The ABC and the ABC-in-exile

As the concept of a national broadcaster for Australia was being developed, conflicting ideas on how it should be constituted arose. Two competing models were put forward: a national ABC, and a national-ist ABC. It was the former model, one of an organisation that acts as a public utility, fulfilling its duties of cultural and political enrichment, of the dissemination of fact-based journalism, that triumphed and persists to this day. This is also known as the BBC model, as both the ABC and BBC have in common their statutorily guaranteed independence; there is no official means by which the government of the day can interfere in the reporting and duties of the broadcaster without amending its founding Act, which requires approval from the parliament.

The explicit exclusion of interference from the executive branch of government is fairly unusual on the part of the parliament in a Westminster system: there development of regulations and “filling in the gaps” is usually left to the cabinet and public service as it can more readily deal with unforeseen problems as they arise. However, the exclusion of interference was seen as fundamental to the development of a national ABC, one which represents the nation and its people. This is the “bottom-up” broadcaster which attaches to and takes its ‘orders’ from the cultural Zeitgeist. It forms a symbiotic relationship with its nation’s people, where it seeks to reflect the people’s values and to provide diversity in exchange, to offer enrichment to its zeitgeist with the introduction of new ideas and objective critique of both the domestic and foreign.

I have told a lie. 

The national ABC did not triumph, as triumph implies victory and an end to the contest that was being fought. The national-ist ABC, the ABC-in-exile fled to and flourished in the private sector. This private sector ABC, however, is only propagandistic for the government when it suits, and when it suits is when its favoured son, the Liberal Party, is the one governing. When the Liberal Party is in opposition, the nationalist ABC is the most stringent critic of the consequent Labor government, it becomes the unofficial party newspaper. It will likely have already dawned on the reader that this ‘nationalist ABC’ is something which has taken various forms, but which is today represented by the juggernauts of News Limited: the Australian, Sky News, and their tabloid cousins.

That the ABC and News Limited would be in a state of constant conflict comes as no surprise given their alternate views on journalism and reporting, rather than what most attribute the conflict to: ideological differences. In truth, ideology is a consequence of the journalistic philosophies of the two groups and not the cause. Support for the Liberal party is consequent from News Limited’s instincts for survival, which depends on an unregulated media and an alliance against a common enemy. News Limited would happily roll over for Labor and accept public funding if it were to be nominated as the alternate national broadcaster and funding for the ABC were to be abandoned. Most importantly of all, the News Limited outlets would desire amendments to the ABC Act which allow for editorialisation and the prioritisation of ‘national interest’ ahead of ‘public interest.’ Consider this the manifestation of the notion articulated in brazen terms by One Nation as the “Patriotic Broadcasting Corporation,” where patriotic is read to mean only the understanding of said word from the right wing perspective where no left wing views can be held to be even remotely patriotic. 

The fact remains, however, that the nationalist ABC has been exiled and is unlikely to overcome the actual ABC any time soon. Thus there is no triumph, but rather a stalemate. Whether a triumph is best to be sought is debatable. Rather, the only desire ought to be the fulfilment of the statutory requirements and protections of the ABC, and of the protection of independent journalism for which it was primary established. It is without which that we end up with the most recent situation of the exclusion of the ABC from the Pacific Forum by the client state of Nauru, presumably on the vicarious orders of News Limited via one Malcolm Turnbull. 

When a prime minister feeds conflict with the national broadcaster you know that he is acting well outside of the national interest. To presume to attend a meeting for which an agent of the Commonwealth has been banned is an endorsement and legitimisation of said ban. It is therefore evident that the Liberal party is once again accepting and encouraging the existence of a state within a state; an alternate reality. The IPA, the Australian, and the various right wing media idiots all form a ring of imbecility in which the elites of inner Sydney can all find their views and minds all safely held without critique. It is for that reason that when any Sydney elite gains power they are likely to encourage the war with the state, and the growth and propagation of the state within the state. 

In the most recent budget, the Liberals granted public subsidy to Foxtel, the hosting cable network for News Limited’s Sky News, whilst also cutting funding to the ABC. This is the explicit re-allocation of public funds from the ABC to the ABC-in-exile. This is an act of provocation by the Liberal party against the nation that they presume to represent. In truth, the Liberals are outsiders, aliens, truly un-Australian by nature.

In any case, News Limited consistently rates worse in every platform in which it is a competitor with the ABC. The preference is always for ABC News 24 over Sky News; for ABC Online over the Australian. Perhaps Australia can see through the thick veil of bullshit, or perhaps it sick of having a view imposed from the top-down by an elite, rather than having its views reflected by a public organisation that seeks only to enrich the world around it, rather than enrich itself and its Sydney-based millionaire shareholders. It has got to be said, also, that Australians can sniff un-Australian sentiment from miles away, and there is nothing more un-Australian than moving to America, abandoning your Australian heritage, and starting up a business with the intent of manipulating and controlling the public consciousness throughout the world, and in particular in Australia.