The Guardian November 8, 2000

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 

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 

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 

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 

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.

Back to index page