The ABC is always whinging about the funding cuts it has had to suffer, with the Federal Government having cut the public broadcaster’s annual handout by a sizeable amount.
But the corporation makes its case weaker by splurging out on cosmetic exercises to keep its big names happy, with a case in point being Sarah Ferguson’s Four Corners program on the riot in the US capital on January 6.
Had Ferguson’s effort offered some context about the incident, instead of being a straight news program, it would have made some sense. But what is the point in having an Australian reporter file a 45-minute piece about an incident that occurred nearly a month prior?
Audiences in Australia have been enduring a surfeit of coverage about the riot, with there being no shortage of news clips from US broadcasters being shown on the ABC, the other public broadcaster SBS, and also the three Australian commercial channels.
Add to this the fact that the ABC already has three staff reporters in the US. The corporation’s news channel has a weekly program devoted to the US called Planet America so there is no dearth of coverage of the country.
Ferguson and her husband, Tony Jones, went to the US on January 15 along with a production crew. The ABC must have spent a decent sum on their upkeep and travel. So how can the corporation justify its grumbling about funding cuts when it seemingly has plenty of cash to indulge Ferguson and let her make vanity broadcasts?
This is nothing but an ego trip, an effort by Ferguson to pump up her tyres.
Ferguson has form in this regard. In 2018, she went to the US for more than three months and produced a three-part series on the alleged Russian involvement in the US presidential poll. The program was touted as the “story of the century”.
The three episodes of this program were a rehash of all the claims against former US president Donald Trump, which the American TV stations had gone over with a fine-toothed comb. However, Ferguson seemed convinced there was still something hidden for her to uncover.
At the time, a special counsel, former FBI chief Robert Mueller, was conducting an investigation into claims that Trump colluded with Russia to win the presidential election.
But in 2019, when Mueller announced the results of his probe, he had nothing to show. Zilch. Zero. Nada. Nothing. A big cipher.
And there was the famous interview with Hillary Clinton in 2017, when there was simply no reason to justify such an interview. It was a puff piece, where Ferguson gave her guest a pass on everything, though there numerous issues which could have been raised.
It is time for the ABC to either put up or shut up: either pull these vanity cases into line, or else keep quiet about the funding cuts.