ABC bias a problem of groupthink

Australian Conservatives Release

Conservative Party policy is for the ABC to merge with SBS and for there to be a root and branch re-write of its charter to ensure fair and unbiased reporting.

The National Broadcast displayed deliberate bias towards the Labor Party at the federal election because of its Leftist groupthink.

The Australian reports, after all, most of the commercial media and ABC had already failed to anticipate the rise of One Nation over resentment at the climate change agenda of then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull at the 2016 election.

Back then, Pauline Hanson’s party won four Senate seats, 4.1 per cent of the national vote and 9.1 per cent of the Queensland vote.

Surely that media fail should have alerted the ABC to the possibility that One Nation and Clive Palmer’s advertising blitz could affect this year’s Labor campaign, which former leader Bill Shorten said was a referendum on climate change.

Maybe not, if your journalists are committed climate change activists who believe that stopping the Adani mine Queenslanders overwhelmingly want can save the Great Barrier Reef, despite ballooning carbon dioxide emissions from China and India.

The ABC is the best-resourced news organisation in the country, paid for by taxpayers who vote across the political spectrum. In Queensland, which swung strongly to the Coalition, the ABC’s many state-based staff apparently failed to see the trends in their own backyard. The ABC has news bureaus in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba , Bundaberg, Rockhampton , Mackay, Cairns, Townsville, Longreach and Mount Isa.

Discussing the ABC’s coverage last Monday night on Sky News’s Chris Kenny on Media, the longtime ABC critic interviewed journalist and former ABC staff-elected representative Quentin Dempster.

Kenny regularly gives his ABC critics airtime in a way the ABC never would, and good on Dempster for going on the show.

He offered two defences of the ABC’s failure: few others saw the result coming and ABC political reporters were basing their views on published polling that showed Labor likely to win.

Kenny admitted he too had expected a narrow Labor win but said he had claimed many times that the Coalition had a chance.

He named several Sky News journalists who had publicly said all through the final week of the campaign that the Coalition could still win.

He also named many others who had said Labor would win.

Kenny said no experienced political journalist could take a 51-49 poll to the ALP with a margin of error close to 3 per cent and say for sure Labor would win.

Kenny asked why, if there were a range of views at Sky News, did literally everyone at the much larger ABC fall in behind the Labor narrative?

Great question. Kenny is correct. As Peta Credlin, Alan Jones and Paul Murray pointed out for weeks before poll day, there was always a “narrow path” to a Coalition win built around Queensland and a rejection of Labor’s anti-coal, high-taxing, highly redistributive policies.

Later last Monday night, Paul Barry on the ABC’s Media Watch lamented the bias of News Corp Australia papers, which largely got the election right, and defended the ABC, which he thought ran a fair and balanced campaign.

It did not and the nation knows it.

Viewers saw the maudlin performance of its election-night hosts – Barrie Cassidy, Laura Tingle, Annabel Crabb, Andrew Probyn, Michael Rowland and Leigh Sales – as they realised Labor was losing.

The nation had heard Tingle on the ABC’s 7.30 throughout the previous week proclaiming both sides knew the Coalition was gone.

It had heard the anti-Adani campaigning of Radio National’s Fran Kelly and ABC Sydney breakfast radio host Wendy Harmer.

Barry is a great journalist and Media Watch’s best-ever host.

He has been prepared to kick the ABC.

He, like predecessor Jonathan Holmes in his book on the future of the ABC, On Aunty, has said publicly the ABC is biased to the left.

The pair spoke about the issue at Gleebooks in Sydney in March.

Said Holmes: “I think the sort of person that most ABC people think about when they make their programs are the sort of people (who) think roughly the same as they do and I think that’s somebody a bit left of centre. They are talking to people like me and they are not talking to people who think differently to me.”

The two presenters of the ABC’s flagship media program from 2008 until today agreed the ABC needed to change. Yet last Monday night Barry could not see what was wrong with Labor’s plans or the ABC’s coverage of them, and regarded News’s correct criticism of those plans as bias.

Groupthink on steroids.

News, like its Sky News subsidiary , employs journalists with a diversity of views. Think of their writers from the left: Troy Bramston, Phillip Adams, Graham Richardson, Alan Kohler and, from the left of the Coalition, Peter van Onselen and Niki Savva.

The Courier-Mail has copped a bucketing on social media but its national affairs editor, Dennis Atkins, is a former Goss Labor government staffer, as was former business writer and political columnist Paul Syvret.

Long-time columnist Terry Sweetman is of the left.

The nation’s biggest website, News Corp Australia’s news.com.au, is very left-wing .

This is as it should be because readers of the biggest newspapers in the country have diverse views. As do viewers of the ABC. Yet the ABC does not represent a diversity of views.

Just look at who ABC TV invited on to its late-night edition of The Drum to speak to Ellen Fanning after Saturday night’s count, when Fanning condescendingly said: “I’ll be the Queenslander on the panel cos none of youse are.”

Joining her were prominent left-wingers Magda Szubanski, Jamila Rizvi, Layne Beachley, Graham Innes and the much more thoughtful Stan Grant, who correctly said that Australians do not like centrally imposed, top-down reforms.

No conservative was in sight.

Long-time former Labor premier Bob Carr wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday criticising many Labor policies most commentators on the ABC had supported.

Extra funding for schools would have been better spent on quality teachers, he wrote.

Voters know we are at record education funding levels but going down in international education performance tables.

Carr thought plans to subsidise the private sector wages of childcare workers were dangerous.

Carr criticised the belief that voters overwhelmingly supported higher taxes for better services and the “anti-enterprise ” flavour of Shorten’s “top end of town” rhetoric. Pretty much what many of News’s papers argued.

Voters are smarter than journalists think.

They were right on climate and Adani.

They know Australia, with 1.3 per cent of global CO2 emissions, can’t change the climate.

They support the aspiration that is anathema to the public service culture of the ABC.

And on franking credits they knew Labor was just wrong. Franking credits are a refund for tax paid by a company to remove double taxation. Paying refunds to people who pay no tax is not a subsidy. And self-funded retirees on low incomes were the big losers. Rich superannuants mostly do pay tax because they have investments in property and shares outside their super. The ABC should have understood this.

At least it has a journalist as chairwoman now and the era of MBA chairmen and MDs afraid to discuss content is over.

Ita Buttrose needs to act like the editor she is.

A good place to start would be trying to align ABC news values with community values.

Less campaigning on gender and environmental issues and more on living standards.

More about religious freedom and less condemnation of Judaeo-Christian values.

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