Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Battered broadcaster's Bolt delusion

  • 27 January 2016

Last week, Fairfax reported that Andrew Bolt was in the midst of travelling the country 'filming an ABC documentary on Indigenous constitutional recognition'.

Bolt might seem a strange choice for such a program. Yes, he opines regularly about Indigenous issues. Yet, in the famous Eatock v Bolt case, Justice Bromberg found Bolt's writings on that subject to contain 'errors of fact, distortions of the truth and inflammatory and provocative language'.

Not much of a recommendation, one might think — particularly since the ABC is ushering Bolt back into its fold just as the Bolt Report (the show for which Bolt abandoned his regular segment on ABC's own Insiders) collapses for want of viewers.

To put Bolt's new gig in perspective, consider Liberal Senator Eric Abetz's press release on 21 December last year about the appointment of the ABC's new managing director.

Michelle Guthrie, Abetz said, would be inheriting 'an unbalanced and largely centralised public broadcaster which has become a protection racket for the left ideology'. He called upon her to 'address the real concerns that have been expressed by the Australian people about the direction of the ABC'.

Now, the notion that the Australian people harbour grave concerns about the direction of the ABC is simply not true.

Every year, Newspoll conducts a survey about public attitudes to the national broadcaster. As Crikey notes, the results demonstrate that the vast majority (close to 80 per cent) of Australians think the ABC does a good job of presenting balanced and even-handed content. About 70 per cent trust the national broadcaster — far more than the numbers who trust politicians, the church or other institutions.

The hostility to the ABC comes not from the population but from governments — and not merely conservatives. As Margaret Simons notes in her book The Content Makers, ABC funding fell 29 per cent from the first term of the Hawke Labor government, while the broadcaster was the only major cultural institution not to get a boost in 1994 from the Creative Nation cultural policy.

When Tony Abbott broke his promise to maintain ABC funding, he was following in the tradition of his mentor. John Howard had done precisely the same thing in 1996: first, pledging support and then, after winning power, slashing $65 million over two years.

These ongoing attacks have consequences.

Josh Bornstein recently compared the ABC to the victim in an abusive relationship, desperately trying to ward off the next blow by anticipating the criticism of