Opiate pushers after ABC
by Marcus Browning The knives are out for the national broadcaster in the ranks of the right- wing ideologues. Moving in for the kill, they all want a piece of the ABC, all want to participate in its slaughter, contribute to its demise. They hate its independence, despise its probing investigative journalism, are contemptuous of its public ownership and, in turn, of the public who own it. The ideologues are taking two lines. One is that the ABC isn't independent or a national broadcaster but is actually the political play thing of the "left". This approach isn't for the full frontal attack, but is for encouraging the current direction of depriving the ABC of more and more funding so it is forced into commercial arrangements to continue production: they are about making the destruction of the ABC a sensible business. In this way they "support" the ABC getting by on what funding it receives and at the same time promote the stacking of the ABC board with Government puppets, and the agenda of managing director Jonathan Shier. Shier has been posing with a begging bowl for the past few weeks, crying that the Government won't hand over any more money. "Not a penny more, Alston tells Shier", ran The Sydney Morning Herald headline on November 1. Next day it was "ABC-SBS merger must come: Shier" (Financial Review), so as to cut costs and improve delivery. It is a ludicrous sight to watch Shier, and the likes of ABC chairman and personal friend of Prime Minister Howard, Donald McDonald acting out the pretence that it is their quest to save it — after all, these people were appointed to commercialise the national broadcaster. Shier even argued that multiculturalism means dispensing with services that are provided for the people who actually make society multicultural. "I do not think you ring-fence a group of Australians and say there is a different broadcasting service for them", said Shier. He doesn't venture to define who he thinks constitutes an "Australian", but for him its certainly not an "ethnic": "If I had come back after 24 years to Australia and my first recommendation was to set up an ethnic broadcasting service, people would say, `Where has this guy been?'" Well, you did come back, after working in commercial broadcasting in the USA, Jonathan, and while you were away some advances in thinking beyond the drive for profit-making took place. Certainly, we know you didn't come back to create a special broadcasting service, but to destroy one. So instead of promoting harmony and co-operation in diversity, your intention, and the Government's, is to impose assimilation and division. Which brings us to an example of those curious and unexpected ABC "supporters". PP McGuinness, among other things, writes a column for The Sydney Morning Herald. In his meandering collection of rationalisations and justifications on November 2, he promoted the idea that having the ABC board stacked with Government appointees would not effect its independence. Well, it is, and it has. McGuinness targets people in the ABC he says identify with "the causes of the Labor Party and of the progressive consensus". But if people such as McGuinness and his ilk got hold of the ABC (which is what it's all about) it would cease to exist, turned into yet another broadcaster stuffed with advertisements and program opiates, indistinguishable from the other commercial networks. Or worse, be turned into a free-to-air version of something like the reactionary and backward Quadrant magazine, which McGuinness edits.