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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Friday, May 27, 2005

Dumbing down

Does the ABC have a problem? The Age's Gay Alcorn thinks so:

"If worthy can be dull, and frivolous can be entertaining, how hard is it to be dull and frivolous at the same time? It is a challenge (Melbourne) 774 ABC radio appears to have set itself and, for this longtime listener, it is getting there."

The ABC needs reform. New energy, ideas and bravery would be a good start. Programs on Radio National are often fascinating though do tend to appeal to an older, more conservative audience. I used the word conservative advisably. Perhaps audiences "set in their ways" is more appropriate. What about the yoof? And the next generation of ABC listeners?

Friends of the national broadcaster fail miserably when they claim that more funding would alleviate all the ABC's problems. There is a culture of fear inside the ABC. I've discovered this during research for my book. Many journalists and editors are self-censoring themselves, especially when discussing domestic or international politics. Watch the ABC TV's 7pm news bulletin and try not to be struck down with its parochialism.

Tim Blair may call the ABC "selective, self-serving [and] devious" but he's a believer in privatisation. A better way to describe people like him is, "those who can't stand journalists questioning the status quo because it shows them to be little more than propagandists." A strong, independent national broadcaster is essential, and so is more funding. But we must stop modelling the ABC on the BBC. It failed the independence test during the Iraq war. Numerous studies have proven, despite rhetoric suggesting otherwise, that the BBC was in fact thoroughly pro-war before the Iraq invasion and afraid to question the dubious claims emerging from Downing Street.


Anonymous michael said...

I read this while Radio National was inflicting Vicki Kerrigan's 'The Deep End' on me.

Under such circumstances, 'dumbing down' seems like a massive understatement.

At least they still have Natasha Mitchell, Amanda Smith and Julie Rigg.

Friday, May 27, 2005 2:38:00 pm  
Blogger David Heidelberg said...

Michael, Vicki Kerrigan is indeed cringworthy, and the deep end has to be one of the dullest and least inspiring programs on RN.

ABC local radio Queensland is worse. Content generally ranges from someone speaking about their spoon collection, through to the lady's auxilary promoting a lamington drive. The breakfast DJ s something straight out of commercial radio.

Got to go. Vicki's back on!

Friday, May 27, 2005 3:08:00 pm  
Blogger David Heidelberg said...

PS - Tim Blair is not one to talk about being a propagandist.

Friday, May 27, 2005 3:10:00 pm  
Anonymous Helga said...

Finally, Ant, you inspire me to put something on your blog.

I can't believe how crap the ABC is these days. I only listen to radio - being one of those weird people that doesn't have a TV - and I can't believe that I have to say that John Faine is about the best presenter Melb ABC has. I can't believe I have to wake up to Red Symons (in fact, I don't now - I've changed to Radio National), that Richard Stubbs in the afternoon presenter.

What happened to JOURNALISTS? Every time there's a new "presenter" they're a bloody entertainer!

If I want "entertainment" I'll listen to some crap FM station, not the ABC!

I also can't believe that this is one of the few things I agree with my mother on - although to be fair, I think Red Symons is the pits and she thinks Richard Stubbs is - but we both agree that ABC radio has gone to the dogs.

When are we going to have blog radio?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005 9:41:00 am  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Helga, I'm rapt to hear from you. Foxy minx...
Blog radio? Podcasting is alive and well, and in fact I'll blog something about it soon, to let people know...
The ABC is struggling. I've just been told by a friend in Perth that the ABC over there is openly racist. Oh dear.
The line between entertainers and journalists is fine indeed, for many. The ABC's new charter, unwritten I may add, is to not offend, to please and soothe. So clear...
What to do? Support its restructure, listen to alternatives, write to ABC journalist to complain. Pressure works...

Wednesday, June 01, 2005 1:22:00 pm  

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