Archive for the ‘media’ Category

The Age looks in the mirror

June 14, 2010

Age editorial show how easy it is to be cynical

Editorials are usually serious things, but this was truly a LOL moment last weekend. Almost unbelievable really.

QUALITY newspapers offer their readers an implicit assurance with every story they publish: that their selection and presentation of news does not reflect the personal or corporate agendas of journalists, editors or proprietors. It is easy to be cynical about the assumption that this is how The Age and other serious newspapers work, but if it were not so the exchange of reliable information, and of informed opinion, on which democracy depends could not happen. And if a major news organisation does behave in a way that suggests its reportage reflects something other than concern for the public interest, it risks eroding public trust – in the organisation itself, and in the wider media industry.


The Left and Israel

June 9, 2010

Unerringly, they always seem to back the wrong horse

Recently, I mentioned  the excellent book by Nick Cohen, What’s Left? How liberals lost their way, in which he asks why the international Left have an unerring propensity for supporting groups who, it would seem, contradict everything the Left stands for.

Spanish ex-politician, Pilar Rahola, a journalist and activist, also from the ideological left, feels even more strongly than Cohen about the absurd hypocrisy of the Western anti-Israeli Left and questions why it is indeed attracted to groups with fascist, totalitarian and anti-liberal impulses.

As a journalist it is my duty to search for the truth beyond prejudice, lies and manipulations. The truth about Israel is not told. As a person from the Left who loves progress, I am obligated to defend liberty, culture, civic education for children, coexistence and the laws that the Tablets of the Covenant made into universal principles. Principles that Islamic fundamentalism systematically destroys. That is to say that as a non-Jew, journalist and lefty I have a triple moral duty with Israel, because if Israel is destroyed, liberty, modernity and culture will be destroyed too.

The struggle of Israel, even if the world doesn’t want to accept it, is the struggle of the world.

It is nice to hear a voice from the Spanish speaking world which also apparently has extensive influence throughout Latin America.

Rudd and Flannery on Copenhagen

June 4, 2010

Two spin meisters go head to head

In The Age this weekend from Tim Flannery on one of the positive things that came out of Copenhagen:

Under the Copenhagen Accord, China has committed to reduce the intensity of its greenhouse gas emissions (that is, the emissions per unit of production) by 40 to 45 per cent by 2020 …

If China delivers on its Copenhagen promise, it will have opened the way to stabilising the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gas at below the ”dangerous” threshold of 450 parts per million carbon dioxide. But to do that, the developed nations would need to realise ambitious emissions reductions as well. And that’s where the trouble lies. One of the things that Copenhagen did not change is that the US, Canada and Australia remain the three standout laggards.

In The Australian, the same weekend on the Prime Minister’s attempts to broker a deal on climate change at last year’s UN talks in Copenhagen:

“Those Chinese f . . kers are trying to rat-f . . k us,” Rudd told journalists and political aides, according to Marr.

“Was a deal still possible?” asked one of the Australians.

“Depends on whether those rat-f . . king Chinese want to f . . k us,” Rudd replied.

Kerry, you got rolled

June 3, 2010

The deferential face of Kerry with a Labor Luminary

Last night started well, with a report on the rorts in the BER scheme, the billions of dollars squandered, the useless canteens built the size of a garage, the miserable school boxes that cost the same as a five room houses with three bathrooms. The comparisons are endless. The outrage and frustration of principals, school councils, communities and parents seemed almost endless. This scheme of Julia’s would have to be the biggest misspending scandal in living memory, or, according to Malcolm Fraser, management worse than during the Whitlam government.

David Penberthy, in The Punch rightly claims that much has been made of the utterly fawning press coverage which Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard enjoys.

However, in his assessment of last night’s interview, he reckoned that:

Maybe it takes a redhead to match a redhead but on The 7.30 Report last night Julia Gillard emerged not only unscathed but enhanced as Kerry O’Brien put her through her paces over the flawed rollout of the Building the Education Revolution stimulus spending.

“Put her through her paces?” Wrong. Kerry O’Brien was simply fawning whilst trying to look tough. O’Brien had everything to pin her down but he blew it, and he was shown to be gutless. Old “Blue Eyes”, the aggressive, rude, relentless interviewer of the impatient, repetitive questions could not bring himself to do what was needed. At several points in the last four minutes of the interview, he appeared hesitant and tentative in trying to interupt her, to stop her steam-rolling roll. He even appeared obsequious, apologetic. This is the ABC, and one is polite to ones friends.

