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July 11th 2012 print

James Allan

Sick of paying my taxes for the ABC

Name the TV current affairs host on the ABC who isn’t from the left. Go out and show me one single episode of Q & A, just one, where the panel is lop-sided in favour of the right (and heck I’ll count Malcolm Turnbull as a righty to make it easy for you).

Yes, yes, yes I like to watch the ABC. But these days it’s virtually never a program that has anything to do with current affairs or politics. The ABC has such a ‘favour the left’ attitude to its reporting that it galls me.

A year or two back I said as much to the managing director of the ABC, Mr. Mark Scott, whom I met at a conference. Mr. Scott was nice; he was pleasant; but he wouldn’t move from the party line that there was no political bias. Such things, he intimated, were in the eye of the beholder.

Really? I say that’s merde, as the French would put it. Name the TV current affairs host on the ABC who isn’t from the left. Go out and show me one single episode of Q & A, just one, where the panel is lop-sided in favour of the right (and heck I’ll count Malcolm Turnbull as a righty to make it easy for you). Tell me that you honestly think that The Drum is balanced with as many non-lefties as lefties. Or defend the fact that Media Watch never, ever gets a conservative host. Or force yourself to go online and check out Insiders, any episode, and then with a straight face tell me five people picked at random off the street would say it favours Mr. Abbott over Ms. Gillard.

You can’t do any of those things. Sure, we can all say that professional journalists ought to, and will, look inside themselves and ensure their disinterestedness. But it’s never those on the right who get to be doing this and suppressing their political preferences.

Actually, I think Mr. Scott is too smart really to believe that the ABC’s news-related programs are even-handed. I suppose I could be wrong. But I don’t think so.

Of course one of the tricks here is for those on the left whose fellow travellers host the ABC shows and make up the preponderance of panellists and the rest to ask for something near on impossible to provide. They want hard evidence of bias.

So what does that mean? Are we to put cameras in the voting booth and show that these hosts and panellists vote 80 or 90 percent for Labor and the Greens (which doesn’t at all seem a far-fetched score to me)? Are we simply to ask them and expect them to say?

The closest anyone has come, as far as I know, to getting this sort of evidence of bias was in the US a few years back. A legal academic trolled through the public records of campaign donations, all public documents, and counted up the giving of legal academics at top US law schools. Those to the Democrats outnumbered those to the Republicans by 6:1.

But we can’t do that here. So precisely what sort of evidence does Mr. Scott want?

I can tell you that if the roles were reversed and virtually every host and panellists had a background from the right of politics, our supposed guarantee of balance being that all of them would look inside themselves and do their darned best to be as impartial as possible, there would be no demand for the sort of proof of bias that everyone knows cannot be obtained. There would be riots on the left of politics.

Now in saying all this I do not claim that the ABC never attacks Labor. It does. And it does so not infrequently. But those attacks are generally from further to the left, over in Greens territory. So Labor is not nice enough to illegal immigrants. (Oops, the ABC wouldn’t put it that way would it?) Labor is not concerned enough about the environment. Labor is not sufficiently committed to gay marriage.

You get the idea. And I bet that Mr. Scott does too.

And the same goes for radio too, not just TV. Leave aside Melbourne’s local news offering on Monday of this week, with the first three stories flat out bagging the Coalition.

Try Tuesday’s national all news ABC station morning news offering. I sat through the 8am news stunned that they hadn’t mentioned this week’s Newspoll results with Labor down yet again and Ms. Gillard sinking like a stone. I was stunned because any time there is even a scintilla of good news in that Newspoll result it is one of the top ABC radio all news stories.

But on Tuesday they even mentioned Katie and Tom Cruise’s new divorce custody agreement. But nothing at all about the Newspoll result.

All this leads me to wish my tax dollars weren’t being used to pay for this. Sure, I like ABC drama and a lot of other stuff. But the day will come when a future Coalition government gets what is colloquially known as a few cojones and does something about this blatantly biased beast.