Michelle Guthrie, now installed atop the ABC, was widely reported to have been the personal pick and favoured candidate of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Like many things in which our PM’s hand is alleged to have been active — leaking, scheming, white-anting, back-stabbing, stroking Mrs Woolcock and hiring her hubby — dark motives were denied. Involved or not, as the man who presided over the national broadcaster in his capacity as communications minister and did nothing but indulge its worst inclinations, our latest PM must be tickled even pinker that the new arrival is adhering to the approach of predecessor Mark Scott, who was nowhere near so smart. In one of his first comments, Scott noted that the ABC was a conservative-free zone and stated his intention to change that. He didn’t, of course, which gifted Gerard Henderson a recurring theme throughout Scott’s tenure.
Ms Guthrie, it seems, is an order of magnitude sharper, as her first missive to the troops at Ultimo and Southbank eschews the specific in favour of a call to implement a vague and usefully more nebulous “diversity”. A conservative host or two might or might not figure in her definition of the word, but who is to know? As Sir Humphrey understood, a savvy bureaucrat can manoeuvre effortlessly and forever in the wide open space of empty words.
“Shaped by my background and work experience, I passionately believe that the ABC should be relevant to all citizens.
“We must extend our reach and our relevance into areas where we are under-represented.
“That means more diversity in both our staff and our content.
“We must collaborate more, with a clear focus on serving the audience, regardless of platform or device.”
Whatever Ms Guthrie’s intent, her invocation of “diversity” has prompted a Pavlovian reaction on the part of ABC head of radio Michael Mason, who has put to his underlings the four questions reproduced below. Quadrant Online’s responses are in italics
- “Who are the voices we constantly hear on air? Who could we find who might be fresher or could add some different views?”
We “constantly hear” only those who agree with each other and are universally of green-left persuasion. How about a few conservatives and libertarians to man the microphones? Quadrant has quite the mix of erudite and passionate editors and contributors. Might they not be recruited for that “fresher” gloss? As the editor of Meanjin, our nominal counterpart on the left, is also a Radio National host, this would seem only fair.
- “Do our experts include a decent balance between men and women? Do they contain a healthy mix of ethnicities and accents? Could we set ourselves a target for finding X number of new voices during this campaign?”
Surely he means “identify as men or women”. Were the ABC actually to include a few conservatives in its programming, the likes of Peter Smith, Merv Bendle, Jim Allan and Steve Kates could be expected to gulp deeply and accept being referred to as Gloria, Doris, even Sweetie Cakes if that concession were to see their views (other than on the gender-neutral use of public lavatories) no longer suppressed.
- “How do we make sure that we’re not basing our scripts and interviews on old ideas and assumptions about the average Aussie?”
Perhaps by abandoning stereotypes of “average Aussie” who, or so one deduces, is seen as given to blue singlets, meat pies, Holdens and, this being the ABC, bashing wogs and yanking hijabs.
- “Do we sound like we know that our listeners are people of differing ages, education, affluence, religious beliefs and sexualities? Are people with disabilities being heard?”
Missing from this list of otherness, as usual, conservatives.
One deficiency Ms Guthrie might wish to address in her quest for diversity is the absence of legal nous and knowledge of libel law among moderators on The Drum’s comments threads. Click on the screen grab atop this post to enlarge what was submitted, OK’d and published beneath this recent article addressing the PM’s shrinking poll ratings.
Three possible explanations for that comment’s appearance suggest themselves:
1/ The ABC has kept things in the family and hired a moderator who is the progeny of parent(s) already employed there. Traditional family values are accorded not much respect at the ABC, unlike family ties. The broadcaster’s record in this regard does not suggest maturity and intelligence are key performance indicators.
2/ The ambient attitude at the ABC is so insular, so narrow and so immersed in leftist tropes and stereotypes that the notion of a Quadrant editor being a Klansman with burning crosses on the lawn was regarded by the moderator as entirely unremarkable. Ergo, Quadrant readers are Nazis without a doubt.
3/ Both of the above.
Those who believe they are up to deducing what Ms Guthrie takes to be the meaning of “diversity” can read more via the link below.
— roger franklin