A coalition of Labor and Green senators managed to head off an inquiry into the ABC complaints process – which was labelled “politically motivated” by ABC chair Ita Buttrose – but the manoeuvre left some Liberal senators apoplectic.
Queensland senator James McGrath described the 11th hour block as a “grotesque, leftwing, back-scratching orgy of flatulent arrogance from the ABC and those on the left” and called for the ABC to be broken up and Triple J to be sold off.
The deputy whip’s personal attack on the prime minister’s captain’s pick for ABC chair was unprecedented, seemingly more personal than Michael Kroger’s spray in June, when the former Victorian Liberal powerbroker said Buttrose was a “hopeless failure” and should resign.
“This ABC who sneers at us is led by an arrogant chair who sees the ABC as a country apart from Australia,” McGrath told the Senate. “And that is quite sad. The inevitable result of decades of free rein, of grossly excessive budgets and diminished accountability, is that we’ve ended up with an inner-city hive of woke workers, hiring woke friends to do their woke work in their quest to ‘wokify’ the world.
“But in conjunction with the first-night crowd, the chair of the ABC and her fellow first-nighters are at the opera, chinking their champagne glasses, sneering at middle Australia and at those who believe in a pluralistic, diverse media market.”
The decision by the Senate to delay the inquiry was a win for Buttrose who had called a week ago on the upper house to act to “defend the independence of the ABC”.
The government inquiry was sprung on the ABC days after the ABC’s complaints division told Fox News it had not upheld any of the complaints made in a lengthy submission about a Four Corners program on the News Corp broadcaster aired in August.
The ABC, which returns to Senate estimates on Monday, declined to comment.
Hit and miss
An issues paper released on Friday by the ABC’s independent review into its complaints handling process, has given an insight into the number and types of complaints the unit receives.
The Audience and Consumer Affairs unit which operates independently inside the ABC has so far this year received 2996 editorial complaints, including 700 about Covid-19 coverage: two-thirds of which complained of inaccuracy or bias.
ACA received 120 complaints about US election coverage, mostly claiming bias against President Trump. Falun-Gong was a flashpoint for complaints too, but no breach of editorial standards was found. Coverage of the launch of HMAS Supply attracted 77 complaints _ after the ABC has already apologised for the “deceptive editing” of a video.
Anti-Coalition bias is the theme of complaints about budget coverage and the Inside the Canberra Bubble episode of Four Corners. No breach of editorial standards was found in either case.
The authors of the review, former ombudsman John McMillan and former SBS and Ten news director Jim Carroll, have called for public submissions be sent to email@example.com.
Today mixes up the Weeknd
Days after a Seven reporter offended Adele by not listening to her new album before an exclusive interview in London, the Nine network served up its own international blunder.
The Today show congratulated The Weeknd for being awarded the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Song Of All Time List for his hit track Blinding Lights, ousting Chubby Checker’s 1960s hit The Twist.
But the post on social media of a black man in a red suit was not the 31-year-old singer.
The photo the Today show posted on Twitter and Facebook was not of The Weeknd but of veteran NBC host Al Roker who was impersonating him for a Halloween special.
Former Insiders regular Gerard Henderson, whose dislike for the ABC only grew when he was dropped as a panelist last year, has written another book. No, it’s not on his favourite topic, the ABC, but it is all about how the ABC covered his friend Cardinal George Pell.
Henderson has been a fierce critic of ABC journalist Louise Milligan, whose book Cardinal won the Walkley book award.
Titled Cardinal Pell, the Media Pile-On and Collective Guilt, Hendo’s tome is published by the boutique rightwing publisher Connor Court Publishing, which has published books such as Stealing from a Child: The Injustice of ‘Marriage Equality’ by David van Gend and Green Murder by climate skeptic Ian Plimer.
“The trial, retrial and conviction for historical child sexual assault of Cardinal George Pell, the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy at the Holy See in Rome, gained international attention,” the book’s blurb says. “In April 2020, in a remarkable unanimous decision, the High Court of Australia quashed the conviction.”
The executive director of rightwing thinktank The Sydney Institute, Henderson is an opinion columnist for the Australian, and he also publishes a weekly blog, Media Watch Dog, where he mainly writes about the ABC, nitpicking week in, week out about the alleged bias of the presenters.
The ABC has commissioned a number of documentaries that are sure to make news next year, among a wide range of diverse content in the 2022 slate, unveiled on Thursday. In particular a documentary about Israel Folau pitched as “Australia’s most gifted and controversial athlete …. homophobic bigot to some, a persecuted freedom warrior to others” has raised eyebrows.
It seems an odd fit with the ABC’s excitement about the return of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras parade, which will be broadcast on ABC Radio and ABC Television in a three-year deal.
Entertainment director Michael Carrington told industry blog TV Tonight the two projects were not commissioned at the same time, as Folau was meant to air this year.
“One of our objectives is to be relevant to all Australians and tell stories from all perspectives,” Carrington said.
“While there’s not a deliberate link between the two, this is definitely a chance to tell another side of the story and explore actually both sides of the story within the Folau documentary.”
The other doco of interest is Ithaka: A Fight to Free Julian Assange, a two-part 120-minute film following 76-year-old retired builder John Shipton’s tireless campaign to save his son, Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks founder was this month given permission to marry his partner in Belmarsh jail.
“Now facing a 175-year sentence if extradited to the US, the family are confronting the prospect of losing Julian forever to the US justice system,” the ABC says. “This David and Goliath struggle is personal.”