Tony Abbott slams the ABC
Prime Minister Tony Abbott tells Ray Hadley on 2GB radio that the national broadcaster takes "everyone's side but Australia's".PT1M54S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-31mcl 620 349 January 29, 2014
Tony Abbott's tirade against the ABC betrays a deeply flawed view of the role of the Australian media in general and the national broadcaster in particular. Worse still, it doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
As the Prime Minister knows, it is not the ABC's job to take sides.
That it comes from a man who has always expressed pride in his past life as a professional journalist makes the outburst all the more puzzling – and invites the conclusion that another agenda is at play here.
Hit out at the ABC: Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo: Andrew Meares
The Prime Minister's main concern is that the ABC ''appears to take everybody's side but our own'', and lacks ''at least some basic affection for the home team''.
This astonishing proposition – that coverage should be somehow skewed by nationalism, or patriotism – sits uncomfortably with the ideals of a robust democracy with a free, fair and fearless media.
As the Prime Minister knows, it is not the ABC's job to take sides, but to report fairly and accurately. Like any media organisation in the digital world, it is also to interpret, analyse and explain.
The accusation that appears to have triggered the outburst is that the ABC failed to meet the obligation of accuracy and fairness in its recent reporting of claims by asylum seekers that they had suffered burns due to mistreatment by the Royal Australian Navy.
While some aspects of that coverage are open to criticism, the argument that the ABC should have given the ''Australian navy and its hard-working personnel the benefit of the doubt'' is extraordinary. Should the same attitude be taken when young sailors make claims of being sexually abused?
A secondary complaint is that the ABC should not have published – in conjunction with the Guardian Australia – revelations of Australian spying on the Indonesian president and his wife late last year. My strong view is that publication in that case was very much in the public interest.
The bizarre irony is that the first topic discussed with Ray Hadley on Sydney radio 2GB on Wednesday was the gravity of ''frightening'' revelations about the level of corruption in the construction industry that emerged from a joint investigation by Fairfax Media and the ABC.
We can safely assume that Mr Abbott sees this reporting as in the national interest – and can expect the investigation will bolster the government's case for the reinstatement of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and a wider inquiry into the bad behaviour of unions.
So what's the agenda here? Mr Abbott's view says the ABC should confine itself to being a ''straight news gathering and news reporting organisation'', but how does such an organisation simultaneously display its affection ''for the home team''?
Either the Prime Minister is out to deflect attention from other fronts – like the secrecy that shrouds his ''stop the boats'' strategy – or ABC funding is in his sights. Either way, he needs to come up with a far more cogent critique than the one presented to commercial radio listeners in Sydney.