Apr 23, 2018

Filing cabinets and censure: understanding the ABC culture of cautious restraint

Like many big legacy media companies, the ABC is grappling with disruption, but with one major difference.

Christopher Warren

Journalist and media watcher

In a world when media is desperate for trust, no-one does it better than the ABC. Look at any trust index.

Ad-free, the ABC has always sat where all media now want to be: fully focused on the audience. But in the free-wheeling attention-grabbing world of the internet, you can’t simply rely on broadcasting quality programming. The ABC needs something more; it needs compelling content that pulls the audience in.

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11 thoughts on “Filing cabinets and censure: understanding the ABC culture of cautious restraint

  1. David Nicholas

    Well, Christopher, I am beginning to think that the ABC should be dissolved, cut, upended, or revamped into something useful. What that maybe I cannot say at this point.
    Once upon a time the ABC for me was the only source of information I could accept as accurate. At one point going back many years I was film reviewing in Canberra for ABC radio in the early 1970s and the I broadcast from the ANU’s 2XX-FM when the FM band was opened up by the government under Malcolm Frazer to report on Australian and US current affairs for 3 hours every Wednesday 9:00am -12:00pm. I was on the steps of old parliament house when Whitlam was dismissed and for his “May God save the Governor-General” speech. The ABC had its shortcomings then but more so it seems now.
    Today it seems it has become worse because I have a comparison. After 33years in America — news on PBS television and National Public Radio despite the US government funding both were and are accurate to a “T’. Self-censorship was not an issue in both those programme bases. Meaning if someone in power didn’t like the reporting there was very little they could do about it. But the reporting was always accurate.
    Since my return in 2010 and for the last eight years, the ABC appears to me that it no longer trusts itself and worse for me is that the presentation of news and areas where it encouraged public discourse borders on mental suffocation leading to brain death.
    In early morning TV news is at the level of Mickey Mouse and Goofy. I find being talked down to and being spoon fed for three hours by two people who often make stupid and careless remarks without being mindful that words — no matter how off-hand — do carry with them consequences. Fortunately when I get irritated I switchover to the international channels on my satellite broadcaster to get news in real-time.
    I just don’t trust the ABC to deliver news accurately anymore because political interpretation is included as part of the presentation. The Canberra continent of ABC news reporters or analysts — they don’t specify which — usually are presenting the latest political news along with their interpretation as if it were gospel. They really come off as if they are casting pearls before us swine. It’s the arrogance and the righteousness as if they “know” more than us.
    Maybe it is the News24 syndrome of dishing it out endlessly throughout the day but it lacks discernment in my view and it’s becomes tedious, but I am sick of it. Also ABC News as the 24 hour news channel is a bit of joke. It stops broadcasting live at about 1:00am and then we get either the BBC or alJazeera English (the better channel off the two) alternating each hour until the ABC starts broadcasting live again at 6:00pm.
    As to Emma Alberici. I have always found her reporting accurate and her interviews insightful. I wonder if she would have preferred to stay on in London rather than come back to Australia. I suggest she quits the ABC and join alJazeera English — Peter Greste’s and Hamish Macdonald’s old network. She could and would use her talents better there. Alberici — as they say in America — is getting shafted and it’s really ugly.
    In conclusion perhaps the ABC should be split up into two. News and Documentaries each on separate channels and several Drama channels to cover kids and indigenous. I just cannot see the reason for keeping the whole mish-mash as one. But at this time as a whole it’s becoming pretty unwatchable.

    1. AR

      I think you meant “The Canberra contingent of ABC news reporters…” and a couple of other typos. suggest more passion than punctilious key poundings in this well thought out piece.

    2. RL

      Every point a winner, great writing with appropriate passion that is appreciated.
      You need to push Mitch Fifield off the bench and run on as minister.
      Wouldn’t that be a treat after the procession of duds in that portfolio.

  2. leon knight

    Good that you brought Graham Morris into the story, that quote sums up pretty succinctly the relationship between the LNP and the ABC, and the ABC is stupid enough to give that twat a voice on air quite regularly – when he really ought to banned outright to stew in his own cankerous juices.

    1. leon knight

      Looks like my comment on O’Dwyer appearing on Insiders yesterday and Roskam to appear on Q&A tonight was moderated, but neither of these people deserve an appearance on the ABC to vent their propaganda un-challenged (OK Cassidy did challenge O’Dwyer repeatedly, but surely he would have fully expected that she would duck and weave and avoid the truth as she always does)….For me when the ABC presents people like this the TV goes straight off, I would prefer the ABC strive to present me with truth and honesty.

      1. Woopwoop

        The Kelly O’Dwyer appearance was a massive own goal for the Libs.

  3. klewso

    Is the gutter “ratings” audience – competing for “news as entertainment” – the one the ABC should be going after?
    Is the ABC charter really about promoting where to find the outpourings of the tabloid press – when we already know where to find such “opinion as news” effluent?

    1. AR

      Guthrie’s “reasoning” with the truncated and dumbed down news is reported to be ‘leaving the audience wanting more’ FFS!
      And what do we do when we want more?
      GO. SOMEWHERE. ELSE in search!

  4. Bill Hilliger

    Apart from a few programmes still worth watching the once good ABC is now almost fucked. Rupert Murdoch has won. One next election the NewsCrap organisation and its muppets will support the LNP no matter what.

    1. Coral SeeNQ

      I support all the above comments and thank the writers. We have lost a good friend. The ABC was like an old mate. Ahhh.hh………

  5. Itsarort

    When Trioli took on Peter Reith (and won), back in 2001, over the “Children Overboard”, she just didn’t take on the Gov, she took on practically every media outlet of the time. Was there a single journalist in the tabloids and on the TV that didn’t have capital invested in the lie? The banking RC is stamped with similar hallmarks, and Cassidy’s questions to O’Dwyer should just be the beginning. So, don’t give-up on the ABC just yet.

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