Oh, this is really just too funny. Gerard Henderson has dressed up his public ASIO blow-job as a call for Mark Scott to “exert editorial control” over the ABC and ensure it “portrays a diversity of views”: Scott needs to take control to ensure ABC represents diverse views.
By “diversity”, I’m assuming Henderson means the ABC must contain more of the views of conservative, middle-to-upper-class, old white men. Because, as we all know, the views of this group are scandalously under-represented in Australia’s media.
Henderson’s opinion piece is really about how wonderful ASIO is, and how lefty-pinko the ABC is for showing I, Spry, a documentary about Sir Charles Spry, ASIO’s director-general from 1950-1969, that shows him to be a drunk with anti-democratic views. I thought that second part was a job requirement for the head of ASIO, an organisation that exists to “gather information and produce intelligence that will enable it to warn the government about activities or situations that might endanger Australia’s national security” (that’s from the ASIO website).
Anyway, Henderson goes on to talk about how ASIO saved us from the evil communists in the 1950s who would have “executed people if they had come to power”. Considering the death penalty wasn’t abolished until 1973, Australia had a lot of people in power who wanted to execute people, but I guess Henderson is ok with that because they’re not, you know, dirty commies.
But, back to the issue of diversity of views on the ABC. As Gans & Leigh (2009) found, ABC TV was the only news outlet that was significantly pro-Coalition during the 2004 election campaign. I imagine the 2010 election would reveal the same thing, what with all the media carry-on about the BER program being a complete failure (complaints from 2.7 per cent of all schools involved), and the home insulation scheme being a death-trap (207 fires, compared to the 1000 caused by insulation before the scheme – ABS data). Still, if we’re talking about diversity of views during the election, there was Labor and the Coalition. Two viewpoints. Which is why the Greens got the shits that the ABC didn’t give them any sugar.
And what about diversity of faces? The ABC is the whitest channel among all the white Australian channels: Media Watch, Q&A, QI, The 7.30 Report, Lateline, The Gruen Transfer, Insiders, Offsiders, Last Chance to See, Agatha Christie’s Poirot (yes, I am flicking through the tv guide). White, white, white. And the news isn’t any better. As Gail Phillips found in her study of Australian news in 2005 and 2007:
“…instead of a range of peoples and cultures, we see mainly Anglo faces, projecting an archetypal image of a “white Australia” that is more applicable to the 1950s than it is today. More disturbingly, when we do encounter people from manifestly different racial, cultural or religious backgrounds, they tend to be featured as victims, or as social deviants, or as in some way “unAustralian”,” (Phillips, 2009, p. 19).
In his call for more diversity of views on the ABC, Henderson doesn’t want any more of that “angry leftist” Hungry Beast – which can be hit and miss because it’s really two shows in one, but when it hits, it is very good – and, presumably, he wants more repeats of The Great Global Warming Swindle and Dick Smith’s Population Puzzle, in which footage of Asian cities was used to stoke xenophobia. And more period dramas (because back then women knew their place) and shows that prove that Muslims/immigrants/Hugo Chavez are truly evil and out to destroy our way of life.
Or is that being too mean? Perhaps Henderson really is calling for more foreign-language films on the ABC to cater for the 21 per cent of Australians who speak a language other than English at home. Maybe he wants more Buddhist programs, since Buddhism is the largest non-Christian religion in Australia. Nah, I doubt it.
More diversity of views on the ABC? That would be great.
Gans, J., & Leigh, A. (2009), How Partisan is the Press? Multiple Measures of Media Slant.
Phillips, G. (2009), ‘Ethnic minorities on Australia’s television news: a second snapshot’, Australian Journalism Review, vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 19-32.