ABC talkfest Q&A sank to an audience of 96,300 regional viewers a few weeks ago. That means of the eight million regional Australians, just over 1.2 per cent are tuning in.
ABC championing Annandale, Brunswick and Canberra and not Atherton, Bourke, and Corryong is why Q&A in the bush rates beneath Bluey, Peter Rabbit and Shawn the Sheep. That and its double standards on behaviour.
On Q&A’s Facebook page on Thursday, venomous comments about the only conservative woman on the show’s panel flowed freely.
According to the Q&A viper pit, she was “barely human — let alone a woman”. It continued: “Great panel EXCEPT FOR Anne Ruston … I hope Spears (sic) lets the great women speak and I mean all EXCEPT Anne Ruston…”; “Horrible piece of excrement” etc.
The comments remained published on the national broadcaster’s official social media despite the ABC’s proclamations about being advocates for women — and that was before she even set foot on the set.
Given the ABC’s mighty legal budget, underwritten by taxpayers, it can be difficult for people who feel wronged to defend themselves in court or bring the ABC to account.
An ombudsman could fix that and need not cost taxpayers more. It could end up saving the taxpayer millions of dollars in legal bills in providing a way to resolve a dispute with the ABC outside the courts.
For example, the NSW Ombudsman, which engages in worthwhile investigations, costs $25.7 million a year. That’s cheaper than the combined salaries of the 109 ABC staff earning between $225,000 and $495,000 a year, published in the 2019-20 financial report.
Two petitions calling for an ombudsman, started by South Australian Senator Alex Antic and Advance Australia, have more than 40,000 signatures combined. Those inside the ministry are understood to be softening to the proposal. Asking the ABC for an apology is like asking my kids to sleep in past 5am. A complete waste of breath.
Of hundreds of complaints made about ABC bias, only a handful get investigated and even less upheld.
And when you try to FOI the ABC, you are told that their news services are exempt.
There are zero repercussions — a liberty not afforded to those they investigate. Unlike life in commercial media, where advertisers can move their money, and the board has to report to shareholders, the tab never switches off for the ABC as they kick the life out of someone who put on the wrong coloured tie.
In the UK, the BBC has an independent ombudsman. Even if the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the wet lettuce of oversight, finds they have breached the code, the punishment is incomparable in effect to the Public Health Order where a son in Armidale is charged $1000 for not wearing a mask to drive his blind dad to the shops. We have an ombudsman for banks, telecommunications, health, consumer affairs, small business, and even Australia Post, so why not the ABC, the apparently protected species of Glebe?
From January to June this year, the ABC has closed 513 issues raised about anti-Coalition, and antigovernment bias — of those 108 issues were investigated by the ABC’s internal reviewers, meaning 405 were presumably not.
I reckon it would make Media Watch if a conservative politician didn’t get back to the ABC on 405 enquiries. In the 2019-20 financial year, 10.4 per cent of complaints to the ABC were of party political bias.
You can guess which. Many complaints get no response beyond a robo-debt like automated acknowledgment that your message has been received. When the line of inquiry is about their actions, they infer bigot, racist, illiterate, climate change denier, stupid “excrement”.
Depending on where they sit, the screws can be applied to politicians by the NSW Ombudsman, ICAC, Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority, Ministerial and Parliamentary Services, media, Members Interests, and processes within the Parliament itself.
The NSW Police are subject to oversight by the Ombudsman, the Police Integrity Commission and the ICAC. At the ABC, you have to wait until Senate estimates roll around to ask a question where they reluctantly turn up dispensing corporation lines.
Given the transparency they demand of everyone else surely they should be prepared to live by the same rules. Isn’t the standard you walk by the standard you accept? Isn’t that their oft-quoted mantra by their favourite acolyte? You pay for them. Landline, ABC Rural and local ABC radios are the bibles of so many regional areas because they are relevant and honestly impartial, dispensing information, not opinion.
ABC goes down with the sun. When local programming ends to be replaced by opinion out of Ultimo, the bush switches off.
If ABC disputes the bias, then get retiring Dawson MP George Christensen, whose Facebook page on a slow day gets more eyes than Q&A in its current ratings bonanza to give them a hint of how to grow their audience. He is available after the election.