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There is no saving the ABC — We want 60% of our billion back

Posted By Joanne Nova On October 22, 2011 @ 1:47 am In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

We want evidence, reason, and well informed opinions from all sides on important topics. Instead we’re coerced into paying for propaganda, character assassination, and the personal views of journalists.

The ABC has been outdoing itself lately. It doesn’t just ignore skeptics, it’s been actively working to denigrate them. No ad hom is too low, no fabrication too far fetched. Could it be complete fiction? Why not? Could it be the most expensive high profile ABC programs, costing tax-payers hundreds of thousands an episode? Yes sir.

It’s not a conspiracy, it’s a culture. When comedians and scriptwriters live off a diet of dogma at the ABC (it starts with the science unit), why would we be surprised that they’d churn out the same half-truths, deceit, and sloppy reasoning in their fictional work?

The ABC Chairman — Maurice Newman — recently worried about the poor intellectual quality of ABC “investigations” in The Australian, “Ad hominem attacks substitute for logical and evidence-based discourse that would otherwise allow viewers and listeners the opportunity to decide for themselves where they stand on the issues.”

Our billion-dollar ABC is supposed to represent the diverse views of the country:

The ABC editorial policy tells us the ABC must: “4.2 Present a diversity of perspectives so that, over time, no significant strand of thought or belief within the community is knowingly excluded or disproportionately represented.” [Thanks Bob Fernley-Jones]

The diversity of opinion is clear: the latest polls show  34% of Australians are in favor of a Carbon Tax and 57% are against.

So how do the ABC represent the voices of 57% of the people?

  • A/ ignore them,
  • B/ denigrate them, or
  • C/ both of the above (see, e.g. “Anthony Watts”).

The lengths the ABC will go to, to destroy reputations of those they personally disagree with are considerable

I’ve already described how Wendy Carlisle called herself a “science journalist”, yet ignored Australia’s leading carbon modeler as he explained problems with climate models (twice, at length, with slides). Instead of asking Evans a single question when he was in the same room after the talks, Carlisle thought it was worth making international phone calls to people tenuously and distantly connected to the Monckton tour in order to talk about what their department was called in 1985.

The agit-prop is not just talk shows, it now extends to “comedy” and fictional dramas.

Crownies tries to defame Anthony Watts

ALT

Fictional character: James Watt

Two weeks ago, a legal drama –Crownies — put a lawyer-character  in a devilish quandry. The poor dear — fresh from being drilled in Climate Alarm 101 at school — was forced to defend a “denier” who’d been punched by the lawyer’s hero — a frustrated alarmist scientist. The ‘persistent climate denialist’ was a blogger called “James Watt” who ran a site called “CO2fraud”, a thinly veiled attempt to denigrate Anthony Watts who runs the skeptical website Watts Up With That(easily the most popular climate site in the world). At the end of the case, Watt looks like a loser nerd who deserved to be punched. The climate scientist reckoned he might do it again “for $1000, it might just be worth it.” As per usual the script writers attack strawmen and produce a caricature of errors.

(Note to Crownies writers: hundreds of studies show the MWP was not just “local”, no major skeptic says GHG’s break laws of thermodynamics, the hot spot wasn’t found, alarmists still can’t name any empirical evidence, and if a glacier melts that doesn’t mean fossil fuels caused it. Any cause of warming will melt ice, raise sea levels, change growing seasons, you know.).

To see Episode 13: Try this link, or this one or possibly  The ABC’s iView facility* (Parts of interest at 5.30, 15.30, 27.30, 30.30 and 38 mins.)

