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catallaxy in technical exile

BBC bias! How does the ABC compare?

with 68 comments

Thanks to a feed from The Austrian Economists, the revealing story of a BBC seminar to explore the ethos of the public broadcaster.

A leaked account of an ‘impartiality summit’ called by BBC chairman Michael Grade reveals that executives would let the Bible be thrown into a dustbin on a TV comedy show, but not the Koran, and that they would broadcast an interview with Osama Bin Laden if given the opportunity. Further, it discloses that the BBC’s ‘diversity tsar’, wants Muslim women newsreaders to be allowed to wear veils when on air.

At the secret meeting in London last month, which was hosted by veteran broadcaster Sue Lawley, BBC executives admitted the corporation is dominated by homosexuals and people from ethnic minorities, deliberately promotes multiculturalism, is anti-American, anti-countryside and more sensitive to the feelings of Muslims than Christians.

One veteran BBC executive said: ‘There was widespread acknowledgement that we may have gone too far in the direction of political correctness.

‘Unfortunately, much of it is so deeply embedded in the BBC’s culture, that it is very hard to change it.’

In one of a series of discussions, executives were asked to rule on how they would react if the controversial comedian Sacha Baron Cohen  known for his offensive characters Ali G and Borat – was a guest on the programme Room 101.

On the show, celebrities are invited to throw their pet hates into a dustbin and it was imagined that Baron Cohen chose some kosher food, the Archbishop of Canterbury, a Bible and the Koran.

Nearly everyone at the summit, including the show’s actual producer and the BBC’s head of drama, Alan Yentob, agreed they could all be thrown into the bin, except the Koran for fear of offending Muslims.

Fred Sautet comments on the situation of public broadcasting and bias.

Is there a bias in the media in one direction or another? Even private media in Europe and in the US often seem to have a left-leaning bias for instance. Some economists have looked at the issue. One of the best works I know on the subject is in French: “L’attitude des médias de masse à l’égard du libéralisme économique” by my former professor Alain Wolfelsperger (published in Le Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, 2002). But mass media will always be biased in one way or another as they cater to the median audience—which in most Western countries oscillates around the center-left. And media bias disappears with specialization.

In any case, the goal of having state-funded media that purely reflect the opinion of the masses is hopeless. It is a waste of tax-payers’ money and it has opened the door to lobbying and government favors. Unfortunately, it won’t stop any time soon (e.g., the French government is soon launching a state-owned 24 hour information channel, when such a media already exists in France).

A comment on the Austrians piece:

We have an Australian Broadcasting Commission established on the same lines as the BBC, though I don’t know if our management ever insisted that the radio newsreaders had to wear dress suits as required under Lord Reith in the BBC. I suspect Lord Reith would not be happy with the current state of affairs. The point of this comment is to report that the ABC is one of the places where there are people who claim that they don’t know a single person in their circle of associates (in and out of work) who would consider voting for the current PM and his Liberal Party (or the National/country party) which makes up the governing coalition. Under these conditions certain kinds of bias are visceral and practically hard wired.


Written by Admin

November 1, 2006 at 6:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

68 Responses

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  1. well color me purple. The ABC is full of minorities, gays and hates the US. Who have ever believed it.


    November 1, 2006 at 6:52 pm

  2. Ummm, this is the BBC. I don’t think the ABC is anywhere near as bad, and probably hasn’t ever been, except maybe for a brief period in the mid-90s (just before JWH was elected).


    November 1, 2006 at 7:19 pm

  3. ‘I don’t think the ABC is anywhere near as bad’

    SL – what a sense of humour you have.

    Sinclair Davidson

    November 1, 2006 at 7:26 pm

  4. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in and out of various ABC studios, Sinc, including quite recently. There was an aggressively PC atmosphere in 1994/95, when I had a good deal to do with Aunty.

