Becoming Women’s Weekly

By September 18, 2022Australian Politics, Media

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reportedly sent 27 people over to the UK to ‘cover’ the death of Queen Elizabeth II1, despite Steve Cannane and Isabella Higgins being assigned to the European Bureau of the ABC in the middle of 20212. At the time, they were said to be joining the ABC’s team in London which then included Roscoe Whalan, Nick Dole, Jack Hawke, Tim Stevens, Andrew Greaves and Simon May among numerous others, a group believed to total 30 people1. While this seems an extreme reaction by the ABC to the death of the Queen, Nine Entertainment (Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Financial Review, Channel 9 etc.) have gone berserk and sent 100 people1. It is tempting to assume this invasion of the UK was a way of deflecting any criticism from monarchists, Conservatives, and assorted fruitcakes in the Murdoch media, that the ABC was run by radical Marxists, or worse, republicans, and wasn’t doing enough forelock tugging to the monarchy. However, I believe this would be a long bow to draw.

What seems more likely to me is that the board and the chair, Ita Buttrose are trying the turn the ABC into something innocuous and more concerned with trivia than anything else: more akin to Women’s Weekly than a news organisation. Buttrose was appointed as chair of the ABC board in 2019 by the appalling Scott Morrison3, something that should immediately arouse suspicion. Indeed, all the board were appointed during the tenure of the previous Coalition Government. While David Anderson has a seat on the board by reason of his position as managing director of the organisation (which is selected by the board) and Dr Jane Connors was elected by the staff, the others were appointed by the Coalition government for five year terms. These comprise: Peter Lewis was appointed in 2014 and again in 2019, and is a former Chief Financial Officer for Kerry Stokes’ Seven Network, Seven Media Group and Seven West Media; Georgie Somerset was appointed in 2017 and reappointed in early 2022, and is a grazier and president of farming lobby group AgForce Queensland; Joseph Gersh was appointed in 2018 and is a real estate investment banker and a director of Gerard Henderson’s right wing Sydney Institute. Fiona Balfour was appointed in 2021 and is an information technologist, specialising in aviation, telecommunications and logistics. Mario D’Orazio was appointed in 2021 and is a former journalist and managing director of Kerry Stokes’ Channel 7 Perth. Peter Tonagh was appointed in 2021 and is a partner at Boston Consulting and is a former CEO of News Corp Australia4.

Given the antipathy of the Murdoch media5, and the Sydney Institute to the ABC6, and perhaps Seven West Media, it is concerning but not unexpected that people of that ilk should be appointed by the former government to possibly damage the ABC. The ABC’s rolling, constant coverage of Queen Elizabeth’s death led to a drop from 332,000 to 201,000 viewers over the week (in the Gardening Australia timeslot)7. I must admit that I was one of those who turned off. So, sending all these ABC staff to London to flog the story of the Queen’s death was a serious miscalculation if they thought it was what their viewers wanted.

In addition to this London miscalculation, what used to be must-watch political analysis shows have been scrapped or so debased that they are often unwatchable. Lateline was an unmissable show when hosted by Emma Alberici, but it was cancelled in 20178. The 7.30 show, which replaced the 7.30 Report in 2011, had become rather lame in recent years, but is now fronted by Sarah Ferguson which has seen it improve from when it was fronted by Leigh Sales9. Afternoon Briefing is unwatchable while fronted by Greg Jennett10, who often seems to be a mouthpiece for the Coalition. It is better now while fronted by Mathew Doran while Jennett fills in for Michael Rowland, who was one of the unfortunates sent to London, presumably until the Queen’s funeral. QandA used to be watchable in its original guise, but after Tony Jones left, Hamish Macdonald drove the audience from a peak of over 600,000 down to just over 200,000 in the five capital cities. After Macdonald left, he was replaced by Stan Grant, David Speers and Virginia Trioli on rotation. Grant seemed inclined to insert his opinions into questions; Speers kept interrupting people who he seemed to disagree with; and Trioli was by far the best of the three. Grant is now hosting the show11. Some wags online have suggested that it should be called the Stan Grant Show, such is his propensity for inserting himself into questions. Insiders was also an unmissable political show when it was hosted by Barrie Cassidy. After he left in 2019, it was hosted by Fran Kelly and Annabel Crabb until David Speers was announced as Cassidy’s replacement from 202012. For me, it was almost compulsory viewing, but I now only occasionally watch it. Whether I do, depends on the people on the panel and the politician being interviewed. There seems to be a push on the program to give the Murdoch media a credibility which it does not deserve13.

There needs to be a complete revamping of the ABC, and that should start with the chair and the board. None of them should be appointed by the government. They should be appointed by a panel completely independent of government. The ABC’s budget also should be completely independent of government. How one improves the average quality of the journalists involved is something I wish I knew.




  • Russell says:

    I notice that Sky channel (Aust) also sent about six of its major commentators to Olde Albion to frenziedly report upon each second of any event that was remotely connected to the Queen’s death. It seems to me there’s subterfuge in such big media figures going to pay homage to HM in her casket and all the ballyhoo associated with these mourning events. It’s quite a costly exercise, as I presume these horrors like Paul Murray (Prince Rolypoly, Duke of Ockerdom), Peta Credulous (the Ice Queen who once ruled over the evil land of Abbottania), and “Bolt the Nut”, were all flying business class or first class to London. No doubt some will be enjoying a prolonged sejour in Europe after all the excessive weeping and phoney gnashing of teeth is finished. Ah, the perks that some jerks get!

    • admin says:

      It is extraordinary, and probably speaks to the (ultra)conservative bent of the proprietors/managers unlike that of many of their consumers.

  • Mark Dougall says:

    The media, as always, are complicit partners in the snow job that is the ridiculous, anachronistic, religion tainted, costly centuries old scam called the monarchy. Like other scams it only works thanks to the stupidity of the scammed.

    • admin says:

      Someone on twitter posted a photo of a streetlight pole with a large poster of QE2 in all her finery attached to it. Beneath the left hand side of the poster sat a homeless bloke with his cap laid out for people to put a few pence in. Says much about what is wrong with much of the world.

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