The ABC doesn’t even try to hide that the point was to make Watts look like an idiot — it’s written into their episode description:

Richard is prosecuting a case in court, this time with a good chance of winning. But he is not happy. He has to prosecute his climate scientist hero Tim Coghburn for assault, after Coghburn punched a persistent climate denialist, James Watt. Watt is an annoying gadfly and Richard detests all he stands for. And the fiasco is made worse when Richard sees Coghburn is being represented by Richard’s old, much admired law lecturer. Richard makes a stuttering start in court, and the defence QC makes Watt look unreliable and a bit of a goose. Part of Richard wants to lose because of his environmental concerns, but part of him needs a win. Richard finally cross examines Tim Coghburn and gets to reconcile his needs. He leads Tim through a series of questions as put by James Watt and his ilk, stirring Coghburn’s anger as he airs the simple rebuttals. Eventually Tim blurts out that yes, he did hit James Watt, and it felt great. Richard has his win, Tim is fined, and Watt still comes out of it looking like an idiot.

A Hamster tries satire on Monckton. If only it were funny…

While we toured with Christopher Monckton in Sydney in July, he mentioned that an ABC related team had interviewed him for 45 minutes, and then it all turned out to be a gotcha pretending he was Sacha Baron Cohen.

Now, What-Ho, three months later, they’ve finally scraped it into a 4 minute comedy sketch. The central idea was a good one — the riotous notion that Monckton was Cohen all along and has tricked everyone from the US Congress to media outlets everywhere. It could’ve been good — if only the actors could act. None of them can deliver their lines in any half-way convincing style. Watch Shaun Micallef self-consciously fake a laugh, see someone called Tony Martin overact his scripted lines, and laugh at the big Gotcha Moment flop as Monckton doesn’t bite and politely tells them they ought take their equipment and go.

As is usual with religious zealots, they just can’t carry off a joke. The best and funniest comedians know their topic well. But the Chaser crew don’t know Monckton well enough to realize that he has Graves Disease, and Martin’s comment that Monckton looks so “ridiculous” chokes on its own poor taste. This is cheap-trick propaganda, except it isn’t cheap. (The 8 shows cost $3.2 million dollars and the Chaser boys are getting $1.2 million of taxpayer money themselves.)

[I predict that Hamster, like Crownies, will bomb. Who wants to watch predictable shows tell them what to think and who to sneer at.]

The weak scientific culture of the ABC starts with the science unit

Bob Fernley-Jones documents just how unscientific Robyn Willliams “science” program has become.

Williams personal views on topics like “climate science” dominate his show. He reviews sympathetic smear books that personally attack scientists, but he won’t interview authors of science books who hold different opinions to his own (e.g. Professor Bob Carter, who wrote Climate: The Counter Consensus). Nor will Williams interview well-informed critics like William Kininmonth (Climate Change: A Natural Hazard), Dr David Evans, or Prof Garth Paltridge (The Climate Caper). And this despite global warming being rather near the top of the national agenda.

Williams says he won’t allow lobbyists to speak, but he interviewed a PR hack (Bob Ward) to attack  Bob Carter. Carter had already explained in writing how Ward got it wrong — yet despite the weakness of Ward’s attack, Williams broadcast it without mentioning Carter’s answers in the broadcast, even though he had the document.

Over the last year Williams has gone out of his way to interview name-calling bloggers (John Cook wrote a whole book on “deniers”) or Oreskes (the Merchant of Doubt herself, who smears senior scientists with 20 year old misinformation). The weakness of the reasoning is so poor that Williams apparently thinks useful answers to climate science questions can be found by talking about tobacco funding in 1990.  It’s tabloid gutter talk pretending to be “science”.

In other words if you can help propagate baseless ad hominem attacks, or you are so confused you think we learn something about the climate by analyzing someone’s biography, then the ABC would like to hear from you. But if you are a learned professor, with years of experience and you present a view that 6 out of 10 Australians are sympathetic with, you are persona-non-grata.

When will the ABC professional culture improve?

In 2010, Maurice Newman tried to warn ABC staff that they were risking one of the most trusted brands in the country:

“Should there be a view that the ABC was sheltering particular beliefs from scrutiny, or failing to question a consensus, I would consider it to be a dangerous perception that could lead to the public’s trust in us being undermined,”

Journalists and editors at the ABC are putting their personal preferences above most Australian’s, and elevating their opinions above professors of science. This is tribal warfare. We could ignore the petty minds, but they are in charge of the tax-payer funded megaphone. It’s time we stopped being coerced into paying for it to be used against us.

