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Failed Estate – the ABC of Trust

Written By: - Date published: 2:30 pm, September 30th, 2018 - 7 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, australian politics, censorship, corruption, Deep stuff, democracy under attack, Media, Politics, Propaganda, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:

Reprinted with permission from the Failed Estate blogsite.

With Australians trusting media platforms less than do people in just about every other country, why would you set about dismantling the one institution they trust the most?

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, our 86-year-old taxpayer-funded and constantly beleaguered public broadcaster, regularly tops surveys as one of the country’s few remaining highly trusted institutions, in the media or otherwise.

This trend was reinforced again in the past week when the UTS Centre for Media Transition in Sydney released findings of a qualitative study of trust in the news media in Australia. Interviewing 34 participants at workshops in Sydney and Tamworth, the researchers found what is becoming a familiar theme in a disintermediated world – with trust shifting away from institutions to peer-to-peer models.

The most frequent complaints about media from participants were of feeling variously overwhelmed, bombarded, manipulated and infuriated. There was a sense among many of being treated like idiots, with news over-hyped and dumbed-down by commercial players trying to attract eyeballs in an increasingly crowded landscape of traditional and social media platforms. Asked to name what was missing, participants frequently cited accuracy, credibility and reliability.

It seems people are tired of advertising dressed up as news, tired of hyped and breathless ‘live and happening’ beat-ups, tired of ‘he-said-she-said’ recitation of opposing claims without any context or verification, tired of the lazy promotion of calculated outrage merchants who seek to monetise hatred as a business model, and tired of partisan journalism that deliberately distorts or cherry-picks facts in support of an ideological and commercial agenda.

Which is precisely why, wouldn’t you think, that in a climate of clickbait, crude cross-promotion and calculated deception by dark forces there would be a substantial societal premium in having a non-commercial, taxpayer-funded broadcaster with a strong charter to act in the public interest? Indeed, the UTS survey found that amid all the negativity around the media generally, it was the ABC that consistently emerged as participants’ most trusted and well-regarded source of news.

“I access sources like ABC News because I feel that there is some onus on them to be more reliable,” said one participant. ““They have more accountability because they’re taxpayer-funded. Should they do the wrong thing, they’re accountable to a whole range of people, not just advertisers and editors.”

Yet, despite survey after survey finding widespread public support for a strong ABC, our ‘conservative’ government and its cheer squad in the plutocrat-funded think tanks and News Corporation seem determined to wreck it.

Whatever the failures of Michelle Guthrie, her sacking by the ABC board this week just half-way through her five-year term and the revelations that chairman Justin Milne was seeking to have a respected journalist sacked to placate his political masters are merely the latest symptoms of concerted attempts by powerful interests in Australia who resent the very existence of public broadcasting.

This is no conspiracy theory. The Liberal Party’s own peak council voted 2:1 in June this year to sell off the ABC. The IPA, the Libs’ paramilitary wing of Zegna-suited young fogey libertarians, have long called for its sale. And there is an army of apoplectic culture warriors at News Corp who have built careers on ranting about alleged left-wing bias in the broadcaster, despite their own publications being showcases for the very worst in partisan hackery and despite the ABC turning itself inside out to accommodate the views of the iPA and others. As ABC veteran Barrie Cassidy observed on The Project, the political pile-on has been given impetus by News Corp’s own self-interested jihad…

So as we saw with the same-sex marriage debate, the public concern over climate change, the rising disquiet over deepening inequality and the continuing war on the young and the poor by the old and the rich, the existential attacks on the ABC reveal a complete disconnect between broad, centrist public opinion and a far right, unrepresentative rump.

This noisy cabal, speaking to each other through the editorial pages of The Australian,have been inspired by the rise of Trumpism and are seeking to import to this country the oligarchic, money-driven, extreme libertarian. anti-public institution politics of the USA, a phenomenon acutely observed recently by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

Of course, the marriage of convenience between ugly nativism, fundamentalist religion and scored-earth neoliberalism has been with us for years. But in the crisis besetting western democracy since the GFC, that trend has intensified in what looks like a rearguard action by carpetbaggers to destroy our remaining social capital. The mood among this group is to tear everything down, to harness the backlash against liberalism to knock over any last vestige of a collective good, or any institution not subject to ‘the market’. And Australia, with its quaint and resilient attachment to social democracy, stands in their way.

This is why the coming fight can be seen as about more than the ABC and public broadcasting. It is a fight for our remaining public institutions and social infrastructure against narrow, moneyed interests who want to torch what’s left. It is a fight for society against ‘the economy’. It is a fight for a conscious rebuilding of trust through formal and informal networks. And it is a fight that is going to require a revival of public-spirited journalism either within or without the media.

7 comments on “Failed Estate – the ABC of Trust ”

  1. greywarshark 1

    It is a fight for a conscious rebuilding of trust through formal and informal networks. And it is a fight that is going to require a revival of public-spirited journalism either within or without the media.

    And further – it is a fight for the decent society that our forebears came here from corrupt old Britain to achieve. And we thought we were on the pathway so we never took regular time to audit and go down the checklist annually either at home or on our version of thanksgiving day.

    Nearly all of us are affected by the media mistrust school of thinking, because we are thinking. Support Scoop, support The Standard, TDB, ODT, even The Herald as long as they have David Fisher and papers that keep good journos. Also the few long form overseas newspapers trying to survive like The Guardian, even if they aren’t good on everything.

    And watch what happens in Australia and see if they can shift themselves to care about anything that isn’t a cold can of something.

  2. Philj 2

    Australian Public Broadcasting is far higher quality that New Zealands. It makes sense that politicians would try to emasculate it. RNZ is undergoing the same process currently, imo. TVNZ is a lost cause.

  3. Macro 3

    “Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you’ve got
    Till it’s gone”

    Joni Mitchell

    The demise of the ABC would be an utter disaster for Australia. But the the Liberals are already just that – an utter disaster, aided and abetted by the Nationals and One Nation.

    • tc 3.1

      Rupert’s the main agitator here IMO.

      He loaths free independant news and expects payback for the rabid pro liberal coverage his media outlets showered on Turnbull last general election.

      He’s got the cross media ownership laws revoked but he’ll not be happy till ABC news and current affairs is neutered.

      It’s a long term play for Murdoch to excercise control over the Oz media landscape. He’s been at this for decades.

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    Quoting Capitalism vs. Freedom:

    The journalists found that the hormone [Synthetic hormone for cows to produce more milk] caused serious health problems in the cows and was likely to affect milk drinkers hormonally, despite the FDA’s approval of the drug (more on this rubber-stamp nature of current regulation in Chapter 3).

    As the excellent PR Watch reports, ”Immediately after FDA approval of rBGH, attorneys for Monsanto sued or threatened to sue stores and dairy companies that sold milk and dairy products advertised as being free of rBGH,” usually for ”defamation.“8 But Monsanto threatened Fox with ”dire consequences,” presumably in the form of withdrawn advertising and legal suits. The network’s own legal staff dragged the journalists through dozens of revisions, attempting to minimize or remove any mention of cancer or other specific health effects. Bribes and bullying were also attempted, including an episode where the journalists claimed a manager said ”We paid $3 billion for these television stations. We will decide what the news is. The news is what we tell you it is.”

    Hayek claims the market is an ”efficient mechanism for digesting dispersed information.” Meanwhile, we’re digesting synthetic cow hormones.

    Orwell Animal Farm introduction

    The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary. Unpopular ideas can be can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban… not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that ’it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact. So far as the daily newspapers go, this is easy to understand. The British press is extremely centralized, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics. But the same kind of veiled censorship also operates in books and periodicals, as well as in plays, films and radio. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept Without question… Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.55

    This part of Orwell’s work, claiming capitalism suppresses freedom of information, hasn’t received the same media attention as his work criticizing the USSR. For some reason.

    The private owners don’t like being held to account and so do everything in their power, which is significant due to their access to and influence on politicians, to prevent it coming about.

  5. simbit 5

    Significant geopolitical concern in Canada is failure of US, social disorder, and tens of thousands of crazed militia survivalists driving north into Canada in RVs with ammo and paranoia.

    The situation in Oz is much less urgent, not least because not that many crazy Australians have yachts. But I suggest NZ should at least entertain the idea of an invasion from friendlies…

  6. tc 6

    SBS has undergone similar treatment under Ebeid’s reign with a dumbing down agenda and several high profile departures.

    He’s gone to telstra now with a pat on the back from his mates in canberra.

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