He was, after all, interviewing the ALP favourite — now that the ABC Collective has agreed that Rudd must go.

Ground breaking television

May 31, 2010

Hearing is believing. A new sensation on the ABC

I don’t know if I should appologise to Tony Jones. After accusing him of having a biased show just yesterday, in the selection of both the  panel and audience, I listened last night to Maxime McKew being jeered and ridiculed by the studio audience. In addition, any mention of Kevin Rudd’s inadequacies was met either with laughter or very enthusiastic applause. This was ground breaking television, and certainly never heard before on QandA.

My conclusion is that either the audience was chosen, just for once, to largely reflected Autralian opinion — in which case their reactions are unsurprising — or, if indeed it were the usual QandA, ABC-branch-stacked audience, then one can only conclude that Kevin Rudd is really, really in deep trouble. One can hope it were the latter, in which case, I am really so sorry, Mr Jones.

ABC fails its charter

May 29, 2010

ABC does not tollerate attacks on its friends

A warm thank you to the Australian Conservative for its support. This excellent blog has been a consistent testimony to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s failure to uphold its charter on balance and bias.

In effect, the question of balance in the ABC has been a long standing issue. I remember helping to organize a national conference for the Institute of Public Affairs ten years ago, Their ABC or Our ABC? in Sydney on ABC bias. In a predictable defence of the ABC, and as a direct reaction to this conference, Stuart Littlemore on Media Watch displayed a classic example of jackboot journalism designed to silence critics.”

It would appear that precious little has changed over that time. Neither 12 years of the Howard government, nor the placing of three conservatives on the ABC Board, nor the complaints of impotent ministers in parliament, nor the constant public admonition of Kerry O’Brien or Tony Jones in the press for their selective and unfair questioning of people with whom they disagree, has changed anything much. Nor has the documented, transparently differential treatment both the 7.30 Report and Lateline routinely give to sceptics of climate change made a difference. Let me not get started on Robyn William’s Science Show. Tony Jones’ QandA discussion panel — biased in audience and in panel — has very recently been thouroughly analysed for balance in an excellent article, This ‘adventure in democracy’ is unfair and unbalanced by John Styles in The Spectator. QandA remains steadfastly biased in audience and panel.

The most striking thing in all of this is the lack of shame, or embarrassment, or accountability of any ABC presenters. The reality is that, unlike governments which are ultimately accountable to the electorate, the capture of institutions is impervious to democratic action. Top down change is ineffectual, and bottom up change irrelevant, as the ABC is not market driven. The ABC “collective” know it. As a result, they can simply ignore criticism, and display an indifference and cynical contempt to taxpayers.

The only exception to this rule is Phillip Adams on Radio National’s LNL [Left ‘n’ Left] who has openly admitted that his programme is an antidote to the Right wing shock jocks on commercial radio. This is such an accepted idea that the ABC itself boasts of Michael Duffy on Counterpoint as “the Right wing Phillip Adams”.

To finish on a clear, and one would have thought, non-controversial point. I have always found that Labor voters, generally speaking, find the ABC to be fair and balanced, and that Liberal voters, generally speaking, find the ABC often unfair and often unbalanced, or at best, very lumpy. I don’t know about you, but if that observation is largely plausible, then that to me would appear to be a quod erat demonstrandum.

Is the ABC changing its tune?

May 27, 2010

A lesson in environmental optimism for Mark Colvin

Mark Colvin got some sharp lessons in optimism in a stunning interview with Matt Ridley, author of a new book, The Rational Optimist.

Beautifully, handled, Ridley demolishes the implicit pessimism in every one Colvin’s questions. Are some in the ABC starting to wake up?

MATT RIDLELY: The number of people at increased water stress in the next 85 years is going to be less than the number of people at decreased water stress. That comes from peer reviewed articles written by IPCC scientists and so I think …

MARK COLVIN: It’s got to be small comfort for the people whose dams are drying up in large cities though hasn’t it?

MATT RIDLEY: It’s going to be good comfort for people who are finding increased water supplies. You know climate always had changed, always will change. The evidence suggests that we are actually going to see higher crop yields, slightly higher rain fall, no major change in storms, no significant change in, well, a very slow change in sea level, no huge damage to habitats.

There is much more in the full interview. I encourage readers to look at the transcript and listen to the complete interview. I know it comes as a shock to see such in-length optimism about the environment and global warming from our ABC.