Maurice Newman will be replaced soon, but in the current political climate it is hard to imagine the change will mean the ABC will be run in a wiser, less biased manner.

It’s time for the Tax-time-tick-a-box campaign

Taxpayers fund the ABC. Why not let taxpayers a voice their view on their tax return? Let’s give them an opt-out, or an alternative:

“I agree my tax dollars should support the ABC  ☐ ?”

All of the taxpayers who feel that the ABC represents and informs them will be happy to tick YES. (Right now, I want my money to go to medical research instead. How about you?)

The incentive to represent voters from all sides of the spectrum would produce the diversity and real competition that this country desperately needs.

 

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If you are dismayed by the misuse of your tax dollars, you can write to the Chairman of the ABC or register a complaint.

UPDATED: Bob Fernley Jones has a better suggestion in comments:

There has been mention above that a formal complaint can be made to the ABC. They are obliged to respond to such through their “independent” Audience and Consumer Affairs group, AKA as A&CA, and a case number is mandatorily allocated and advised to complainants.

If you complain directly to the Chairman of the Board, (Maurice Newman), you are pressuring someone who has said enough to suggest that he must be fuming about the ABC culture, but he seems powerless to do much about it. One reason for that is possibly that the Editor-in-Chief is the Managing Director, (Mark Scott), whom apparently obeys the consensus alarmist view, and seemingly does not pay heed to the Chairman’s views. An influence on this may be that the ABC is funded by the government, and it may not be politic for the MD to bite the hand that feeds them….. dunno; just musing.
The official complaint process is OK within certain limits, such as being unable to address a particular person or wanting to format the text with quotes or emphasis, or inserting hyperlinks, and whatnot. However, this difficulty can be overcome by using the “official” complaints process and stating something like: refer to my (rich text) Email of…. to…. for full detail.

So, if anyone wishes to complain to the ABC, here follow some relevant Email addresses. Don’t expect to receive a quick reply from your selected addressee; since they would likely refer it to A&CA. However, they are alerted to your complaint and may think on it. (probably latently ranking high in the thoughts of less driven people). If you go through the “official” complaints system, you will be given a case number, and A&CA are obliged to respond in less than 60 days by law (and there are appeal processes if you are not happy with their ruling).

A&CA direct: Corporate_Affairs10.ABC@abc.net.au
Angela Peters, PA to Chairman (Mr Newman): Peters.Angela@abc.net.au
Lin Buckfield, Exec Producer of “Media Watch”: Buckfield.Lin@abc.net.au
Mark Scott, MD & Editor-in-Chief: Mark.Scott@abc.net.au
Paul Chadwick, Director of Editorial policies: Chadwick.Paul.A@abc.net.au
Jonathan Holmes: Presenter of Media Watch Holmes.Jonathan@abc.net.au
David Fisher, producer of “Science Show”: Fisher.David@abc.net.au
Robyn Williams, usual presenter of “Science Show”: Williams.Robyn@abc.net.au

It may be appropriate to exert pressure on “Media Watch” to apply more balance than they have shown in the past year.

Note to Robyn Williams: Where is the evidence?

I have written about William’s important role and poor professional standards before in: The evidence? What evidence?

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*The video will be available for viewing for the next two weeks. If that link doesn’t work, then you can access it by going to the abc website at <a href=“http://www.abc.net.au” rel=”nofollow”>www.abc.net.au</a>Click on TV on the menu, then click iView, then Programs, then Drama, then click on the Segment “Crownies” – Episode 13. (Thanks Elaine)

** The Hamster Wheel is produced by Giant Dwarf Pty. Ltd. in association with ABC TV. Executive Producers – Julian Morrow & Martin Robertson; ABC Executive Producer – Kath Earle.

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