19 June 2018

ABC bias and other urban legends

The Coalition government would like to privatise the ABC. Of course they would, because they can't see the value in anything you can't turn a profit from, especially not one that allows the unwashed masses access to better investigative journalism, local news, drama, comedy, arts and music than they can enjoy on any of the free commercial networks. Selling the ABC has been on their wet dream list for years, as was confirmed on the weekend, when the Liberal party federal council meeting voted overwhelmingly in favour of the sale. I mean, they'd hand the public broadcaster over to Rupert Murdoch in exchange for keeping what copper wire they could rip out of ABC HQ at Ultimo, if they thought they could get away with it.

But they know selling the ABC would be up there with dismantling Medicare as something they yearn to do but would be too deeply publicly unpopular to contemplate, prompting Communications Minister Mitch Fifield to sanctimoniously declare:



Which might be a little more plausible if there weren't scores of instances of government ministers and advisers stating publicly that the ABC should be privatised, including from Senator Fifield himself. Although it was fun for the rest of the day to see the LNP hacks rushing to defend the Senator by declaring that the Coalition will never, ever sell the beloved public institution that is the stinking pile of biased crap at the ABC.

Ah, that old clanger. ABC bias. The running commentary from those who want to sell off the ABC that it is a complete lefty/Labor/Greens love in, which successive LNP governments are powerless to rectify. I mean, I can see their point. I was watching Gardening Australia last week, and the segment was supposedly about winter garden maintenance but Costa wouldn't shut up about raising corporate tax rates. Those opposed to the ABC are convinced there's a left wing bias, but they seem uncertain just what that bias is.

I asked on Twitter for specific examples of bias, but no one mentioned any. In all the commentary on the privatisation vote, I saw many mentions of ABC bias, but never any specific examples other than allusions to the ABC accepting the scientific consensus on climate change. Which is something, huh? If the ABC was biased, you'd think they'd be able, heck eager, to provide evidence of this. Lefty types on Twitter frequently raise allegations that 7.30 host Leigh Sales is harder on Bill Shorten in interviews than when she speaks to Malcolm Turnbull, which, whether or not you agree with it, is at least a specific example of bias. But online commenters wanting to sell the ABC couldn't name any bias at all. Some of them, in fact, were so completely convinced of ABC bias they haven't been able to bring themselves to watch in many, many years, judging from one outraged non viewer convinced Tony Jones is both biased and blond.

But they've got nothing in the way of proof. It doesn't faze them, though. No matter how many IPA members appear running the neocon line on The Drum, no matter how many Liberal politicians and supporters are featured on Q and A, no matter if interviews with government figures are soft balled, no matter even that quantitative studies show the ABC has, if anything, a slight right wing slant; the side that proclaims itself to be on the side of cool headed facts over emotions, of "reals before feels", are relying on what they just know deep down to tell themselves the ABC is biased, in the place of any actual evidence. ABC bias is like the story you saw on Facebook about the friend of a friend of a friend's child who was kidnapped at a shopping centre, taken into the toilets to have their head shaved, and was about to be bundled into a getaway car when police swooped, warning no one to speak of this for fear of causing a panic (can you believe, in this day and age with all the resources we have at our disposal, people still fall for this shit). It's a myth, and urban legend, tale spread by those who don't know any better and pushed by those who profit from the lie.

Although Andrew Bolt did propose a test of ABC bias: see if any of its presenters believe it should be sold off. That none will say so, apparently, is proof the ABC if biased. And if the ABC drowns, we'll know it wasn't a witch.

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