Category: MediaWatch

Here we go again…. Politics, Impartiality and the ABC

By Kate Doak.
By Kate Doak.

Over the past 24 hours, there’s been quite a stir within the Australian media about a series of comments that Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently made on the Sydney radio program of 2GB’s controversial morning shock jock, Ray Hadley.  Utilising parts of the interview to pander to some of his more vocal supporters (and ABC critics) within the Coalition partyroom and the Liberal heartland of Sydney, Mr Abbott decided to make a few unwarranted comments about the levels of patriotism, political bias, value and accuracy found within the ABC, given some of the political stories that have been run by the public broadcaster over the past few months.

Prime Minister Abbott being interviewed by 2GB's Ray Hadley.  Photo courtesy of ABC News.
Prime Minister Abbott being interviewed by 2GB’s Ray Hadley. Photo courtesy of ABC News.

Now while such comments would obviously partially be the result of Mr Abbott and his Coalition colleagues being generally unhappy with the ABC’s portrayal of intelligence related stories and the airing of asylum seeker claims of abuse over recent weeks (which Scott Morrison has ineptly managed due to his steadfast refusal to provide transparent immigration information and video content to the Australian public which would refute such claims), it’s not as if the ABC hasn’t been giving away  “Free Kicks” to their critics of late.  As evidenced by the ABC’s New Year’s Eve coverage earlier this month, the drunken actions of a few ABC journalists, comedians and presenters can be all the mud that’s needed in order to make it appear that a public broadcaster is completely and utterly out of control when attached to other grievances.

But are claims that the ABC is biased, unpatriotic, under-regulated and un-representative of Australian society valid, or are they simply just an obvious level of pandering to a small but vocal ideological element within the Liberal partyroom and ideological base, which would like to see the ABC privatised?  Furthermore, do such claims really stack up when you take into consideration that of the 19 former ABC empolyees that had gone on to become politicians as of a Senate Estimates inquiry into the issue on the 23rd of May 2007, that nine had joined the Coalition, while the remainder had joined Labor?

Well, the devil is in the details in regards to those particular questions.

Now not counting the digital radio networks, the ABC has 60 Local Radio stations and 4 national radio networks within its possession at this time, not to mention four nationally broadcast digital television networks.  From music through to sport, arts culture, agriculture, law, mining, religion, history and science amongst others, the ABC has a wealth of units and a broad church of staff, which help them to fulfill their government mandated charter. Needless to say, all of these facilities provide a massive amount of content on a daily basis to all elements of Australian society, most of which statistics would show, isn’t of a political nature.

Pictured (clockwise from left): ABC New England Northwest's  Mornings Producer John Hyde, Regional Content Manager Jennifer Ingall, Sport Editor Mark Lowe, Breakfast Presenter Anna Moulder, Mornings Presenter Kelly Fuller, Open Producer Tim Lehā, News Journalist Kerrin Thomas.
Pictured (clockwise from left): ABC New England Northwest’s Mornings Producer John Hyde, Regional Content Manager Jennifer Ingall, Sport Editor Mark Lowe, Breakfast Presenter Anna Moulder, Mornings Presenter Kelly Fuller, Open Producer Tim Lehā, News Journalist Kerrin Thomas.

In order to prove that point, I’m going to put the spotlight on the staff and facilities of the first radio station that I interned with a number of years ago, ABC New England Northwest, which is nestled up in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range in Northern New South Wales.  A funky and innovative group of people, these journalists highlight the diversity, professionalism and patriotism which is found across the ABC on a daily basis.

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A self-induced New Year’s Eve Train-wreak ~ Analyse the Media Personalities, not the ABC….

By Kate Doak.
By Kate Doak.

*Sigh….*

ABC coverage of the New Years Eve fireworks - Source: Screenshot from ABC iView
ABC coverage of the New Years Eve fireworks – Glasses abound — Source: Screenshot from ABC iView

Last night on the ABC, I watched something that I really wish I hadn’t.  It wasn’t a sex scene, it wasn’t anyone getting shot, stabbed or abused. It wasn’t even a simple case of bad language.

Instead, it was a whole bunch of journalists, comedians and presenters embarrassing themselves on air during the New Years Eve celebrations in Sydney, due to what appears to be a series of over-indulgences with alcohol.

Now “teetotaler” jokes aside, I’m not someone who’s against having a good time or the occasional tumbler of single-malt scotch.  I am however, a person who’s an absolute sticker when it comes to maintaining professionalism on air.  That’s because while the cameras and microphones are on, you are for all intents and purposes, the public face of the organisation that you are broadcasting for. Whether it be the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, CNN, BBC, News Corp, Fairfax, Ten, Nine, Seven, Southern Cross Austereo, SBS or even a little university radio station like my beloved TuneFM, as journalists and content producers, we all have a responsibility to uphold the values and public trust of the organisations that we represent.

Call me an idealist if you want, though I’m a firm believer that those things still mean something in the modern world.  Whether it be online, on-air or in print, people still gravitate towards quality and will often be a lot more forgiving in their commentary, when they see that something was a genuine problem, rather than an embarrassment that could easily have been avoided with a little bit of responsible forward thinking.  These are principles that were instilled in me by a mixture of mentors, friends and colleagues long before I even looked at uttering a single word on air, and have served me well over the years in multiple situations.

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The Internet isn’t the problem, the loss of the “story” is…. Freelancers and Media Business Models….

By Kate Doak.
By Kate Doak.

A few days ago, Andrew Stafford posted one hell of an interesting article on Mumbrella about freelance journalists and other content producers not getting paid for the material that they produce, by various media outlets.  Needless to say, it was fiery and gave me the general feeling that a river of blood had been created during its production, purely from the frustration of seeing hours of work being all for naught time after time, with only the hint of “exposure” being given as potential remuneration.

Photo of Mr Andrew Stafford, Courtesy of Mr Stafford and Mumbrella
Photo of Mr Andrew Stafford, Courtesy of Mr Stafford and Mumbrella

But why stop there? While I admit that it would be fun to grill both Crikey and MamaMia amongst others in-depth like Andrew has over their policies towards the remuneration of bloggers and various freelancers for their time, perhaps the way that some parts of the media treat casual employees (and how freelancers often view themselves and their work) can help explain why so many media companies worldwide are in the dismal states that they find themselves in.  As fanciful as this might sound, it’s a thought worth pursuing given some discussions that I’ve had with some Human Relations experts over the past few days.

During one such discussion, I had one of the aforementioned experts explain to me the intricacies of the “Personal Advertisement” and the impact that it can have on the way that people are not only viewed by others, but how they view themselves.  As simple as it sounds, the way that somebody (such as a freelance journalist) communicates with others either within their CV, story pitches or the first 30 seconds of encountering them in a public setting, can be the difference in whether they get work awarded to them or not.  Consequentially she said, if we don’t value ourselves as people and wear a uniform of confidence and honesty when we meet new people, then it will be impossible for them to trust and freely desire to engage financially with us.  Needless to say, that kind of got me wondering if the same thing could be said about the media industry as a whole, which would in turn explain why some media companies are thriving, while others are in dire financial trouble.

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