Homophily and the ABC ‘echo-chamber’

May 27, 2010


P
ot calling Pot Black

The ABC Radio National programme “Future Tense” with Antony Funnell gives us an insight into the ABC’s lack of insight into its own bias. I cannot detect a trace of irony.

Many social researchers believe that most of us are naturally inclined toward those we agree with, or those who seem a lot like us in other ways.

In other words, that we naturally search out and associate with people who echo our own thoughts and beliefs. ‘Birds of a feather flock together’, as they say.

We like to imagine that we’re open to different points of view and that we mix with a variety of people, that we expose ourselves to a range of voices. But is that really what happens …

A guest on the programme, Ethan Zuckerman, from Harvard University’s Berkman Centre for Internet and Society explains the term, “homophily’.

It’s a term that applies to almost without exception to the tendency of  people “to form close friendships with people who they have a lot in common with”.

… homophily can make you sort of dumb, actually. If everybody around you has the same background that you have, you probably have a less rich information network. You’re probably not casting as wide a net for solutions and for different perspectives than you would if you had a more diverse group.

But we seem to be finding ways to choose the topics we’re interested in, the perspectives we’re interested in, and perhaps are not getting the full value of that incredible diversity of information.

… if people on the left only listen to voices on the left, people on the right only listen to voices on the right, then we actually become more polarised. It’s actually much harder to have a political debate because we’re all much more confident in our views, we’re all a bit more extreme in our view.

There is one difference. Certainly those on the left indeed do listen to the ABC. But so do those on the right. After all, they pay their taxes too. So who, by default, is more open and exposed to a range of ideas?

Age Poll not scientific.

May 25, 2010

Infantile view of climate change

The Age newspaper got it almost right in an article yesterday on climate change science with its heading ‘Climate debate ‘almost infantile’.

Some of us certainly think so, but not in the way Professor Will Steffen, executive director of the Australian National University’s Climate Change Institute, thinks. He is a scientist after all, and he knows that the media is wrong in treating climate change science as a political issue in which two sides should be given a voice. The idea that a scientist should always be open to testing hypotheses must, according to him, be just plain old fashioned science. He feels that a “wise society would respect the judgment of its experts”. In other words, believe whatever the high priests tell us, in spite of ClimatGate and other glaring contradictions in the evidence.

Professor Steffen sees a larger role for the media in scientific research. He invites journalists to focus on areas where there is no consensus, and in particular, the disputed link between climate change and the south-east Australian drought. Presumably, he wants the media to mask over the disagreements. But hasn’t the science finally made up its mind on that.

Go science!

To show us the difference between an Age reader and the rest of the community, the newspaper included a survey along with the article, claiming that nearly 80 percent of their readers agreed that the uncertainties  in climate science had been exaggerated. However, according to a very recent Galaxy survey for the Institute of Public Affairs, the opposite is the case.

Fortunately, the Age, in a rare moment of honesty, explained that its polls were NOT SCIENTIFIC.

ABC Shock

May 22, 2010

ABC says adaption to climate change can bring “joy”

Geraldine Doogue on the ABC RN’s Saturday Extra has a reputation for interviews with fuzzy left of centre commentators, whether sociologists, philosophers, environmentalists or global warming alarmists.

Yesterday, she spoke to Professor Glenn Albrech, director of the Institute of Sustainability and Technology Policy at Murdoch University. The professor specializes in carefully crafted eco-jargon research topics like “the ethics of feral buffalo control”, “the geographies and bioethics of the thoroughbred horse industry” and, wait for it, “relevant transdisciplinarity in the domain of sustainability”, all the better, one takes it, to mine the rich ore-body of tax payer dollars through the Australian Research Council.

In our brave new therapeutic society, the good professor has come up with a new syndrome, “Solastalgia”, the topic of Geraldine’s interview. Solastalgia is a form of “human distress related to the lived experience of negatively perceived environmental change.”

But help is at hand. If, for instance, you adapt to change — yes, you heard it first on the ABC — you have a solution. If I understood the interview correctly, for example, your garden can, due to climate change, be replanted with drought resistant sustainable plants. Hey presto, “through desire and planning … a garden can adapt to new conditions”, and with “great joy” we can “turn distress to advantage”. This according to the good professor, is an example of “solaphilia”.

Australian children these days have a more straightforward way of dealing with change. They will simply tell you to “suck it up”.