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January 05th 2017 print

Michael Copeman

A Modest Proposal to Fix the ABC

The national broadcaster gobbles around $1.2 billion a year, but its ratings are nothing to write home about and, well, much of what goes to air is as predictable as a climate-change rally, for which its newsrooms might easily be mistaken. Five ways to remedy that

angry bananasJim Spigelman and fellow members of the ABC Board must have been very pleased to see Michelle Guthrie arrive from Google. In these PC times her appointment ticked almost all the boxes. Once you discount her unfortunate history of working – Shock! Horror! — for private enterprise, and previously — more shock, more horror — for Rupert Murdoch. On the positive side she is a multicultural Australian female, married to a chef, with a track record of delivering management in cutting-edge areas of the media. Since Ms Guthrie has been in the job, however, what signs are there that she understands the issues confronting the ABC, let alone the Australian populace?

Well, here’s a quick list of five things she could and should do in 2017, just to demonstrate that the ABC is committed to its mission statement.  (If we’re still allowed to say “mission, are we?)

1. Move ABC HQ from Ultimo to Goulburn

Nothing better spells a national broadcaster’s dedication to serving its audience than situating itself where real people live. In Sydney, real people – and by that I don’t mean man-bunned hipsters — haven’t lived at Ultimo since the old powerhouse became a museum. When the BBC moved some of its operations from boring-old-London up to Media City in Salford, Manchester in 2011, it proved their commitment to the real Britain “north of Watford”.

Now it should be the ABC’s turn to show it is mindful of the real people in Australia, those “west of Penrith” or, to be more precise, beyond the borders of Newtown and Fitzroy. Where better than Goulburn, Australia’s premier inland city and just a hop, skip and jump from Canberra?

Goulburn boasts much of the meaty fare on which a broadcaster feeds: proximity to a maximum security jail so Four Corners activists can accuse guards of mistreating prisoners. There is also an abattoir, which would save on airfares when animal-rights activists ginger-up reporters to screen their home movies of alleged animal abuse. There is also Goulburn’s greyhound track and an Anglican cathedral, the latter opening the way for Songs of Praise to be made once again in-house. If that particular basilica also happens to include amongst its divines young vicars who perform gay marriages and deliver sermons about the mortal sin of climate-change denial, so much the better.

2. Merge ABC Sport with Children’s TV

ABC TV has progressively lost its rights to broadcast most of the major (men’s) sports and the Sport department is looking much the worse for wear. Let’s be frank, covering the Under 19 Grong-Grong Matong Women’s Lacrosse Semi-Finals just hasn’t brought in the mass of viewers the ABC is seeking. So why not rejuvenate coverage of sport while bringing in a whole new generation of viewers and listeners? Fusing ABC Sport with Children’s TV would be a masterstroke.

How many Aussie children wouldn’t love to stay up late watching not just two but eleven Bananas in Pyjamas take on Pakistan? As long as Peppa Pig was not selected to bring out the oranges, no problems. How good would it be to encourage the next generation of Olympic heroes to practice the triathlon at home (complete with a swimming leg in the bath) while watching Playschool?

Perhaps Ms Guthrie is already working on to this merger, with so many fresh-faced ABC Sports reporters and reporterettes seemingly just out of kindergarten.

3. Subcontract all foreign news to China

Those familiar with Senate Estimates grillings of ABC executives know the recipe: a light touch of ginger followed by 15 minutes on high, the worst heat dampened by a Greens garnish. They will also be aware that a major entry in the ABC’s budget is the cost of all those foreign correspondents, some of whom send ill-advised tweets. While some of this burden has been subcontracted in recent years — here let us recall how the national broadcaster outsourced coverage of the most recent Paris terror strikes to Al Jazeera — the ABC’s bureaux and roving reporters still chew through those dollars.

Why not take a great leap forward and let a thousand flowers bloom? China already runs a comprehensive international service, CCTV. China – including Hong Kong and Taiwan (as it claims it does) — has leap-frogged New Zealand to be the major source of tourists to Australia.  Why not make those those 1.3 million annual visitirs feel right at home?

Putting CCTV in charge of the ABC’s foreign news would be what is known as “synergy”.  And, after all, what is Australia future other the land-just-beyond-the-South-China-Sea?

4. Replace ABC Breakfast with Mornings with Malcolm and Lucy

The ABC’s News Breakfast TV show is broadcast out of a Melbourne studio but there is a major distraction. Those who keep an eye on who the ABC chooses to hire will always see hostess Virginia Trioli and be reminded of the remarkable coincidence that saw, out of all the applicants, her hubby, Russell Skelton, a former Age journalist and Abbott-hater,  land a nice little gig heading up the Fact Check unit. Some of his tweets are reproduced below for the benefit of those with poor memories.

skelton tweetsNo, what Australia really wants to see first thing is our PM and his charming wife sipping Ceylons on their Point Piper terrace (or wet and live in a kayak below, updating us on Sydney Harbour traffic).

Just picture it: Lucy could interview Julie Bishop to ask (among other things) if she thinks Tony Abbott fits his budgie smugglers as well as does her hunky hubby (below). She might also explain why, when various ABC comedians lampooned Abbott for his lifesaver’s official beach attire, Malcolm identical taste in skimpies prompted no jokes whatsoever.

After that, Malcolm can orate — champion schoolboy turnbull budgies smalldebater that he is — while correcting or subtly undermining his Cabinet and an entire range of his own party’s policies. After that, brace for a born leader’s homily on the relevance of Thucydides to the Prickly Pear Abatement Act. Expect Niki Savva to give him an A+ for not being Tony Abbott and employing her very own husband, who must be a modest an retiring because she never remembers to announce that connection in her columns.