    Over the years this has lessened, to the point where my last interview (on Radio National earlier this year) was conducted in an atmosphere of warm civility and edited with complete impartiality. SBS still has a ways to go (also based on personal experience), although is also improving.


    November 1, 2006 at 7:33 pm

  5. I think they’re getting worse.

    In fairness, there are pockets within the ABC that are impartial – or try hard to be. Barry Cassidy does an excellent job, but many others have deteriorated.

    Sinclair Davidson

    November 1, 2006 at 7:43 pm

  6. The ABC is at least consistent. They attack all governments. From the Left. Since the formation of The Greens, the ABC has never subjected any Green spokesman to a critical interview. How many years is that now? Its a mindset and an inability to think outside a narrow framework.


    November 1, 2006 at 9:46 pm

  7. Fair call, Siltstone. Bias and PC are two different things, and I must admit I was focussed on the latter, not the former.


    November 1, 2006 at 9:53 pm

  8. Secret meetings (!), gay cabals, and ethics (I’ll bet the place even stinks of garlic). Who knows, they might even employ (god forbid) f*m*n*sts as well women. Me, I prefer high quality news produced in the competitive US market, like say CNN or Fox. Have you ever watched these? They employ advertisers & focus group wranglers. Oh, and secret meetings. All the time. There would be few editorial meetings that weren’t. They wouldn’t be publicised or announced to the public, & you and I wouldn’t be invited. Thankfully.


    November 1, 2006 at 10:42 pm

  9. I know BBC is biased. And I know it is “gone too far in the direction of political correctness.”

    But I think all the same it is the most competent news organization in the world. And I also think I know to distinguish news from propaganda. And I always listen to the BBC. I even time my trip home from work to Newshour.

    CNN is professional? It’s gossip news, shallow and sensational. Appealing to the least common denominator.


    November 2, 2006 at 2:03 am

  10. It’s interesting to not the claim ‘media bias disappears with specialisation’. Is that the case? I think that the biases would just become more focussed?


    November 2, 2006 at 2:46 am

  11. At least the BBC is willing to admit their bias. From there, they can try and formulate what (if anything) to do about it.

    The ABC and its supporters flat out to even admit any bias, which is simply ridiculous.


    November 2, 2006 at 3:00 am

  12. I don’t watch the ABC regularly any more but when I did I thought Four Corners and Lateline were pretty biased. Against that, I think Tony whats-is-face on Lateline is actually pretty good most of the time and has given both John Pilger and Robert Fisk some good serves.

    For those interested in the BBC, Biased BBC is a useful site to check out from time to time. Not too shrill.


    November 2, 2006 at 8:07 am

  13. Does the ABC treat the Government and the Opposition differently.

    not from what I have either seen or heard.

    it seems people are quite naive about interviewing.
    It is easier to confront a government spokesman because they are actually either proposing legislation/ policy etc or implementing it.

    The Opposition simply is not in the same race.

    Neither the BBC nor the ABC nor any other organization I can think of has the agenda of Fox nor is a open supporter like Fox.

    Bring Back EP at LP

    November 2, 2006 at 8:30 am

  14. Who gives a shit what the Greens think, siltstone? They have no power whatsoever, nor do Fisk or Pilger. Homer’s exactly right on this point. The test of any public broadcaster is how efficiently it queries what Government is doing.
    In NSW, for a taste of the ABC’s so-called bias, check out Stateline which gives an absolute bollocking, weekly, to the Labor Government, which deserves it.


    November 2, 2006 at 8:39 am

  15. The ABC had a very bad record in “querying” (not) the Keating government, as I recall, Liam.


    November 2, 2006 at 10:02 am

  16. then you recall pretty poorly Rob.

    Did you ever see the classic interview of Kessa on Keating on Lateline.

    It is the only time Keating was lost for words.

    Indeed it was said the ABC at the time was like the rest of the media was not tough enough on Howard;s motherhood statements.

    I also remember Ralph Willis been given the rounds of the kitchen on the alleged surplus.

