The Guardian 3 August, 2005

Dingo bytes

Thereís more than one way to try and commercialise the ABC. The makers of the childrenís program on ABC television, Active Kidz, struck a deal with the Australian Egg Board in which product placement will occur in the show. Active Kidz is made by ABC Enterprises, which oversees the ABCís co-productions with commercial media companies and was seen as a revenue raiser for the cash-strapped national broadcaster. The show has been dropped from ABC programming. A tour of Australia by the show, Active Kidz Letís Party, was sponsored by the Egg Board and featured a character called Egg, cooking with eggs and the distribution of promotional material to the children in the audience.

And while on the ABC, the massive cuts to its funding by the Howard government has seen it produce a record low number of adult Australian dramas. This year ABC television will broadcast only 14.5 hours of home grown programs, compared to 102 hours in 2001, 96 hours in 2000 and an average of 77 hours in 1998-99. Itís typical of the right wing that those in it rabbit on about the Australian cultural heritage while destroying the institutions and organisations that produce it. Hereís Errol Sullivan, the producer of such ABC Australian classics as Blue Murder and Johís Jury, on the ABCís role in the making of local drama, "At the very least that is what you demand of a national broadcaster, otherwise why have one?"

Setting the national broadcaster up for a fall is one part pf a bigger scheme the Howard government has for the mass media in Australia. The Australian Communications Authority and the Australian Broadcasting Authority have been merged in preparation for the scrapping of cross-media ownership rules which prevent the owners of television networks also owning newsprint media in the same state. The move isnít to give the merged entity the power to regulate media ownership and behaviour. Instead its role will be to ensure government policy and strategy are followed i.e. to make sure deregulation and free market monopolisation goes ahead smoothly.

CAPITALIST HOG OF THE WEEK: is Attorney-General Philip Ruddock who went to the UN last week trying to justify his governmentís anti-democratic terrorism laws by citing the governmentís obligations under UN human rights conventions to protect human life. Even if we donít include the war crimes the government is committing in Iraq, the Howard regime has violated pretty much every UN convention on human rights, including those designed to defend the rights of children. Hypocrisy, cynicism, arrogance, contempt: itís all of that and something more ó desperation. The bombings in London were just what the Bush/Blair/Howard triumvirate needed to attempt to once again justify their criminal actions. Howard is about as popular as a skunk in a perfume shop, and ditto for Bush. Blairís popularity rose somewhat after the London bombings, but it had nowhere else to go but up.

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