Ratings would shoot through the Turnbulls’ terracotta’d roof so fast their solar panels would go into orbit. As to how Malcolm bagged Australia’s top job, viewers would be reminded every time he picked up a knife to butter his artisan toast.

5. Commission a gorgeously filmed and costumed who-done-it

Let’s face it, many ABC TV viewers only tune in for the blood, guts and corsetry of those beautifully-filmed UK period dramas — something like Poldark, but updated and set locally.

So what about “Coal Dark”, which would tell the story of what happened to Victoria’s industries and economy when the Labor government of Premier Dan Andrews shut down 20% of his state’s capacity to generate electricity? To maintain ABC tradition Andrews could appear by candle’s light in a merry widow and stockings, thus introducing a sub-plot focusing on the gender fluidity he is so keen to promote in schools.

True, the villain would be obvious from the first minute of the first episode, but that’s nothing unusual. On the ABC you always know exactly what to expect.

Comments [11]

  1. whitelaughter says:

    Or since Islam is the religion of Peace, move the entire organization to Saudi Arabia. And ensure that all live audiences are Saudi citizens.
    The ratings for each show should be fantastic – one show only, of course!

  2. en passant says:

    Destroying Victorian industry IS THE PLAN, so the joke is on the voting fools who selected Andrews over the other fools.

  3. padraic says:

    I thought they had already subcontracted out their foreign news to China. Yesterday they got stuck into Japan for reopening its nuclear power stations. A pleasing double whammy for them – one they satisfy their Chinese controllers by denigrating Japan and two they please their anti nuclear sponsors like Greenpeace and assorted other totalitarian activist groups. Nothing has changed since the change of management. The other day when they announced the great police and border security action in smashing a cocaine ring for which most normal citizens would be pleased and instead of giving fulsome praise to the authorities they got some clown from the “harm minimisation” group to whine about the futility of such an action. Their tv and radio news is still a litany of drivel about climate, animals, coal etc and nothing that is of any interest or use to the average citizen whom they obviously think is pretty dumb and in need of a good dose of taxpayer funded leftist propaganda.

  4. Jody says:

    My husband tells me a white disabled man was bashed to death in the USA overnight by four black men. Not a single report of that on the ABC.

    • rogerfranklin says:

      your hubby has it almost right. A retarded young man was kidnapped, tortured for perhaps as long as 24 hours, but not killed. His alleged tormenters have been arrested and charged.

      Stefan Molyneux, the YouTube pundit, has a long (perhaps too long) commentary on this incident. It is well worth watching:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5x42MArLPQ

      • Jody says:

        I notice on ABC 24 at 10am they brought themselves to say “people of African American appearance”. Finally!!! If I had more free time I’d draw up a chart comparing and contrasting ABC news with that of the other stations and networks, as I used to do with students in high school. The bias then becomes blatantly obvious. Thank goodness I taught students how to do this!! To be forewarned, as they say……..

  5. Salome says:

    Yesterday I came inside from a little outside work and turned on channel 9 to find that the cricket had been delayed by rain. I switched over to the ABC to find it playing a repeat of QI. It seems to be all you get on the ABC these days.

  6. Patrick McCauley says:

    Stephen Fry seems to have bought the ABC … or the Oz taxpayer is paying him an enormous amount of money … because every time its not the news … its Stephen Fry’s fat face condescending nicely about just about everything – including the sexual habits of his ‘class’ of homosexual. He appears to be Oscar Wilde not matter what you do.

  7. Jody says:

    The ABC and its mung-bean-chewing, basket-waving, bicycle-riding, latte-sitting, lycra-wearing surrender monkeys could read this and learn: but I doubt it!

    https://www.amren.com/features/2014/05/confessions-of-a-public-defender/

    • padraic says:

      That’s a very apt description of them Jody. Apart from that, they are alright. I also agree with Salom’s sentiments regarding QI. Probably Stephen Fry donates a lot of his taxpayer money to some worthy cause ….. a bit like the Halal labelling.concept.

  8. mazza says:

    How did our ABC become their ABC.
    1. All employees at the ABC are ‘Public Servants’ i.e in theory to serve us the public who by our taxes (and we all pay taxes one way or another GST etc.) pay their over bloated salaries and perks.
    2. It is nigh impossible to sack any of them. Maybe an axe murderer would be asked to leave quietly? along with a nice redundancy package.
    3. Programming other than what passes for ‘political/current affairs’ coverage is skewed towards young impressionable children and tax funded university students.
    4. Unfortunately due to the tyranny of distance, a very productive and ignored part of our economy (farmers etc) are reliant on getting their news/information from the ABC.An entrenched attitude at those running the ABC use this as leverage when ever cost cutting is mooted.
    5. The ‘luvvies’ who have too much say in all aspects of Australian life, consider themselves to be superior.They have taken over in academia, where young minds can be manipulated, and will fight too keep this advantage by any means.

    What can be done?

    Not watching the programs served up? Don’t do that now. Water of a ducks back because they are still funded regardless of how many viewers.
    Sack the board? would amount to changing the deck chairs on the Titanic as the culture is so entrenched and union organised, IMO, it would not change the output.
    Selling it? Who would buy a loss making concern that is union dominated, and Malcolm wouldn’t have the ticker.
    Should the coalition find the G&D (sans Turnbull), one option is to amalgamate it with SBS and ensure that the charter is changed and content and programs, skewed towards serving the bush and areas, where reception is poor and coverage via the commercial networks is either not available or reception is poor. Selling off the prime properties at Ultimo and Southbank would raise a much needed input to the budget bottom line, also savings garnered from no longer paying the salaries of the overpaid staff, would do wonders for the budget.

    In this regard, Michael, agree that Goulburn is a great place to move an amalgamated ABC/SBS.

    Hopefully others may have suggestions re. this.