Sack the ABC board and rid this bloated mono­lith of its bias

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - OPINION - PIERS AKERMAN

THE Coali­tion shouldn’t miss the op­por­tu­nity pro­vided by the crisis at the ABC. Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son is wrong to call on the or­gan­i­sa­tion to “re­sume nor­mal trans­mis­sion”.

The ABC’s nor­mal trans­mis­sion of un­de­ni­ably bi­ased views can no longer be ac­cepted. The ABC is a statu­tory gov­ern­ment au­thor­ity and has re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that it has long scoffed at. Its dis­dain for the obli­ga­tion placed upon it by Par­lia­ment is at the heart of the ABC’s on­go­ing dys­func­tion.

On Fri­day, fea­tured ABC host Jon Faine claimed with zero ev­i­dence that politi­cians had called for the sack­ing of a num­ber of pre­sen­ters. The ar­ro­gance with which he did so high­lighted the en­trenched po­si­tion ABC staffers main­tain. Yes­ter­day The Week­end Aus­tralian re­vealed that the ABC’s act­ing chair­man Kirstin Fer­gu­son sent a folksy con­grat­u­la­tory mes­sage to the ABC’s so­called chief eco­nom­ics cor­re­spon­dent Emma Al­berici last Fe­bru­ary af­ter the ABC pub­lished a story on cor­po­rate tax that was shown to be grossly in­ac­cu­rate, lead­ing to mul­ti­ple cor­rec­tions.

If Fer­gu­son is so ig­no­rant of ba­sic cor­po­rate law, what are her ac­tual ar­eas of skill and how can she pos­si­bly lead the board now or ever?

What­ever the cur­rent de­part­men­tal in­ves­ti­ga­tion dis­cov­ers about the ABC’s flawed man­age­ment pro­cesses, the facts make it clear that the selection process and ap­point­ment of for­mer CEO Michelle Guthrie was a gross er­ror. She was in­com­pe­tent.

It is as clear that for­mer chair­man Justin Milne was an idiot and that the ABC’s own ed­i­to­rial pro­cesses are worth­less. It was that last point that led to the other fi­as­cos.

Al­berici’s demon­stra­bly in­ac­cu­rate and bi­ased re­port­ing on le­git­i­mate cor­po­rate tax avoid­ance pol­icy was so egre­gious that the ABC re­ceived com­plaints from Qan­tas chair­man Alan Joyce, Busi­ness Coun­cil of Aus­tralia CEO Jen­nifer Wes­ta­cott, the Prime Min­is­ter and the Trea­surer’s of­fices and the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Mitch Fi­field.

The ABC had no op­tion but to take down the of­fen­sive ar­ti­cle and ex­ten­sively re­work it. Al­berici re­of­fended in May. That same month an­other se­rial of­fender, the ABC’s po­lit­i­cal ed­i­tor An­drew Probyn, emerged.

The Aus­tralian Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Me­dia Au­thor­ity up­held a com­plaint that Probyn un­fairly treated for­mer prime min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott in call­ing him “the most de­struc­tive politi­cian of his gen­er­a­tion” and, in June, the Coali­tion ac­cused him of re­peat­ing La­bor rhetoric about the tim­ing of five by-elec­tions caused by the ci­ti­zen­ship is­sue.

In both cases, the ABC failed to take any mean­ing­ful ac­tion against the jour­nal­ists.

Guthrie, who held the ti­tle of ed­i­tor-in-chief, failed in her duty and so too it must be said did the var­i­ous news man­agers right down the line.

Milne fielded com­plaints and then stupidly com­mit­ted his thoughts to emails. He lacked the nec­es­sary skills to be chair­man. A friend and as­so­ciate of for­mer prime min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull, he was Turn­bull’s ap­point­ment and he, too, was a fail­ure. In­com­pe­tence at every level. Al­berici should not have been given an ap­point­ment be­yond her ca­pa­bil­ity.

Probyn, af­ter he first ex­posed him­self as par­ti­san, should have been taken out of the po­lit­i­cal arena. In­stead, he dou­bled up, and then showed him­self to be ut­terly lack­ing in judg­ment by play­ing in a mock-up re-en­act­ment for ABC TV cur­rent af­fairs.

Their fail­ure is stu­pid­ity, but the real fail­ure is en­demic and in­sti­tu­tional within the ABC and one that must be dealt with if any­thing is to be gained from this whole ex­er­cise.

The ABC staff have been shown to be as stupid and as self-serv­ing as their man­age­ment. They cheered Guthrie’s sack­ing with­out any full knowl­edge of what she may have ac­tu­ally been do­ing to pro­tect them. In­deed, the ABC’s staff­elected di­rec­tor Jane Con­nors, who has sat on the board since May, said on Mon­day that Guthrie’s sack­ing was “in the best in­ter­ests of the ABC”. So much for their con­stant whin­ing about in­clu­sive­ness and the need for fe­male ex­ec­u­tives.

La­bor is pa­thet­i­cally shed­ding hyp­o­crit­i­cal croc­o­dile tears over the whole af­fair, which may con­vince the bray­ing fools in the Friends of the ABC but no one else.

So here’s what to do.

Sack the whole ABC board and put in an ad­min­is­tra­tor while a root and branch ex­am­i­na­tion of the broad­caster is con­ducted into its rel­e­vance.

It is not in the in­ter­ests of the na­tion to have a tax­payer-funded me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tion that doesn’t re­spect its char­ter and is stacked with par­ti­san em­ploy­ees who re­ject the views of the ma­jor­ity of the coun­try.

The bloke in the cafe call­ing me “darl”, an older male col­league say­ing “sweetie” or “honey” … None of them are sex­ists.


Kirstin Fer­gu­son.

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