Feb 21, 2018

‘The worst couple of weeks in the ABC’s modern era’

A former senior journalist has told Crikey the last few weeks at the ABC have been so demoralising internally that senior journalists he'd spoken to are even considering leaving.

Emily Watkins — Media reporter

Emily Watkins

Media reporter

The last few weeks have been more rocky than usual for the ABC. After handing back the now-infamous filing cabinet and then apologising to former PM Kevin Rudd over a story it ran based on something in that cabinet, last week the broadcaster courted new controversy by pulling down an analysis piece by its chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici.

And, even before that last blunder, one former ABC foreign correspondent and senior journalist, who asked not to be named, told Crikey the situation at the national broadcaster was "diabolical".

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55 thoughts on “‘The worst couple of weeks in the ABC’s modern era’

  1. brian crooks

    the emasculation of the ABC by murdochs appointee Guthrie is disgusting, I hope that the incoming labor government pays out her contact and promptly throws her out the door, a good shake up at AFP headquarters and the fairwork australia board is required also to rid these important institutions of the murdoch influence and control, I think most of the intelligent section of the australian voters are now awake to whats going on regarding murdoch and his political assasins

    1. Desmond Graham

      by “intelligent section of the australian voters” – do you mean the elitists as per Hilary Clinton voters?
      Curiously these days I find that columns in The Australian – have a greater diversity of views than anywhere else one can find. Some I vehemently disagree with some I do agree – but can’t find this spread anywhere else including the ABC.

  2. graybul

    “. . . and making you feel valued.”
    Well Ms Guthrie, faux apologies and feel good placating of your ABC client demographic is nothing more than American corporate deceit. And by the way . . . you’re offering of ‘controlled’ focus groups as a mediating ‘gift’ is nothing more than American corporate deceit. Yes, your mission is now fully open for all to see . . . you’re way or the highway. Malcolm reigns and you are delivering the LNP and Murdock the prize.
    Stripping Australians of their iconic ABC cornerstone of democracy indeed, is a serious blow. But the closer your incremental wounding of our democracy is to the core of Australian values the more focussed will be the peoples awareness and anger. As more and more of us become peons in our own country; and the gap between rich and poor widens . . . there will be reaction. The Australian ‘new poor’ are educated, we know what we had and we know how our labour and values delivered that which is being slowly taken from us. The good, principled journalists you lose will find alternate options through which they can communicate. And we are listening . . .

  3. John McCombe

    Another example of ABC self-censorship is the Insiders program on Sunday 11 Feb when Barrie Cassidy and the entire panel agreed that a Greens reference to a UN report on the attack on Fallujah that Jim Molan offered to prove his service to muslims was going too far. So the ABC now censors the UN? The UK has had the damning Chilcot Report on Blair’s decision to join the illegal Iraq invasion in 2003, and Paul Barrett, former Defence Secretary, has been calling for an enquiry into John Howard’s decision to join that invasion, to deaf ears from both Labor and the government. Is the ABC now the voice of government, adopting a wartime loyalty to the government of the day, regardless of questions of legality, facts, objectivity, scholarship or public interest?

  4. Bob Hatton

    There are quite a few extremely optimistic comments on here: Labor are going to win the next federal election and it will restore the ABC to its former glory. The neolibs are on their last gasp and will be swept away soon.
    Unfortunately I disagree.
    Neoconservatism is plunging full-steam ahead and is not about to go under any time soon. There will be overwhelming support through all the media (and all platforms) for the re-election of the LNP which is likely to be successful.
    The ABC will continue to be destroyed by the conservative forces and will become a mere right-wing shadow of its former self.
    Plans for war with Russia, China, Iran, North Korea will continue apace, led by the US and willingly followed by a LNP government.
    This why the ABC is being brought to heel and why new legislation impacting on journalistic freedoms was enacted – and got very little push back from Australian journalists generally.

    1. AR

      BobH – too true. It’s almost as if you got the memo.

    2. graybul

      With tears in my eyes . . . I fear you are correct. The ALP must accelerate change within if we are to see the forestalling of the current LNP dismantling of our fading democracy.

