Free news costs plenty
ABC takes moral high ground — and $1 billion from taxpayers
I AM not sure if there is a hell or not. If there is, I am pretty sure it involves being locked in a room for all eternity with all the light beer you can drink, Samantha Fox’s 1986 dance hit
Touch Me playing on a loop in the background and, worst of all, the only people for company the audience from the ABC program Q& A.
The Gonski education model is deeply flawed.
David Hicks isn’t a terrorist, he’s a freedom fighter who stood up to the militaryindustrial complex.
I thought George Brandis made some excellent points.
Touch me, touch me, I want to feel your body. Another light beer, sir? One of the pleasant things about this country is the high level of disengagement which most people have from the political process. As a general rule, nations which have a preoccupation with politics are dysfunctional places which have been wrecked by politics.
TheQ& Acrowd represents that minority of Australians who are ideological obsessives, the sort of folks whose first instinct upon hearing that hundreds of homes are surrounded by bushfires is not to shake their head in sympathy or make a donation, but to take to social media arguing about whether climate change is real.
And rather than being a forum where people take an open mind and reflect on new ideas, the show operates more as the purest form of vaudeville, whereby the pathologically left-wing and right-wing can unthinkingly boo the people they instinctively hate and cheer the people they blindly support.
It is the tedious dinner party from whence there is no escape. And if you want to see world’s- best- practice geeks in full flight, jump on Twitter early Monday evening. Only one hour to #qanda! Yippee! I amgoing to smash that Sophie Mirabella. Kill me now. It is, of course, just my opinion that this show sucks both massively and comprehensively. Others regard it as a breath of fresh air, a ground- breaking piece of television. More power to their arms.
There are a few excellent shows on the ABC. There are some forgettable shows. There are also a few excru- ciating ones. The degree to which we are excruciated will obviously vary from viewer to viewer. You can take all this as a comment.
But the fundamental difference between commercial media and public media is that commercial media is all about customer choice. You decide whether you want to pay for commercial media by subscribing or tuning in.
Whether you like it or not, you pay automatically for the ABC. The money is simply removed from your salary every week. It’s an excellent business model as it is devoid of rigour. And, as is almost always the case with public expenditure, it gets higher every year. T hose of us on the wrong side of 40 can still remember those ads for the ABC that reassured taxpayers that the national broadcaster cost each of us just 8¢ a day. Even allowing for inflation, the cost of funding Aunty is now well beyond that.
It has now emerged that for the first time in our history the ABC is getting more than $1 billion from taxpayers.
In the past four years government funding has risen by more than $165 million, or 20 per cent, to a record $ 1024 million. Whichever way you slice it, that is a whole lot of dough, and well beyond the 8¢ of yesteryear.
And the internal running of the organisation confirms the belief that the easiest type of money to spend is someone else’s money.
In 2009 there were 138 ABC executive staff on salaries of more than $150,000.
Fast forward just four years to the 2012-2013 financial year and that number had jumped to 231.
Not only had the number almost doubled, but the amount of money spent on highly-paid outside consultants jumped to a whopping $27 million.
It doesn’t exactly scream fiscal rectitude. The thing which irks me about the ABC is not the question of bias, but the unchecked expenditure of public money.
As someone who quite deliberately has only ever worked in commercial media — and for news organisations which now rightly charge online subscriptions to cover the vast cost of producing content — it strikes me as hysterical that the ABC has convinced itself that it’s a free news organisation.
A good mate of mine at work recently drew the short straw and agreed to a series of interviews on the ABC where he valiantly tried to explain our company’s decision to charge a small weekly amount for full access to online content.
I was driving home and caught the end of his interview, after which the radio host said: ‘‘We of course at the ABC will always be free’’, before throwing the lines open to people who probably send questions in to Q&A who were in passionate agreement with one another.
Free? It’s free all right. It’s free if you ignore the billionplus dollars it bludges off the taxpayer, with an executive salary bill that has grown unchecked in record time.
Nice work if you can get it, as the song says, and in Australia it seems that you can get it all the time.
And whether you like the programs or not, the national broadcaster should at least stop pretending that they don’t cost a cent to make, and thank us for underwriting their entire existence.
The usual crowd for the Tony Jones-hosted Q&A represents that minority of Australians who are ideological obsessives