    Bring Back EP at LP

    November 2, 2006 at 10:09 am

  17. The Labor Government and the ABC board hated each other, Rob. Of course that would probably have something to do with the repeated attempts they made to amalgamate it with SBS.


    November 2, 2006 at 10:18 am

  18. The ABC political platform is that of the Greens.

    They actually attack all comers from a green party platform so of course it looks like they are going for the two big parties.

    Close the filthy thing down.


    November 2, 2006 at 11:12 am

  19. Homer

    There is a lot more to bias than how politicians are interviewed. The ABC is constantly interjecting left-wing editorial opinion as fact into its news reports. That is the bias that we are all complaining about, matey. Get with the programme.

    Rococo Liberal

    November 2, 2006 at 11:14 am

  20. Yawn,

    any examples RL or is your memory as bad as Rob’s?

    Bring Back EP at LP

    November 2, 2006 at 11:19 am

  21. The bias is endemic. Frank Devine once got hold of some ABC news scripts to work through line by line. When he ran a piece of analysis the usual suspects put their hands on their hearts and said, in effect “what, us biased?”

    I suppose you could say – who cares, the ratings are so low and the listeners mostly have the same bias anyway.

    Rafe Champion

    November 2, 2006 at 1:06 pm

  22. I’ve often referred to the actual story I once saw on the 7.30 Report. Kerry O’Brien – former staffer to Gough Whitlam – introduced a piece by Barry Cassidy – former staffer to Bob Hawke – in which Cassidy interviewed a journalist who was a former press secretary to Paul Keating.

    True story.

    Only on the ABC.


    November 2, 2006 at 1:13 pm

  23. funny how the ABC has produced more liberal than ALP candidates!

    CL, big deal unless we know what the context was your little ditty is meaningless.

    Rafe, your story reminds me of the piece which came out of the IPA one day showing the bias of the ABC. when asked how they determined the bias the writers said it was their opinion.
    Frank Devine is not a person whom I would quote Rafe.
    indeed he doesn’t even understnd the term Austrian school!

    does the ABC treat either side of politics the same. Yes it does.
    Does it have an agenda to push. If it has it isn’t overt.

    Bring Back EP at LP

    November 2, 2006 at 1:18 pm

  24. Yes, this is the oldest trick in the Laborite ABC loyalist’s playbook. It has three phases:

    1) say repeatedly there is no bias;
    2) when presented with evidence of bias, repeat that there is no bias;
    3) repeat delusional mantra.


    November 2, 2006 at 1:49 pm

  25. No CL you have used the oldest trick.

    Say people worked with a party.

    don’t mention the issue involved and hey presto I have proof of bias.

    Tell us what the issue was before CL?

    Bring Back EP at LP

    November 2, 2006 at 1:53 pm

  26. I don’t understand the question, my dear Homer.


    November 2, 2006 at 2:06 pm

  27. I’ve often referred to the actual story I once saw on the 7.30 Report. Kerry O’Brien – former staffer to Gough Whitlam – introduced a piece by Barry Cassidy – former staffer to Bob Hawke – in which Cassidy interviewed a journalist who was a former press secretary to Paul Keating.

    A meaningless sentence unless we know the context.

    Bring Back EP at LP

    November 2, 2006 at 2:47 pm

  28. The context was a straight political news story. Top-down, it was presented by Labor hacks.


    November 2, 2006 at 2:51 pm

  29. what political news story pray tell.

    That is what is called context!

    Bring Back EP at LP

    November 2, 2006 at 3:14 pm

  30. The only time I remember Keating being lost for words on the ABC was way back in his Treasurer days when he was spouting some economics jargon with great self confidence and Max Walsh said, :But that’s just Economics I, isn’t it?” Keating was totally nonplussed.


    November 2, 2006 at 3:17 pm

  31. There’s not a bloddy thread that doesn’t speak about Keating or Clinton or both without Homer.

    Homer for a guy who doesn’t like flithy language or behaviour, your sure side with the enemy.