      1. AR

        I agree that “The ALP must accelerate change within..” which is why we is seriously in deepest doo-doo.
        Not even a rusted on true believer (such as, for example and no means uniquely, CML) believes that the ALP won’t be just as duplicitous, authoritarian or contemptuous of the common weal.
        It exists in name only, thoroughly compromised & complicit by & in the $tatu$ quo.
        Keating wanted an ID Card, it has been out to destroy ‘our’ (HA!) ABC since the daze of David Downhill and fears nothing so much as an outbreak of independent thinking/voting.
        Different bucket, same garbage.

        1. CML

          AR…call me names as much as you like. Doesn’t affect me at all.
          I have been a student of politics in this country for over 70 years…and the reason I support the ALP is because of the good things they have done over that time. John Curtin running the show during WW2, Chifley dealing with the aftermath of that horror, Whitlam…where does one start… universal health care, free tertiary education, stopping our involvement in the Vietnam shambles, opening up dialogue with China…and much, much more. Then there was Hawke and Keating…the economic setting up of modern Australia, expanding indigenous land rights etc. The Rudd/Gillard era…NDIS, the RC into institutional child abuse, dealing with the GFC better than any other country in the world, Gonski, putting a price on carbon etc. ALL of these things were very HARD WORK, but Labor got them done. Then the Coalition was returned to government, and undid (or are still trying to) many of these good things.
          Do I agree with everything the ALP does today? NO. But I’m a realist…politics is the art of the possible. Another thing…the ALP is the ONLY political party…certainly in modern times…that can govern in its own right. I detest coalitions for reasons which should be obvious over the term of this current government…the NP tail wagging the LP dog, and NOTHING of any substance being done. It should go without saying that so-called coalition partners rarely come to power with the same vision…otherwise they would all be in ONE party.
          Now…could you enlighten me as to which other political party in this country has achieved even half what the ALP has? Especially in the areas of equality and a fair go for all…you know, those things which affect all of the citizens in their daily lives?????

          1. leon knight

            Hear Hear CML, a succinct summary…. The ALP make blunders and have had some pretty dodgy characters, but our society would be a dark place today without their efforts.
            The IPA LNP vision is one of masters and serfs, and without media barons to push their propaganda they would never achieve political power.

          2. Desmond Graham

            Yes the policies of the ALP get us into a mess-and the LP cannot get us out of it. I don’t mind the pendulum swing to a coalition- the rest of the country other than the big cities get a brief say . Under Labor for instance NSW stands for Newcastle,Sydney,Woolongong – stuff the rest of the state.
            I have a simple formula

            The ALP is dangerous – The Libs are incompetent.

    3. Bob the builder

      Re: the pushback, couldn’t agree more. Australians have become so de-unionised in spirit, by both Capital and Unions, that no-one has any concept of solidarity or resistance.
      Journoes have struck en masse for a lot less in the past – but so many of them having led the cheerleading for the destruction of Australian union values and action, they could hardly be expected to even defend themselves.
      While we can abhor the government and management interference, journoes need to take some responsibility and start resisting. In other countries they get killed, here they might get their tender feelings hurt or lose a job.
      Come on journoes, get off your arses!

  5. GF50

    Can anyone remember how many years of his PMship Howard would not appear / be interviewed by ABC while he stacked the board and management?.Petrified of Kerry O’Brien. Howard is the one that colonised the whiteants in the venerable aunty’s timbers big time. Same , same for the Public Service and the AFP. The ALP should have gone through all those services with the pesticides in 2007, they did not, and allowed the total entrenchment of the self serving LNP trogs and continuation by the LNP for the destruction of our Democracy,at an exponential rate! Disgusting, nauseating and frightening.

    1. GF50

      ALP positive policy positions cannot be mentioned in the same context as the policy distruction LNP, actively creating a massive slave labour,underclass in Aus.

  6. mikeb

    Guthrie is setting up the ABC for a merger with SBS. The carrot for the Govt is that for an initial capital outlay they can save $300m pa ongoing. Before that happens she has to kiss Govt arse and reduce “bureaucracy and red tape” (aka cut support staff numbers). Guess what? Cutting support means that content makers have to fill the gaps. Watch Guthrie and a few of her mates scuttle off with golden parachutes when the merger happens…… to fuck over someone else.

