Mary the K: Symbol of the trashing of Australian public broadcasting
Monday August 27th 2007, 7:54 am

Peter Rae deserves a Walkley for this shot
image: Peter Rae for The Sydney Morning Herald

The former MediaWatch addicts in this domicile all agree that the present season is pure drivel. MW was at one time must-see; truly the most powerful 15 minutes in Australian weekly television- but has been severely diluted and white-anted post the addition of Howard’s ringers to the ABC board. MW has devolved nearer to its earliest incarnation, too often nitpicking typos and other fluffs, far away from its investigative peak when David Marr was in the chair, shredding Cash-for-Commenters and the like. This season’s inclusion of talking head comments from investigation targets allows MW episodes to be hijacked, wasting several of those scant 15 minutes.

Oh- but it’s all for the sake of balance, of course… as if MW investigation targets don’t have access to media to tell their end of the tale. I’d rather see MW off the air as it was in 2002 during the reign of the evil Jonathan Shier than to see it go half-measures.

Indeed, the media story of the past week was Mary Kostakidis’ stoush with SBS on the basis that SBS in general but SBS News in particular are being twisted too far out of their original, public servant shapes, as part of the Howard Government’s War On Multiculturalism- and MW completely passed it up… but why? Would such expose endemic government interference in both the national broadcasters? All the news outlets, print and TV, which did have a crack at the story let SBS management get off soft-pedaling the claim of ‘no problem, poor poor Mare’s just feeling a bit peaked this week, honest, got a med cert from her, no worries here…’

Anyone who discounts the value of a fully government-funded national broadcaster with ‘arm’s-length’ language in its charter doesn’t have a clue of how rare such an arrangement is on a global scale. National broadcasters certainly do exist, but on balance, they don’t operate at arm’s length from government- in fact, most national broadcasters are primary government propaganda organs, a statistic not lost in any way at all on John Howard and his political advisers.

Bias and the mere appearance thereof are built in to any news op which accepts commercial advertising. The loss of SBS from being free from apparent bias through their former funding model to their present hot pursuit of ratings is a loss of massive proportions to the Australian public. Editorial judgments designed to attract ratings have fundamentally different outcomes than those made for the sake of pure journalistic considerations. Given the 15% drop in SBS’s ratings since going commercial, the viewing public are not exactly fooled.

Even the venerable American NPR and PBS, while somewhat insulated from US government pressure by virtue of how little the Corporation for Public Broadcasting actually contributes to the operations, have taken large tranches of funding from oil companies, big pharma, global-scale commodities producers like Archer Daniels Midland and so on for quite some time now. The quality of PBS programming has suffered to the point where even the venerated McNeil NewsHour is simply a recap of stories run in US commercial media. There’s no adventurism, no risk-taking when you might honk off the major sponsors.

Should Labor win government, retrieving SBS and the ABC board from the jaws of the commercial and government influence beasts should be job #2, right after repealing Work Choices in its entirety.


9 Comments so far
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That image weez, must surely be a Walkley consideration.
A brilliant picture accompanying a brilliant post.

Comment by suki 08.27.07 @ 10:12 pm

Yeah right – I agree – and it’s a great shame to see such a journalist as Monica Attard (who can ever forget those brilliant broadcasts from Moscow) reduced to tabloid TV – MW has become as trivial and as introspective and defensively self-promoting as 60 Minutes, Today Tonight and A Current Affair. Shame Monica, shame.

Comment by Red Ink 08.28.07 @ 12:16 am

There’s chatter amongst the Friends Of The ABC that they should repurpose and rebadge to ‘Friends of Public Broadcasting.’ I think it’s a great idea.

Comment by weez 08.28.07 @ 3:12 pm

“There’s chatter amongst the Friends Of The ABC that they should repurpose and rebadge to ‘Friends of Public Broadcasting.’”

Sounds like a ‘goody’, weez but I fear the horse has already bolted. Probably with the flu.

If only SBS could get back to a 6.30, half an hour, international news, without limp dick ads and ONE of the many perspicacious newsreaders. Just for a start.

Am I asking too much?

Comment by joe2 08.29.07 @ 2:05 pm

You might well be considering the attitude of one Shaun Brown:

Mr Brown also says ratings have increased since ads started running within programs.

Would like to see comparisons between the last Nielsen book without ads, then with ads between and now with trash throughout.

“I believe our television audience, however reluctantly, has adapted,” he said.

Wonder what TAB odds are on the real chances of that adaptation. Pretty bloody long, I’d guess.

SBS should rely on something other than Nielsen for gauging just how accepting we are.

Comment by weez 08.29.07 @ 5:11 pm

SBS has been “gouged” .. bloody disgusting, i reckon.

Comment by Davo 09.02.07 @ 11:33 am

Just finished reading the Gerald Stone book.

One chapter jumped out at me – the story behind the edited manipulation by 9 network news of the NRMA Directors NickWhitlam saga. NW totally innocent of any fraudulent criminal act of any kind, but only the Gerald Stone readers are going to know that.

TV is a filthy business chewing up the good people and spitting the rubbish at us.

Mary and Jana can rise above it all, and like Stratton & Pomeranz did, take us with them to another channel.

Comment by Ann Bwca O'Dyne 09.03.07 @ 12:55 pm

I’ve been watching SBS growing more commercial with every desperate bid to satisfy their glorious ‘Zeitgeist’ – cold, impassionate commissioning editors, the so-called ‘industry leaders’ slowly strangling to death any chance of decent, honest, human television and, of course, the future of SBS.

Formulations on statistics gathered from a ‘selected’ random, and I dare say, MINOR, audience is visionless and downright lazy – not to mention grossly inaccurate.

It’s time academia took a step back and let the idealists, who actually care about their work, do what they do best. Create, inform and entertain.

Comment by Jason Munn 03.07.08 @ 7:46 pm

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