    November 2, 2006 at 3:29 pm

  32. no that’s you JC.
    The term is called projection.

    You should have watched late line with Kerry.

    Still the best current affairs shown.

    I always appreciated RN breakfast with Peter Thompson and Prue Goward doing the politics.
    You knew which way she was coming but like the rest of them she wasn’t biased in her presentation.
    She treated both parties the same.

    Bring Back EP at LP

    November 2, 2006 at 3:40 pm

  33. Homer
    You bring up thsoe two clowns in every thread. Projection has nothing to do with it. You’re using it in the wrong context.


    November 2, 2006 at 4:41 pm

  34. You’d think that with so many poofs in the ABC, we’d have more dance programs.

    Frankly, I just watch what I like, and don’t watch what I don’t. It means life isn’t an endless discussion about ideology. Yes, sure, the ABC should be more balanced, well, yep, so should lots of things.

    There is enough bias on all sides to balance everything out.

    By the way, if people haven’t caught this John Safran YouTube yet, do:


    November 2, 2006 at 4:45 pm

  35. Darlene

    Well how about you fork over the cash to run it. I don’t like my tax dollars having to fund leftist media. it’s wrong.


    November 2, 2006 at 4:48 pm

  36. no Joe you seem to have a fetish with both blokes particularly Clinton and his shenanigans

    Bring Back EP at LP

    November 2, 2006 at 5:17 pm

  37. Homes

    I’m not jealous of Clinton getting a moniker lewinsky.

    Believe me, there is nothing to be jealous about.


    November 2, 2006 at 5:22 pm

  38. Why would Joe Cambria be jealous when he can sixty-nine Birdy any day of the week?

    ABC is good. Is very good.


    November 2, 2006 at 5:45 pm

  39. No. I do that to males, Munn. that’s what you do.


    November 2, 2006 at 5:49 pm

  40. sorry should read

    No. I don’t……


    You know what your problem is? Perverse as it sounds, you’re smart enough to realize that you’re basically a very stupid, ill bred, fat, disgusting individual.

    You know that people don’t take you seriously because of what you say
    So you attempt the shock jock routine hoping that those stupid comments you make carry more weight.

    Munn, understand this. It doesn’t work. The only place that has room for you is leftwrites. Go over and spend more time with those nimrods as would you feel more at home there.

    You dickweed.


    November 2, 2006 at 6:22 pm

  41. That goes for this thread too. Munn and JC – behave yourselves or I’ll start my penalties.

    Jason Soon

    November 2, 2006 at 6:51 pm

  42. I gotta Kerry has moderated his tone over the years, he has never been able to fluster JH or Costello or Vanstone or Downer or…but the ALP are always easy game. That doesnt mean he is without bias, just that he is getting smarter. He still winds up and then deflates – he needs to get the dirty water off his chest at least once a day.

    I like Rod Quantocks line, federally the ALP are sunk, who would vote for a party led by a ‘Kim’ except N Korea.


    November 2, 2006 at 7:19 pm

  43. Homer, you want examples. I give one. Last year there was on ABC a long documentary about Venesuela. It was all pro-Chaves. I was waiting for the views of the other side but they never came.

    Can you cite something that is at least remotely similar but from the other side? Like a program that is entirely pro-Bush. Or pro Berlusconi?

    Some programs on ABC are from left-wing perspective. Others are more balanced. None are from right-wing perspective. This I call bias. Tell us what’s wrong with my logic.


    November 3, 2006 at 4:42 am

  44. I see no one can come up with any example over two decades where the ABC has aired a critical interview with a Greens spokesman (as posed to just giving them free airtime).


    November 3, 2006 at 6:44 am

  45. siltstone. has it ever occurred to you that they are rarely interviewed?


    i would like to know more.

    Has anyone ever wondered why the reporting on four corners is very simialr to Sunday.

    I also notice people are very snidish about Kerry O’Brien without ever producing anything to show he is biased.

    Bring Back EP at LP

    November 3, 2006 at 7:46 am

  46. I see Bring Back EP at LP cannot come up with a single example over two decades where the ABC has aired a critical interview with a Greens spokesman (as posed to just giving them free airtime). He thinks that is because they are hardly ever inteviewed. That may come as a surprise to those who see Senator Brown’s exposure on a par with that self proclaimed media tart, Mr Beattie!


    November 3, 2006 at 7:59 am

  47. Yes, I was thinking the other day as I was watching the bowls on the ABC, “damn this lefty media, lefty, lefty, lefty”.

    I pay my 8 cents or 10 cents or whatever the hell it is, and it suits me fine.


    November 3, 2006 at 8:27 am

  48. I can’t even remember him being interviewed on the 7.30 report.

    As for AM or PM he gets the same treatment as the rest

    Bring Back EP at LP

    November 3, 2006 at 10:24 am

  49. 1) say repeatedly there is no bias;
    2) when presented with evidence of bias, repeat that there is no bias;
    3) repeat delusional mantra.


    November 3, 2006 at 10:59 am

  50. or in CL’s case make vague generalized statements but produce no evidence.

    Thus far:

    Kerry O’Brien has been tainted but no evidence

    Nothing on AM or PM.

    Indeed the only thing produced was some meaningless documentary which we don’t even know whether the ABC produced!

    Bring Back EP at LP

    November 3, 2006 at 11:32 am

  51. 1) say repeatedly there is no bias;
    2) when presented with evidence of bias, repeat that there is no bias;
    3) repeat delusional mantra


    November 3, 2006 at 11:33 am

  52. oh dear

    CL produces Dick Alston’s various ‘evidence of bias.

    CL even Timbo poopooed Alston at the time and with good reason.
    They were a joke. I am sure they were made for a pompous gasbag like Marr to make fun of which he did.

    Anyone who has actually looked at all of Alston’s stuff will be completely understand why he thought broadband was not a high priority.

    Bring Back EP at LP

    November 3, 2006 at 12:00 pm

  53. No Homer, I have linked to a story about how the Independent Complaints Review Panel UPHELD more than a dozen of Alston’s complaints.

    I suppose you also agree with ABC children’s programme, Behind The News, “explaining” the recent conflict in Lebanon thus: “When Israel was created in 1948 many Palestinians were forced from their land and some went to southern Lebanon. This led to the formation of groups like Hezbollah… Hezbollah has been fighting with Israel to reclaim lost land and to remove foreign troops from Lebanon.”

    When this led to complaints of bias, Media Watch “proved” that BTN hadn’t been unfair to Israel by wheeling out Keysar Trad – yes KEYSAR TRAD! – who said that he thought the BTN description of Hezbollah was unfair!

    Beyond parody!


    November 3, 2006 at 12:34 pm

  54. actually CL they introduced some new complaints and didn’t ask the journalist’s involved!!

    CL, err go and do some history.

    Israel created Hamas and Hezbollah would have never been created if not for the half witted Sharon plan of invading the place.
    1948 is clearly wrong but the premise isn’t.

    an own goal again

    Bring Back EP at LP

    November 3, 2006 at 12:45 pm

  55. 1) say repeatedly there is no bias;
    2) when presented with evidence of bias, repeat that there is no bias;
    3) repeat delusional mantra..


    November 3, 2006 at 12:58 pm

  56. CL,
    go and do some research into Hezbollah and then you mightn’t put your foot into again.

    Bring Back EP at LP

    November 3, 2006 at 1:02 pm

  57. I think CL has made his point more than adequately.

    Rafe Champion

    November 3, 2006 at 1:14 pm

  58. Good work Bolta!

    Want air time to promote your cause on ABC radio? Then break a law!

    Just ask Jon Faine, who in the past two days gave the run of his studio to:

    – a far-Left activist wanting to explain why he wouldn’t give his name and address to nasty inspectors who found him traveling on public transport without a ticket.

    – a far-Left activist wanting to explain why he vandalised ticket machines.

    – a far-Left activist who’d blocked peak-hour traffic by blocking and chaining himself to a logging truck.

    Would Faine put to air a protester who vandalised Faine’s fence, stole his book and chained himself to his car?

    No, but they would try to publish a book attacking evil Alan Jones!


    November 3, 2006 at 1:15 pm

  59. I agree Rafe.

    I note a ‘far’ left activist who has no name.

    Bring Back EP at LP

    November 3, 2006 at 1:28 pm

  60. “I agree Rafe.”

    So you concede, Homer?

    Heh heh. 🙂


    November 3, 2006 at 1:47 pm

  61. I concede you have brilliantly scored an own goal.

    Bring Back EP at LP

    November 3, 2006 at 1:54 pm

  62. No I haven’t Homer but your defence of ABC impartiality has failed badly so I won’t blame you for some old-fashioned spin-doctoring. 😉


    November 3, 2006 at 2:00 pm

  63. CL.
    you have brought up Alston’s allegations which were so lame no-one wanted to defend him in the blogosphere and even mild mannered Ken Parish went into Jones like apoplexy.

    you then think it is bias when someone interviews Mr Trad over whether Hezbollah came about after Israel invaded Lebanon. Something that there is almost universal agreement about.

    Bring Back EP at LP

    November 3, 2006 at 2:36 pm

  64. 1. More than a dozen of Alston’s allegations were upheld by an independent body;

    2. The BTN story was pretending to explain the latest conflict in Lebanon by asserting – falsely – that Hezbollah was fighting to “reclaim lost land and to remove foreign troops from Lebanon”.

    Hezbollah in fact started the war and Israel has not been in charge of any Lebanese real estate for several years.

    Hezbollah was NOT formed out of events in 1948 but events in the early 80s.

    As the ABC itself was forced to admit,

    While the intention of this story was to communicate a most complex situation to a young audience, the ABC acknowledges that the content failed to meet the requirements of balance and impartiality. The story and support materials have been removed from the BtN website.

    Keysar Trad was quoted in the subsequent Media Watch snowjob to “prove” there was no real bias because – look! – a non-Jewish spokesman didn’t like it either. Trad’s incredibly mendacious and stupid contribution to the Media Watch segment can be read here: [PDF]. Given that he is a well-known extremist, it isn’t exactly objective to cite him as a judge of balanced reporting. But the ABC used him to “prove” that the BTN story was really pretty ‘straight-down-the-middle’.



    November 3, 2006 at 3:27 pm

  65. Yes CL,

    no-one took Alston’s complaints seriously and if a body introduces new allegations and does not ask the journalist in question about it I would wonder about that. sorry how many allegations were there?

    I already said the date was wrong.
    Hezbollah was formed from the first Israeli invasion.
    Most people would think a nation invading another starts the thing.
    In most cases they are right.

    Bring Back EP at LP

    November 3, 2006 at 3:33 pm

  66. Alston didn’t put much effort into his charges but he scored more than a dozen confirmations of bias anyway. Goes to show how bad the ABC really is. Anyway, is Max Uechtritz still providing coverage of Afghanistan whie insisting the Coalition military authorities are liars?

    Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation largely funded by Iran. It is not a noble body guarding Lebanon from Israel. Both the 1982 and 2006 Israeli incursions into Lebanon were caused by terrorist attacks on Israeli territory and citizens. This is the kind of thing children need to know.


    November 3, 2006 at 3:53 pm

  67. “Hezbollah in fact started the war and Israel has not been in charge of any Lebanese real estate for several years.”

    What about the Shebaa Farms? Although Syria also claims it.

    Is there any media outlet that doesn’t exhibit “bias”? Of course not.


    November 3, 2006 at 3:54 pm

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