Australia’s national broadcaster ABC has reportedly been staging brutal, Hunger-Games-style contests in order to decide which of its excess staff are for the chop.
If this is the plan I don’t think it’s going to work. The people at ABC are all, basically, Capitol-style pansy sybarites. They wouldn’t know what to do with a bow and arrow or a gun because they mostly eat tofu and think that hunting is for savages. None of them would make a dash for all those exciting weapons and supplies in the Cornucopia at the beginning. Instead, they would run squealing for their lives into the forest where they would quickly succumb to Flat White deprivation or be eaten by Australia’s totally out-of-control population of saltwater crocodiles. Or, if they fled into the sea, by Australia’s out-of-control killer shark population.
Those of you who think I am being unduly unsympathetic towards my hapless fellow journalists’ plight clearly haven’t experienced ABC at close quarters. I have. ABC swings so far to the left it makes the BBC look like Fox News. Hence all the protests led earlier this week by the leader of Australia’s opposition Labor party Bill Shorten about the $254 million spending cuts being forced on ABC by Tony Abbott’s Coalition government.
Shorten whinged: “This is a government of savages, ripping at the heart of our national institution…Our ABC has always been here for us. It is now time for us to be there for the ABC.”
(Note, incidentally, that nauseatingly twee use of “our”, as in “our” NHS. Has someone been taking lessons from David Cameron? If so, my advice is: don’t. It just makes the listener want to vomit. Well, it does if he’s a taxpayer.)
When Shorten says “Our ABC has always been here for us”, what he means by “us” is “metropolitan, liberal-lefties and greenies.” It’s essentially just a propaganda mouthpiece for every progressive cause going. The only time you see a conservative or libertarian type on the ABC is when he has been invited on – as I was to Jon Faine’s show in Melbourne – in order be sneered at, reviled and dissed.
Which, of course, is the real reason that Abbott is cutting ABC’s budget. Why wouldn’t he? ABC (with its smaller sister organisation SBS) currently receives $1.4 billion a year in government funding – a fair chunk of which it uses to slag off Tony Abbott’s administration.
In any case, like so many public sector organisations, the ABC is bloated, flabby, overindulged. On my tour of Australia a couple of years ago, I was particularly struck by the contrast between my experiences of recording a radio interview first at the ABC and then later one with Australia’s most popular independent radio host Alan Jones.
The ABC interview was conducted amid opulence worthy of Ceausescu’s palace. There were atriums, potted plants, multiple door staff, with lots and lots of space, a large workforce and everything new and shiny.
The Alan Jones interview was conducted at the back of a scrubby car park, in a box, with just the producer to let me in, give me a cup of tea and produce the show.
This, as Australia’s Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull noted in a rather good speech, is the problem with publicly funded broadcasters. “There simply isn’t the same relentless, daily pressure to innovate, to cut costs, to lift productivity that there is in the private sector.”