I am not in the habit of sharing my private emails with The Sunday Age, but today, I make an exception.
Last week, to my surprise I found two invitations in my inbox, both about the 90th birthday of the ABC. One was from Aunty herself, the other a request to participate in a Sky News documentary to be hosted by – of all people – Chris Kenny, an avowed sledger of the national broadcaster.
Sky News host Chris Kenny has been a fierce critic of the ABC.
I am not a fan of Rupert Murdoch’s subscription TV service, Sky News Australia. It is a low-budget, down-market clone of the reactionary Sky News in the UK, which was the major media booster of the Brexit calamity courtesy of regular promotion of windbag Nigel Farage.
Sky Australia takes some inspiration from the UK but more from its other toxic sibling, Fox News in the US, infamous for enabling Donald Trump’s appalling regime and his attempted coup.
The local outfit, too, has long provided a megaphone for shallow populism, amplifying anxiety about immigration, climate change, any progressive social policy and the so-called “culture wars”. It is predictable in its targets – the try-hard controversialists here echo their foreign stablemates.
Analysis published this week by international think tank The Institute for Strategic Dialogue found Sky News Australia was a global hub for climate misinformation. This would surprise few who have followed the network’s decade of climate science denial.
And their style is nearly as bad as their content. Never admit fault, never apologise. Demonise anyone who disagrees.
Over my 30 years broadcasting for the ABC, I had my share of venomous exchanges with the Sky crew and their self-important ranters, the bottom feeders of the Australian media. I enjoyed the skirmishes and hope that I gave as good as I got.
So imagine my amazement when this email arrived, hilariously under a banner promising “Real news, honest views”.
“Good Morning, Jon. I am producing a one-hour doco Ninety Years of the ABC (working title) for the SkyNews/Foxtel/Flash platforms. Chris Kenny is presenting, and the broadcast will be in late July.
“The program’s purpose is to explore to what extent the ABC is fit for purpose in the 2020s. There is no doubt that the ABC is one of our most important cultural institutions, but is the national broadcaster currently serving all Australians effectively?
“The central themes within the program will include why the ABC was formed? And the crucial service it provides across Australia; Is the ABC a positive or negative contributor to the national debate? And the general accountability the ABC has to voters and the wider public.”
“I do not think it possible for Chris Kenny to present a balanced assessment of the ABC.”
I then made some inquiries of ex-colleagues at my former workplace. The Sky production team have been working their way through a list of ABC names, starting with Ita Buttrose, chair of the board, and managing director David Anderson. Both declined, although I am not privy to their reasons.
Many ABC alumni have been approached, with a similar reaction to mine. With so many rejections, the frustrated Sky producers worked down their wish list to the former mornings presenter for Melbourne local radio. Full marks to their industrious team, who tried once more:
“In the interests of fairness and transparency, would you perhaps reconsider if I guarantee to upload the full unedited interview to the Skynews website?”
Suffice to say I was not moved by this offer.
My animus towards their chosen presenter, Chris Kenny, requires explanation. He served as a ministerial advisor to Alexander Downer and Malcolm Turnbull, and is a prolific columnist for The Australian newspaper. His on-air duties for the cable TV network are only part of his profile.
Over many years, he has consistently expressed resolute hostility to the national broadcaster. He has frequently accused the ABC of bias, and has joined a conga line of Murdoch media critics insisting that the nation would be better served by a diminished ABC.
In what universe is he a suitable candidate to weigh up “the extent to which the ABC is fit for purpose in the 2020s”?
I have little doubt Chris Kenny will simply confirm his already well-formed views about a complex and diverse organisation that, much to the chagrin of the Murdoch empire, is consistently found to be a cherished and most trusted voice. While even the most passionate supporters do not pretend the ABC is perfect, the overwhelmingly positive role it plays in the life of the nation is unarguable.
My other invitation this week was from the ABC itself. The televised anniversary party on June 30 celebrating 90 years of excellence on TV and radio is promising to be a grand and nostalgic affair. Chris Kenny should tune in.
Most Viewed in National
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article