October 20th 2018


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Internal strife at Fortress ABC by Peter Westmore

EDITORIAL The state is separating children from families

CANBERRA OBSERVED Liberals are bare favourites for Wentworth

DEREGULATION Sugar growers are getting burned on churned-up playing field

EUROPE Attempt to discipline Hungary divides the EU

CHINA Social Credit System gives complete control of every citizen

EDUCATION Curriculum refinements will not fix schools

BANKING ROYAL COMMISSION Banks' failures are a symptom of social malaise

HISTORY Moby Dick and American exceptionalism

SHAKESPEARE Tick-tock: clues to the timeless appear of the Bard

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Trump to UN: we'll do it our way; you do it yours

MUSIC Well-tempered scale: might put an alien in a bad temper

CINEMA Alpha: Beautiful beginnings

BOOK REVIEW Essays towards reconstruction

BOOK REVIEW Can society survive the decay of religion?

LETTERS

CLIMATE CHANGE Hockey 1, hockey 2: Good science contradicts IPCC's two-degree alarmism

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COVER STORY
Internal strife at Fortress ABC by Peter Westmore




News Weekly, October 20, 2018

It was highly revealing that The Sydney Morning Herald reported on the forced resignation of the ABC chairman under the heading “Politics”, given that the ABC is an organisation whose charter requires it to be independent, accurate and impartial.

Divisions on the boards of corporations occur frequently, and it is not surprising that the ABC board should reflect the divisions in society, particularly as the network’s programs so clearly depart from its charter on a range of important public issues such as environmentalism, migration, multiculturalism, gender politics and climate change.

Once were champions: Justin Milne,
Michelle guthrie and Malcolm Turnbull.

In these areas, it is a participant, not an impartial and independent observer.

Despite vigorous self-promotion that it is “your ABC”, the hard evidence shows that the ABC is an outpost of left-wing groupthink.

A 2013 University of the Sunshine Coast study of the voting intentions of journalists found that 73.6 per cent of ABC journalists supported Labor or the Greens – with 41 per cent supporting the Greens. There is no reason to think that it is any different today.

What was surprising was the intervention of prominent ABC staff supporting the sacking of the $891,000-a-year chief executive of the ABC, Michelle Guthrie, and then demanding the removal of the chairman, Justin Milne, after Ms Guthrie revealed that he had asked her to dismiss two ABC journalists, which she had refused to do.

It is clear that relations between the chairman and the CEO had collapsed in the months before the board fired Ms Guthrie and, arguably, one or the other had to go.

Guthrie attacked

But it was extraordinary that within a day of Ms Guthrie’s dismissal, prominent ABC personalities including Sally Neighbour and Juanita Phillips condemned her, and supported her dismissal.

Another vocal critic was Jon Faine, host of ABC Radio’s morning program in Melbourne.

Faine said, on air: “She was given the benefit of the doubt because she was a woman. She was smart and we were excited. But she was only interested in a few parts of the organisation.

“She wouldn’t advocate for us, which is an astonishing fail. She’s been all but invisible. Every time you tried to get something from her, it was all jargon.”

Faine’s comments reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the ABC’s managing director. She is not there to champion the cause of the ABC staff, as Faine believes, but to administer a $1 billion enterprise according to its charter.

What Faine and others apparently want is a board that will support any action taken by the staff, even (or perhaps particularly) when they are acting outside the ABC’s charter.

The reason the ABC staff opposed Michelle Guthrie was apparently because she did not fraternise with the staff, and refused to be their spokeswoman.

But the reason she was dismissed was quite different. She had fallen out with the chairman of the board over his attempts to get her to dismiss ABC presenters Emma Alberici and Andrew Probyn, and because of disagreements with him over the future direction of the ABC.

Despite the fact that the ABC itself was forced to concede that particular reports by these presenters had been factually wrong and biased – in other words, in clear breach of the ABC charter – no one was held to account, and ABC management left them in place to continue to say the same things.

Michelle Guthrie, a former executive with Google, was hired to continue the ABC’s transition towards the digital platform, in addition to audio and video. But as managing director of the ABC, she was also editor-in-chief, and therefore had final responsibility for the ABC’s content, and the conduct of ABC staff.

When the chairman called on her to exercise her role in this respect, it is clear that she refused to do so, leading him to make foolish requests by email to sack them. This was never going to happen, so why do it?

For his part, the ABC chairman contributed to the breakdown in relations with Ms Guthrie by pushing “Project Jetstream”, a hugely expensive project to digitise all the ABC’s content, and put it online.

Ms Guthrie correctly said that there was no provision for such a project in the ABC’s budget, and opposed the plan.

Elsewhere, the left-wing media has been repeating that the Turnbull/Morrison Government cut $84 million from the ABC’s current budget. Yet official figures show that Federal Government funding to the ABC was $1,036 million in 2016–17; $1,044 million in 2017–18; and is estimated at $1,046 million in the current financial year.

Contrary to repeated claims, the ABC is not the only government-funded program where expenditure has been frozen. Even the National Disability Insurance Scheme expenditure is substantially below budget.

In any case, an organisation that can afford to spend nearly $900,000 for a managing director is not exactly broke.

There will be a departmental inquiry into the sacking of Ms Guthrie and the resignation of the ABC chairman. But it won’t change anything.




























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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm