Category Archives: ABC

‘The terrorist has got another wicket’

Dean Jones is one of those many former Australian cricketers who now earns big bucks as a commentator on the sport. Like many others, he has little of import to say, but takes up 700 or 800 words to do so.

Jones was sacked by Ten Sports in 2006 for making a racist comment about South Africa’s Hashim Amla. But he has slowly crept back, with the Melbourne newspaper The Age helping in his rehabilitation by giving him a weekly column.

One would think that a man who goes around referring to Muslim players as terrorists would be shunned by publications that claim to have standards.

But racism is part of the Australian national fabric and The Age is part of that fabric. Not the overt type of racism, no, the covert type that operates undercover and helps keep white people in positions of authority.

Jones most recent column is typical; he meanders all over the place. It looks like the whole piece is suffering from multiple attacks of schizophrenia. But he fills the space and The Age also gets a “name” to write. That he has nothing of any value to say does not seem to strike the owners of The Age, Fairfax Media. Perhaps this is one reason why The Age is rapidly going downhill.

Back in 2006, Jones was heard live on air calling South Africa’s Hashim Amla, one of the better batsmen in the world, a terrorist, during a Test between Sri Lanka and South Africa in Colombo. Amla took a catch to dismiss Kumar Sangakkara only to provoke this comment from Jones: “The terrorist has got another wicket.”

Jones was sacked by Ten Sports. But he has wheedled his way back.

This kind of racial vilification by Australian cricketers is not unusual. Darren Lehmann, now the coach of the national team, called the Sri Lankan team “Cunts, cunts, fucking black cunts,” when he was run out during a one-day match in Brisbane in 2003.

Exactly what Lehmann thinks of Sri Lankans these days is unknown.

And David Warner, now the vice-captain, played the colonial to the hilt in 2015 during a one-day match against India, when he confronted Rohit Sharma and demanded that the Indian batsman “speak English”.

Not that Warner’s English is top-grade. He is your average Bogan, who is crude, rude and lacks any refinement. But still he feels he can lay down the law to the non-whites.

Exactly why media organisations take in retired cricketers as commentators and writers is unknown. It is an entirely different skill to be able to write or talk in an intelligible and educative manner about any sport. But then many journalists, themselves, are fairly crippled in this regard.

Take the case of Aakash Chopra who was crapping on during the ongoing Test series between India and Australia. Chopra suffers from verbal diarrhoea. Yet, he is there to provide expert comment for Australian listeners. The Indian commentator Prakash Wakankar is, by contrast, very good at his job.

And then there is Simon Katich, a man who has a very limited vocabulary and seems stuck in cliches all the time.

Add to that Adam Collins, who must surely be the most biased of callers, and Gerard Whateley, no slouch in the patriotism stakes, and you have all the makings of another Botany Bay invasion all over again.

Emma Alberici strikes again

EMMA ALBERICI: And the question is: can air strikes drive the Islamic State out of the Middle East? – The ABC’s Lateline programme on August 13, 2014

I KID you not. This was a serious question put to David Kilcullen, a so-called counter-insurgency expert, by Emma Alberici, one of the most glorious examples of incompetence at the Australian national broadcaster.

Now Alberici, one would assume, has some idea about the size of the Middle East. One would also assume that she is aware that in no conflict has air power, no matter how awesome, been able to drive an enemy out of a battle zone.

How did she ask such a dumb question?

Despite her stupidity, this is the woman chosen to front one of the ABC’s national programmes twice or thrice a week. She draws a salary of around $190,000 per annum and sits there, tilting her head from side to side, and asking stupid questions. And this is not the first time I have had occasion to point this out.

The discussion revolved around the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – which now calls itself Islamic State – a militant group which has made rapid gains in taking over towns and cities in Iraq, and some parts of Syria. It is also fighting in the south of Lebanon. The US has launched air strikes on the group to protect minority sects which are being terrorised and fleeing their residences.

The choice of Kilcullen to discuss matters relating to militancy is questionable. According to a genuine expert, Kilcullen was one of those, who along with John Nagl and other counter-insurgency “experts”, devised a strategy in Afghanistan that aimed to unite Afghans by trying to Westernise them via popular elections, installing women’s rights, dismantling tribalism, introducing secularism and establishing NGO-backed bars and whorehouses in Kabul. When the West finally leaves that war-torn country later this year, the Taliban will be back within another six months.

But let’s leave that alone; maybe the choice of Kilcullen was made by someone else. However, no matter who chooses the guest to be interviewed, it is the presenter’s choice to do some preparation and not end up looking stupid. Alberici is a master of the art of putting her foot in her mouth.

A week ago
, a young man named Steve Cannane presented Lateline. He had as his guest Martin Chulov, the Middle East correspondent for the Guardian. Chulov is an old hand in the Mideast and very sound on the subject. Cannane did not put a foot wrong; he had prepared well and asked intelligent questions. The whole interview was gripping and highly informative stuff.

And then we have Alberici. Why, oh why, can the ABC not find a better presenter? In the past, the likes of Maxine McKew and Virginia Trioli were excellent presenters on the same programme; Tony Jones does an adequate job on other nights of the week now.

What is the hold that Alberici has on the ABC top brass? She was a miserable failure at hosting a programme called Business Breakfast which gave many people indigestion. For that, she has been made the presenter of what is arguably the ABC’s second-most important news and current affairs programme after 7.30. At the ABC, it would appear, nothing succeeds like failure.

Voted for Abbott? Then just suck it up

TODAY, a large proportion of the Australian populace is groaning after hearing of the measures which have been brought down in the 2014 budget.

Last September, many of those people blithely voted for the Liberal and National coalition and propelled them into government.

There’s just one thing to say to this mob: suck it up.

Abbott has brought in a rise in university fees, something in keeping with this government’s anti-intellectual character.

There is no mention of climate change and no planning for it; this will again affect the younger generation who will have to cope with a warmer world when they grow up.

Abbott has also ensured that Australians no longer have universal healthcare. Everyone who visits a doctor, apart from those who have seniors cards or healthcards, will have to pay $7. Those who have medicine prescribed will have to fork out another $5 per prescription.

Some part of this money will go into a medical research fund which is touted as reaching $20 billion by 2020, six years from now.

But the figures don’t add up. Let’s assume that Australia has 23 million people (the actual figure is a wee bit less) and that every one of those people goes to the doctor 10 times a year. That adds up to 230 million visits; multiply that by $7 and you get $1,610,000,000.

The doctor gets $2 of the $7 fee so this measure will raise $1,150,000,000 for the fund.

Let’s again assume that each Australian gets five prescriptions; that gives us 115 million prescriptions and at $5 a pop it gives us $575 million. That makes it a grand total of $1.725 billion.

Over six years, we get $10.35 billion. Let’s add $1 billion as interest over those six years, assuming the money is invested as it comes in. Yes, it’s a high rate of interest, but never mind.

The government has said it is putting in $1.1 billion at the start; in total, that gives us $12.46 billion in all.

Where does the other $7-odd billion come from?

Abbott can’t do sums, it appears. Neither can his treasurer Joe Hockey. Nor his finance minister Matthias Cormann.

Gerard Henderson shows why he should never be on TV

One of Australia’s self-styled conservatives, Gerard Henderson, is always whining about how people from his side of politics do not get a fair run on the government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

On April 16, Henderson demonstrated clearly why he should be kept as far as possible from television. Appearing on a current affairs programme, Lateline, as a guest to talk about the resignation of the premier of NSW, Barry O’Farrell, Henderson displayed the churlishness and cant for which he is known, berating the other guest, journalist Kate McClymont of the Sydney Morning Herald, and trying to force his views on those present. He was obnoxious, rude, boorish, uncivilised, and intemperate.

Henderson is a former chief of staff to John Howard, and the self-styled executive director of The Sydney Institute – formerly known as the Institute of Public Affairs. This is an organisation that seeks to make money off corporations and individuals by championing certain right-wing causes and plugging them in the media. Strangely, Henderson has managed to get many lucrative media gigs and currently writes a column for The Australian.

One thing that Henderson refuses to do is disclose from where he gets his funding to run what he describes as a think-tank. It is one of these many factories for massaging public opinion and lobbying for conservative causes. Henderson has an obsession about a couple of things – Catholicism and the alleged lack of conservative presenters on the ABC – and he repeats himself ad infinitum about these any chance he gets. Information has leaked out that he is funded by the tobacco giant Philip Morris, the asbestos seller James Hardie and the Adler group.

O’Farrell resigned because he had been caught lying to the state’s Independent Commission Against Corruption – inadvertently, by his claims – over receiving a gift of a $3000 bottle of wine from the chief executive of a company that was looking to obtain business from a state-owned company. O’Farrell denied knowing anything about the wine and an associated telephone call on the 15th; the next day, when a note of thanks in his own handwriting for said bottle surfaced, he had no option but to wind up his term in office abruptly.

Henderson stoutly tried to defend O’Farrell; he did not wish to even hear what McClymont had to say – she had, by the way, been attending the ICAC hearings and was thus that bit better informed – but kept interrupting her and hectoring her to keep quiet. It showed everyone why Henderson should visit a psychiatrist to be treated for what my late father called the Sultan Complex – a mental disease.

Henderson averred that this was not the reason why the ICAC was set up; it was not meant to entrap politicians who had hardly put a foot wrong. But the ICAC has also entrapped a number of politicians like Eddie Obeid of the NSW Labor Party, who have been involved in large-scale corruption. Henderson’s claim was that the party itself had got rid of Obeid, hence the ICAC was not needed, something that was patently incorrect.

When the Lateline presenter Steve Canane asked Henderson why he had not thought of advancing these arguments about the ICAC in the last six months since the commission started its hearings, the 68-year-old came back with the petulant answer that he had not been invited to appear on the ABC for the last six months.

But this is no argument; Henderson has had a column in the Sydney Morning Herald for a long time and he switched to The Australian in December. He has always had a platform from which to spout his insidious views. Why did he not make these astute observations some time back?

Henderson contributed nothing of any value to this discussion. He was on his usual track – “I am right and the rest of the world must shut up and listen.” Why does the ABC invite idiots like him to participate when he clearly only wants to hear the sound of his own voice?

P.S. When it comes to TV, Henderson is so desperate to display his unsmiling visage, that he even accepts invitations from someone who once called him a smart arse.

ABC: incompetence is a bigger issue than bias

EMMA ALBERICI: Let’s talk about the economics shortly but I just want to stay for a moment on the politics.

What’s curious in this instance is that there appears to be little to no appetite in the US for a more aggressive military-style response from president Obama. Even the Republican John McCain, who led the push for some kind of US army assault in Georgia six or so years ago, is now urging caution? – The ABC’s Lateline programme on March 4, 2014.

RECENTLY there has been a great deal of debate in Australia over whether the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, a government-funded entity, is biased towards the left or not.

There is a much more serious malady that affects the organisation and which is never raised: incompetent presenters.

The ABC has several TV programmes that are broadcast nation-wide and thus, it is reasonable to assume that from among its thousands of employees the best would be chosen to front these programmes.

But that is not the case. It is the same as in other Australian organisations – those who can suck up get prime positions. The worst case of incompetence is Emma Alberici who on a few nights of the week presents the Lateline programme, a news and current affairs round-up of the day, which, as its name indicates, is broadcast late at night.

Alberici has very little knowledge of foreign affairs. Her guests are often at pains not to expose her lack of knowledge. On one occasion, when she was interviewing an academic from Jordan about the problems in Syria, the man had to tread very carefully to avoid making her look foolish. I wrote to the ABC at that time – about a year ago – and they replied, acknowledging that there was an issue.

But Alberici continues in her merry. foolish ways. The quote above is another example of her stupidity. When the US is just ending painful episodes in both Iraq and Afghanistan, adventures that cost trillions and affected the country deeply, only a madman would be thinking of advocating another adventure.

Yet Alberici apparently believes politicians should be doing so. Any politician who did would be committing the equivalent of hara-kiri – but not to Alberici’s way of thinking. Indeed, one doubts whether she thinks at all.

Her guest, an American of Indian origin, went easy on her and did not castigate her for her silly question. Had it been someone who was inclined to be more forthright, she would have been roasted.

Alberici is paid nearly $190,000 and charges up to $5000 for public appearances. Given this, one would assume that she takes some pains to educate herself. She was a miserable failure on a programme titled Business Breakfast, but seems to have plenty of supporters within the management ranks. Else she would have been toast by now.

Why is so much taxpayer money wasted on sport?

How much taxpayers’ money does Australia spend on sport? It appears to be a huge amount and something the governments, both federal and state, would prefer stayed hidden.

Sport is an obsession in the country and politicians know that when the country is occupied with it, then the people won’t bother about the comings and going of those in power.

Hence, they encourage sport to the hilt. Wealthy associations receive big handouts for this and that even though they do not need the money and can manage on their own. This keeps the sport and the sportsmen on-side.
Continue reading Why is so much taxpayer money wasted on sport?

The ABC is a master of weasel words

THE Australian Broadcasting Corporation is a huge organisation, funded by public money, that dominates the media in Australia. It purports to be among the most liberal and forwar-thinking. Yet oft times, it is exposed as having a colonial outlook, one that harks back to the days of British Raj.

This is not surprising – Australia was settled by British convicts but the rulers were the upper classes from Britain. For many years, Australia had a whites-only migration policy.

For the most part I ignore the clear evidence of discrimination that I notice on the national broadcaster. But at times I react – as I did on September 5 this year, nine days before the federal elections. I submitted the following complaint:
Continue reading The ABC is a master of weasel words

Conflicted guests compromise the ABC’s standards

THE Australian Broadcasting Corporation is a government-funded entity which operates on the lines of the BBC. It provides some of the better media content in the country, but this is not surprising since the standards of the rest are abysmally low. Murdoch-owned media constitute about 70 per cent of the country’s industry – that should say it all.

Given that it lives off the taxpayer, the ABC has many rules and regulations that govern its operations. It is meant to be accountable. But, then politicians are also meant to be accountable. And both often get away with blue murder.

The ABC’s arrogance is visible on occasion, though for the most part it hides behind the weasel words that are so much a part of public life today. The following incident will illustrate the level of contempt the corporation – living off the public teat, in case one has forgotten – shows.
Continue reading Conflicted guests compromise the ABC’s standards

Why the ABC has been forced to cut programs

THE Australian Broadcasting Corporation has announced cuts to a number of programs which will result in staff in some centres losing their jobs. Surprisingly, the corporation, a government-funded entity, has cited “falling audiences for some programs” as one reason why it had to make these cuts.

It tells the tale of the corporation in just those few words. Exactly why a government-funded organisation should be chasing behind ratings is not clear. But the ABC has become like any other commercial network and wants to ape them. It wants to be in the limelight, not to provide services for the diverse range of people who live in Australia.

The second reason adduced by the ABC is vague but tells, in part, the truth: “increasing financial pressures on ABC TV”. This is an euphemism for the enormous additional outlay on the half-arsed 24-hour news channel that was launched last year.

The ABC is unable to even provide the full 24 hours of programming for this service and uses the BBC for an hour or more every day. Yet this channel is a matter of ego for AbC managing director Mark Scott and therefore will continue its half-baked service.

Some people will have to look elsewhere for programs that interest them; no longer is it the duty of the national broadcaster, which is funded by the taxpayer, to provide for all tastes. The ABC now has “a strategic commitment to focus its limited financial resources on prime-time programming”. Whatever that means.

The 24-hour news service has not only put a strain on resources, it has also given existing staff much more to do with less. A planned reordering of foreign correspondents had to be called off after staff protests. But yet the jazzing up continues. A commitment to triviality and artificiality has become the aim of the organisation.

Last year, when the host of the best current affairs program, the 7.30 Report, Kerry O’Brien, decided to move to other pastures, the corporation decided to change the focus of the program. It was relabelled 7.30, hosted on new, garish sets, and new personnel were sought. Unfortunately the two who were given the gig, Leigh Sales and Chris Uhlmann, are not best suited for a program which has made combative interviews its trademark and strength.

