABC is not above our head just out of reach, keeping us aspiring and pushing us as it once was, being the constant enviable ‘standard’, then whats the bloody use of it. Will we all be like Jordan Clepper on the Comedy Channel’s ‘The Oppostion’ just saying glibly to all inquiry “Tell me something I ‘already’ know?”.

  4. susan winstanley

    Judith Whelan is the “Head of Spoken Content”

  5. old greybearded one

    In do not mean to rubbish the large number of skilled women who do such a great job on the ABC. It is a couple of their high profile ones who irritate me with their lack of depth and intellect.

    1. Helen Razer

      It’s the token men who break my heart. So many of them just embarrass themselves so publicly. Poor things.

    2. Helen Razer

      Seriously, though, OGB. I don’t think we have a “token woman” problem.
      It is much deeper than that. And, anyhow, a presenter isn’t just great all on their own. A team of researchers and producers make ’em great.
      Of course, a great host is a wonderful thing. But I can’t say as I see the quality of the ladies being any worse than that of the blokes.

  6. Desmond Graham

    Helen -I think the dumbing down is accurate – but follows the trend of the population and the education system – the whole population is becoming Dumber – there is lots of information but no knowledge.

    This is due too the universities whose measurement of success is ‘bums on seats ‘ – met a girl history student doing first year earlier in the year – the course content for the year was from the Roman era to 2nd world war – IN DEPTH –

    1. Helen Razer

      Yeah. The “from Plato to NATO” thing has been going on a while, now.
      And students are lucky if they can even do these Cook’s Tours. Everything is vocational learning.
      People are not fundamentally thick. People are fundamentally curious. When they have time and leisure and freedom from concern, they will learn things, either in formal study or as autodidacts.
      Hell in a handbasket, Des. I feel so bad for the kids.

      1. Desmond Graham

        true – in the early education classes the environment is worse with the children with disabilities populating the room with their minders [teachers assistants] – so they can be taken out when they disrupt the lesson – so no child ends up being educated – that is why experienced teachers are retiring in droves early – as one said to me , I am a teacher, love teaching but I am fed up with behaviour control becoming the main part of the classroom [I am not paid to be their parent] – Dumbing down is the aim of the process of education – stuff the content.

  7. Lee Tinson

    So if ABC is dumb, how would you describe the others?

    1. Helen Razer

      Often beneath analysis, Lee. But this is not the point. We don’t affirm something, especially a publicly funded something, because it’s not as bad as the rest.

  8. klewso

    Was it Insiders last Sunday that aired a clip from “The Dum” (Jackie Kelly et al) – from the day it wasn’t aired, because all ABC channels were tuned to the SSM Reps outcome?
    The 2-stroke Leigh sale’s pitch does me in – Limited News Party = indulgence, giggles and warmed over coquettes (it doesn’t matter what Morrison says and she’s been as doting as Crabb with Turnbull, though that has cooled a little of late) : Labor/Greens it’s grim and bare it Madame Lash.

  9. Russ

    “Leigh Sales offering equal sass to leaders might be “empowering” to some viewers, but to many more of us, I propose, it just seems unsatisfying and, well, dumb.”
    Yup. why do you reckon they persist in trying to create personalities? Popstars? As above – they’ve got a ton of talent. Why doesn’t the ABC rotate presenters, or something, so they’re better prepared, less obviously fatigued/disinterested, bring some more thoughtful approaches than equal ‘slamming’, ‘grilling’ etc?

  10. lykurgus

    “It’s inertia through major party division, or it’s a jelly-wrestling match by whose endurance a few mediocre columnists win a better per-word rate”
    I don’t think I’ve ever heard the misnomered Q&A encapsulated so neatly – even Melting Truffle just jelly-wrestled guests who hadn’t even been fucking booked. Even the decidedly Tory-leaning audience they hand-pick and anodyne tweets they sift through for the crawler parked a tiger on it.
    As to Lateline… well, Kerry O’Brien was Lateline (he isn’t called the thinking womans crumpet for nothing); it was never going to survive his departure.
    Like Media Watch without Stuart Littlemore.
    I leave my radio on PBS now – can’t stand RN with Kelly or Karvelas (I download LNL, btw)

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