Dumbing down

Does the ABC have a problem? The Age’s Gay Alcorn thinks so:

“If worthy can be dull, and frivolous can be entertaining, how hard is it to be dull and frivolous at the same time? It is a challenge (Melbourne) 774 ABC radio appears to have set itself and, for this longtime listener, it is getting there.”

The ABC needs reform. New energy, ideas and bravery would be a good start. Programs on Radio National are often fascinating though do tend to appeal to an older, more conservative audience. I used the word conservative advisably. Perhaps audiences “set in their ways” is more appropriate. What about the yoof? And the next generation of ABC listeners?

Friends of the national broadcaster fail miserably when they claim that more funding would alleviate all the ABC’s problems. There is a culture of fear inside the ABC. I’ve discovered this during research for my book. Many journalists and editors are self-censoring themselves, especially when discussing domestic or international politics. Watch the ABC TV’s 7pm news bulletin and try not to be struck down with its parochialism.

Tim Blair may call the ABC “selective, self-serving [and] devious” but he’s a believer in privatisation. A better way to describe people like him is, “those who can’t stand journalists questioning the status quo because it shows them to be little more than propagandists.” A strong, independent national broadcaster is essential, and so is more funding. But we must stop modelling the ABC on the BBC. It failed the independence test during the Iraq war. Numerous studies have proven, despite rhetoric suggesting otherwise, that the BBC was in fact thoroughly pro-war before the Iraq invasion and afraid to question the dubious claims emerging from Downing Street.

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