Divorcing the ABC

The ABC’s mental cruelty 

Remember the time when marriage was a contract and not a fashion accessory? Way back then, one way to break the marriage contract was a legal device or argument that a lawyer could present to a judge. It was called mental cruelty. To get a divorce without having to go into other messy details like unfaithfulness or violence, you just whipped out the old mental-cruelty ploy, and bingo! It worked a treat. 

Well! I’d like to apply for a divorce from the ABC on the grounds of mental cruelty. 

I’d also like to name the ABC’s Managing Director Mark Scott and the ABC’s Head of Television Kim Dalton — and whoever is Head of Radio and News these days — as co-respondents. It’s their conduct — they are to blame — after all they’re the Heads of the ABC “family” and they are driving me out of my cotton-picking mind. 

For at least the past 18 months ABC 1 television has been running the same old bits of nonsense called “station breaks”, whereby you have to listen to some joker rabbiting on about some inane subject. You would have seen them thousands of times. A man in a swamp prattling on about “light and shade” over a bundle of sticks that turn into giant Lego blocks. Then there is Geraldine Doogue unctuously sharing her thoughts about the “world being a giant organism” — or is it “a giant orgasm”— I’m not sure, and care even less. 

Then there is a man in a wet-suit with starfish and sea creatures drifting by in the sky and we hear of his love of the sea. (We all love the sea, for heaven’s sake.) Or the conductor, baton in had, telling us again, and again, and again about his rapture with music while coloured balls float about, out of beat with his music. And don’t you just love the crusty old farmer, boring you senseless with some unbelievable tripe about the “land” and the “seasons”. 

The original idea of a station break was to remind the viewer what station he or she was watching. That usually lasted a couple of seconds and these “station ID’s” were a useful indication that a new program was about to start. Usually they were a just the station logo. In days of yore, when the ABC had substance, the ABC cleverly/simply showed their logo, a twisting garrotte, with a picturesque background. Now we are subjected with mini-operas, which have been going on since the start of ABC1 — and that seems like eons ago. This is visual clutter — junk television — unnecessary noise and clutter. 

Seeing these gems of video artistry once, twice or one hundred times is one thing, but to see them night after night, day in day out for what seems to be a eternity is really beyond the what would be considered normal. The mandarins at the ABC are either bug-lazy, don’t care about their viewers or they can’t be bothered watching “their own ABC”. Anyone who watches the ABC would be aware of the intrusive nature of these bits of tat. 

You can’t help smiling when the ABC News runs footage of the so called “special rendition” by the US armed forces — that is inhumane and mental torture against their captives — when the ABC insists on subjecting its own captive viewers to this rubbish. Indeed the need for “station identification” has been made redundant by the introduction of the offensive “watermark” imbedded in the lower right-hand corner of the TV screen. Of course station identification has to do more with audience surveys than it has to do with viewer enjoyment. And we know that the ABC doesn’t chase ratings, don’t we? 

Another annoying aspect of this passive-arrogance, which the ABC employs, is the showing of these annoying station identification mini-operas when the actual program is running late — according to the published broadcast times. There you are, sitting, waiting for Fanny by Gaslight or New Tricks or Hercule Poirot to commence, and it is running late, and what do the ABC do — they run their silly little Station I D’s of some man chasing his animated toys down the street or we hear some woman banging on and on about her detective story. 

Some months ago the ABC changed these annoying pieces of trivia. What did they do? They made them longer. Another reason that we are subjected to this intrusion is that the ABC runs these station I D’s as filler, when their imported programs have awkward running times. Why the ABC doesn’t just run their News Breaks longer to make up time is a mystery beyond the ability of ABC viewers to understand. It’s lazy programming. 

And if you really want to go bonkers try tuning into the ABC 24 News Radio. After a few hours of their “rendition” the mental cruelty business clicks in. For some unknown reason ABC News Radio uses, and reuses, a audio station ID in the form of what sounds like Congo Drums . It runs at the beginning of each half hour, it runs within the half program segment, and to really send you bonkers they actually play the thumping drums under the announcer who is reading the news headlines. Mind you, at times the ABC News Radio selection of news is, at times, so inane, the Congo Bongo drums most likely helps a bit. 

Surely the ABC management should know that their viewers and listeners want a more professional and considered set of programs, and a delivery of those programs, than we get from commercial stations — that’s why we watch the ABC. Their current policy of visual and audio “noise” is an absolute joke and perhaps the highly active Minister for Communications , Mr Conroy, could devote a little less time playing with fibre optic ducting, and have a word in the pink ear of Mark Scott, Kim Dalton and who ever is running ABC Radio and News. 

The problem is, I suspect, that in this area the ABC couldn’t give a toss.

See also: John Izzard on "The Great Escape" here…


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