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February 28th 2014 print

Geoffrey Luck

Mark Scott’s Senate Snow Job

And if the ABC's Editor In Chief actually believes his contradictory assertions that some stories need to be reported from a different perspective than others -- he was talking about climate change -- the Estimates panel was not alone in being deluded

abc leans left smallLet me quote you, verbatim, a critical part of Mark Scott’s evidence to the Senate Estimates Committee, in its examination of the ABC on Tuesday evening February 25:

“There is nothing in the guidelines – this is a misconception – to say we have to pull out a stopwatch and give equal time to every alternative view. My feeling on climate science is we follow the weight of evidence. That’s not to say there won’t be times when some people with a contrary view to the weight of evidence or consensus of climate scientists get on air, and they should be robustly questioned, just as the climate scientists are robustly questioned. But we certainly aren’t in a situation where we pull out a stop watch and draw a false equivalence on every view.

At this point Scott adopts a pious yet complacent look.

But there are many views in our society where there are robust contentions. I suppose asylum seekers are a good example of that. There are some who would argue a view of utmost compassion towards asylum seekers; others would draw sovereignty of borders a very, very important national issue, and part of the ABC’s coverage should be to respect and explore all perspectives, to ventilate that debate and to acknowledge the intelligence of the audience that they will come to their own views on the matter.”

There was not a sign that Scott perceived the incompatibility of those two paragraphs, or recognised the light they shone on the poverty of his understanding as editor-in-chief of the national broadcaster.

The second statement is unexceptional, a fair statement of what the ABC’s policy and practice was 50 years ago, and as it should still be applied today. But the first paragraph reveals, guilelessly, the reality. No viewer or listener could doubt that the ABC’s reporters, presenters and interviewers have a unified commitment to the IPCC’s theory of anthropogenic climate change. As does their chief executive (an ignorant layman on the subject), whose testimony now bestows official benediction on their unscientific bias. The proof is that the ABC has ensured that nobody has seen or heard most of the experts who challenge the conventional theories – any more than they have seen the true believers subjected to ‘robust questioning.’

The further, if not deeper, thoughts of Mark Scott:
Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog

In the eight years since his appointment, Mark Scott has made many speeches and statements extolling the ABC’s virtues, achievements and growth. But routinely, he shies away from the awful problem that former Chairman Maurice Newman described as “groupthink” on many issues. Mr Newman’s choice of climate change as an example of this phenomenon touched off a wave of staff revulsion. This peaked with science broadcaster Robyn Williams’ fruity comparison of climate-change scepticism with pedophilia. The ABC prevaricated, excusing  Williams with its finding that he had not ‘equated’ the two.

While Scott may pay unctuous lip service before a Senate Committee to the ABC’s role as a conduit for views, the reality is that increasingly in the last four decades, his broadcasters have become self-appointed agents for change. Gone is any pretence at impartiality on climate science. Equally discernible in programs is a corporate attitude of a far-left quasi-Marxist slant on a wide range of topics.

Check the ABC’s handling of these: smuggled asylum seekers and offshore detention; the monarchy and the republic; same-sex marriage and gay rights; abortion; a bill of rights; the U.N and world governance; family violence; child abuse by the churches; atheism; the U.S. and its foreign and military policies; multiculturalism; Islamic terrorism; alternative energy; aboriginal recognition; private schooling; the Anglosphere and nuclear energy. Where is the fair reporting, balance or impartiality in programming on any of these?

The list to the left doesn’t require policy direction – these are universally-held values of people who see themselves not as observers but as committed actors in the political and social processes of the country. The rot began in 1967 with the launch of This Day Tonight. Its staff took it upon themselves to declare what was wrong with Australia – “what needs changing”, as Executive Director Allan Martin said at the time.  Nobody should be blind to the threat – as Mark Scott seemingly is – the staff of the ABC, individually and collectively are out to mould the country to their views on everything.

Much nonsense has been written about privatising or breaking up the ABC. That is a distraction. The revolution required is to force it to hold its staff – competent and dedicated though they may be – to the principles and standards set down long ago, and to which they pretend to aspire.

A start-point could be a comprehensive inquiry into every aspect of the organisation, the type of review Alex Dix chaired in 1991.  It is really a scandal that 23 years have passed without such an investigation of a national corporation that spends well over one billion dollars a year of taxpayer money.  It is now desperately needed, to give voice to those who earnestly desire, not to destroy the ABC, but to restore its prestige by demanding a disciplined conformity to the standards it itself proclaims.

Geoffrey Luck was an ABC Journalist from 1950 until 1976. During that time he was the first ABC cadet, Queensland; Journalist in Charge, Longreach; Journalist in Charge, Mt Moresby; Sub-editor National Radio News; TV News scriptwriter & director; News Editor, Papua New Guinea; Chief of Staff National Newsroom; London Editor; Economics & Finance Correspondent