    1. Desmond Graham

      What country with the population of only 1 city in north america [new york] can afford to have a plethora of publicly funded broadcasters – It is time for a merger of all public broadcasters into one broadcaster – There is lack of content due to the fact there is insufficient subject matter to service the spread of the publicly funded industry. So the content flow becomes drivel – and the audience decreases to the few people interested in the topic – If there was a single publicly funded broadcaster then it may be more focused and competent- a lot of the comments seem to crystallise down ‘look at the good old days ‘ – that is when the there was only one.

  7. Itsarort

    Michelle Guthrie, an ex News stooge and corporate lawyer (was she ever journo?), has taken us from her starting mantra, “We can do better”, to the dystopian dark place of the Ministry of Truth. With her background with News Corp, Star TV and Google, it’s easy to see why the real truth about corporate tax will never be on her agenda (and woe betide anyone under her employ who dares to shake that tree).

  8. Don Willoughby

    Those the gods would destroy, they first make mad. Governments from all sides inevitably resent a truly “independent” voice not beholding to political ambitions, corporate interests or advertisers that the ABC provided to the Australian community. Many Governments have taken retribution over the years by financial restrictions and strategic placements in ABC management but now this Government, useless as it is, has thrown the ABC to the IPA and Murdoch hounds and the end of the ABC as we knew it seems inevitable. This may be their only achievement.
    Fake news has always abounded in commercial and state controlled media as a nudge or distraction or commercial expedient. We used to have the ABC to turn to, it now seems we have lost even that.

  9. seriously?

    I like the ABC, and I like Alberici very much, but the tax article was amateurish and showed a complete lack of understanding of the subject matter, and as a result presented distorted and misleading analysis. I’m sorry, but I don’t care that it was “checked”, they must have had the wrong people review it. As someone who works in the area, there is a woeful lack of understanding of financial reporting, including tax, in the media and general community leading to warped assessments like that of Alberici.

    1. Robert Beverley

      Didn’t see you presenting a counterargument.

    2. Bob the builder

      Seriously, indeed!
      If sudden, secret censorship is the punishment for amateurish articles that show a complete lack of understanding of the subject matter, I expect to hear silent news bulletins, read blank newspapers and watch the test pattern on the news tomorrow.
      But anyway, Seriously Troll, name one part of her article you disagree with and provide a rebuttal. And then explain why the error is so serious that the article deserved to be censored.

      I very much doubt you can, because the article was well-written, cogent and moderate – which is exactly why they wanted it written out of the history books.

    3. bref

      Really! Thanks to Crikey, I had a good look at Alerici’s ‘amateurish’ article and I do so wish you would show me exactly where she has it wrong. It seems to me she’s backed herself with good fact based evidence, so please point out the the so called ‘warped assessments’?

  10. klewso

    Going on the evidence, apparently “not enough people go to commercial media for their news” – so the ABC has to do promos for them, “digging down” to get into the tabloid gutters with them?
    Murdoch’s especially.
    The Dum, Q&A and Insiders regularly have msm “experts” to give us their hackneyed, cant opinions based on their own cherry-picked “facts” – as if we wouldn’t know where to go to them, if we were actually interested in their monotonous opinion as news? Like “Daze of Our Lies”, you could be in a coma for 5 years and not miss a thing if you checked out their latest burnt offerings upon wakening.
    Personally I have no sympathy for Alberici, for years she’s used her position to push her politics, to wear her conservative partisanship on her sleeve, aiding and abetting the sort of degenerative subjective, opinion-riddled, partonising standard of journalism that now pervades the ABC – now she’s got a ‘dose of religion’ and it’s turned around and laid her low?
    As for Turnbull, I reckon he’ll go down as one of the worst PM’s in our history, after what he’s done to the country (contrasting with expectations based on MT promises) , starting with innoculating the ABC with a dose of Pravda Guthrie from his Clostridium murdockeni culture.

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