ABC Bias

The ABC bias debate. Dr Martin Hirst from the School of Journalism & Communication UQ writes to the Australian and proves the bias of the ABC by trying to prove there isn’t any. I find his letter as a case in point about what is wrong with the ABC. If you watch the ABC, particularly the news and current affairs programmes and find yourself generally agreeing with what you see and hear then you are most probably in the political range of centre to left – if you disagree, you are most probably centre to right. It isn’t “juvenile” to comment on this, it is simply a matter of fact and has ever been thus. The point thousands of people previously, and Senator Alston recently, are trying to make, is that it is simply unprofessional to show a bias one way or the other when reporting the events of the day and to then claim it is a balanced opinion. Calling a government “juvenile” indicates the type of bias we conservative types are talking about. Martin Hirst teaches at UQ’s School of Journalism – can’t you just see him lecturing and shaping the minds of undergrads with key phrases like ‘juvenile government’, ‘propaganda….a lie’, ‘Alston’s half-arsed whingeing’, ‘gung-ho patriotism’ and ‘the Government’s ridiculous panic-inducing anti-terrorism publicity campaign’? Good fodder for a balanced diet! The quote from Max Uechtritz that annoyed Senator Alston:
“We now know for certain that only three things in life are certain – death, taxes and the fact that the military are lying bastards,” Mr Uechtritz is reported to have said during a forum on war reporting in Afghanistan”.
Martins letter:
Senator’s dossier is meaningless WELL done Max Uechtritz for getting up Richard Alston’s nose again. It just goes to show how juvenile this Government can be. The 14-page “dossier” Alston’s office compiled is ridiculous and so out of context that it’s meaningless. This is a blatant case of political interference and Alston’s motive, in my view, is no more than trying to distract attention from the mounting problems of the Howard Government.
There is no substance in the minister’s allegations of bias. The situation on the ground in Iraq was very fluid and many things were said by reporters that later proved false. Let’s not forget that in the last 24 hours, the US has admitted they found no weapons of mass destruction and that they probably never existed. So the propaganda that the coalition had to invade Iraq to get rid of the WMDs was a lie.
No! The coalition invaded Iraq as part of the War against Terror – WMDs was one of several reasons – there were a lot more. The fact that Hussein has tortured and murdered hundreds of thousand of his citizens is one. Another is that we know his form – he has fired missiles at Israel; he has chemical weapons and has used them against the Iranians and his own people, he has atomic research programs for the stated purpose of creating atom/nuclear weapons and is altogether an unsavoury person. It is the duty of independent journalists to question everything. The Senator seems to think the media’s duty in time of war is to fall meekly into line with the Government. This is not the media’s role and it is not what the public would expect. As a former journalist and now as a lecturer at the University of Queensland, I know that journalists must report without fear or favour. The requirement is not to ‘fall in line’ but to report the facts in an unbiased manner. Leave editorials to editors and snide political comments to political commentators – we expect an opinion from these people and can allocate a loading left or right depending on their background. But the everyday journalist who fills in a line on TV or contributes to an article in the newspaper should indeed ‘question’ everything in the pursuit of professional accuracy and then when satisfied he or she has the story correct, submit for broadcast. Just the facts mate! Martin adds
I have read upwards of 40 student essays on the Australian television news media’s coverage of the Iraq War and in each of them the conclusion drawn by the students is that the ABC did a better job than everyone else.
Besides stating the obvious that if taught by you ‘they would say that wouldn’t they’ you are hardly comparing apples with apples here. Commercial TV exists on 30 second grabs to get their story over – something to do with the attention span of the viewers maybe? Try tasking your students to compare the ABC with some major broadcasters – BBC, NBC, CNN, Fox, ABC (US) to name a few. I’m not so much concerned about the ABC’s or Martin’s left wing sentiment as I am about the fact that he feels he has to abuse people who call it for what it is. Senator Alston penned an article in the Age about the issue. Judge for yourself. Now interested in Martin Hirst I googled his name and found him billed with Margo Kingston at a symposium on the Language of War organized by Just Peace – People for Peace through Justice – in response to what it called was the “unilateral, pre-emptive and illegal military response by the US with the aim of imposing its views and authority on the nations of the world”. It was all faithfully recorded by the ABC but, strangely enough, try as I might, I couldn’t get a response for “right wing symposiums” the ABC might have recorded. Finally an invite for Max Uechtritz. I am going to a Regimental Reunion in Wagga Wagga in August – you might like to drop in and explain to the blokes of my Infantry Battalion what you mean by ‘lying bastards’. For details visit the website.