Here’s a non-story to fill the pages of the Murdoch Australian.
I appeared on ABC TV News24’s The Drum last week and discussed a variety of issues, mostly foreign affairs. On most nights the show has a range of guests, usually from the soft left to the soft right, and a number of more strident commentators somewhere else on the spectrum. I’d like some more punchy guests myself more often but there you go.
So this piece in yesterday’s Media section of the Australian is a typical non-story framed as my thoughts (and others on the panel) as evidence that the show (and ABC in general) is utterly unbalanced and skews to the left. Please. It was one night with certain guests, no more or no less. And note how there’s apparently something wrong with me talking about the brutality and immortality of the US mission in Afghanistan.
Using Gerard Henderson as a reliable critic on such matters is akin to asking George W. Bush how much he knows about torture in Abu Ghraib (ie. bugger all through willful ignorance):
The age-old problem — how to achieve balance on the ABC’s current affairs panel shows — is again in the spotlight, after a particularly egregious episode of The Drum last Thursday that featured three panellists and a host, all in furious agreement with one another on a range of policy matters.
The executive director of The Sydney Institute, Gerard Henderson, addressed the matter in his Media Watch Dog column on Friday.
He has also raised questions about the make-up of tonight’s Q&A on the ABC, saying the balance is firmly stacked to “the fashionable, soft-Left opinion”.
The Drum last Thursday was hosted by Tim Palmer, with guests Fran Kelly, Antony Loewenstein and Chas Licciardello from The Chaser.
In a discussion about the US army “kill team” soldier Corporal Jeremy Morlock, who murdered civilians and has been sentenced to 24 years jail for the crime, Loewenstein said he had decided “this sort of stuff is common”.
“It’s part of how . . . the only way you can get through a day (is) to see the enemy as towelheads . . . these images sadly are far more common than we like to believe,” he said of reports that rogue psychopaths had murdered a teenage boy and cut off his finger as a trophy.
Loewenstein said there were “massive, huge suicide rates” among US soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The discussion of Tony Abbott’s welfare proposals was also all one-way.
Henderson addressed the issue in a segment of his Media Watch Dog column that analyses ABC chairman Maurice Newman’s suggestion that there is
a “group-think” ethos in the public broadcaster.
Henderson told Media yesterday that “you would never have an occasion where there were three people with a conservative outlook on The Drum. It would never, ever happen.
“They simply do not understand that there are people with a plausible, defensible, reasonable opinion that is an alternative to the soft Left opinion they all have.” Henderson said he had never been on The Drum, and had only once been invited on Q&A.
Miranda Devine, who writes for The Daily Telegraph, owned by News Limited, publisher of The Australian, has twice been invited but the audience brayed whenever she spoke.
“As a rule, the ABC presents fashionable, Left-wing opinion, which would be fine, as long as there was some balance,” Henderson said.