If anyone had to be given the gig after O’Brien, it had to be Virginia Trioli, a feisty and intelligent staffer,. who has shown her mettle in no uncertain way. But Trioli is of Italian descent. And the ABC is still very much an organisation of the British colonial era.

Audiences for this flagship program are now down more than 150,000 each night. And the corporation’s head honchos are wondering why. Only idiots would fiddle with a winning formula but the ABC did precisely that. All that is needed now is to appoint an external consultant to find out the reason for falling ratings. Scott is probably on the verge of doing that.

For at least the last five years – curiously, corresponding with Scott’s reign – there has been an increased trend towards fluffy, light stuff. The classic case is the appointment of Lindy Burns to host the drive program in Melbourne. Trioli was the host before that; there were numerous serious options available but Burns, who can be charitably described as a lightweight, was chosen.

The ABC promotes itself furiously, often much better than the commercial channels do. But as the promotions increase, so too does the quality drop. Scott has been given another term at the helm and by the time he finishes one wonders whether any serious programming will be available on the ABC at all.

Mubarak falls – and ABC News 24 stands exposed again

AT ABOUT 3am AEST (+11 hours GMT) on Saturday, February 13, the reign of Egytptian dictator Mohammed Hosni Mubarak came to an end. Thirteen hours later, the Australian 24-hour news channel, ABC News 24, was still struggling to cope with the developments.

Every 24-hour news channel of any repute had round-the-clock coverage of the historic events in Egypt as they unfolded; right until early Sunday (February 13) morning, the majority of the time was spent on discussing the fallout from the 18 days of protests, something unheard of in the Middle East.

The last time there was a simliar earthquake in Egypt was back in 1952 when one Gamal Abdel Nasser and his group of Free Officers overthrew the monarchy. Then, as this time, the older members of the armed forces backed the status quo; Nasser was supported by the younger elements.

But that isn’t what this post is about. ABC News 24 has struggled on many occasions – when then Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd was toppled in 2010 by his own party, the network was caught with its pants down. Sky News and the Nine network were much quicker off the blocks. This time, was even more embarrassing.

I switched on the network at midday; the fare available was a repeat of some anodyne programme shown on the analog channel, ABC1. At this time the BBC World Service was running hot with stories from Cairo, Alexandria, and other Egyptian cities. On ABC News 24, it was a normal dreary Saturday.

I then had a look at the 4pm bulletin. It was tragic. The ABC correspondent in Cairo had gone AWOL – or so it seemed. The news was led with a story from Al Jazeera – yes, the hated Al Jazeera, the network that has often been linked to Osama bin Laden by the prima donnas in the West, the network whose office was shut down by the Egyptian authorities, the network that has caused more convulsions in the Arab world in its short lifespan than the ABC has caused anywhere, even Australia, in more than 80 years of existence.

The second story was from the BBC – and this was not even acknowledged. Unless one was aware of the fact that the reporter is a longtime BBC hand, one would never have known. The ABC’s contribution mirrored the cultural cringe that seems to afflict the whole of Australia – it was a report about US president Barack Obama’s reaction. Funny, one could get video footage from Washington, but not from Cairo where seismic events were taking place. Priorities, priorities.

And then, after a clip from the analog service, showing a demonstration by Egyptians in Sydney, there was a most curious interview conducted by ABC employee Jane Hutcheon with Lydia Khalil, an Egyptian woman from a think-tank. Khalil is obviously an American-Egyptan; your chances of getting on the ABC are better if you have a Western accent. The curious part of the interview came when Hutcheon asked “can you imagine what it will be like in cities like Alexandria?” This, when the BBC had reported four hours earlier exactly what has happening in that Egyptian city. Tells one a lot about Hutcheon’s news sense, and the reaction time of the network as a whole.

As I’ve said before, ABC News 24 has been set up to satisfy the ego of managing director, Mark Scott. Its resources are insufficient and when one really needs a 24-hour network – when a major story breaks – it is found wanting. It may be better to deploy those resources locally, shut down the network – and avoid repeating programmes so often.