July 24, 2003


Eoghan Harris knows that when he’s inside the BBC, he’s behind enemy lines:

Politically, I would call myself a conservative social democrat in Irish terms: I loathe the IRA, have a lot of time for David Trimble, and wanted to smash Saddam Hussein's regime. Yet I am forced to approach any appearance on current affairs programmes for the BBC as an appearance before a hanging judge. From start to finish I know the only way to survive is to accept that I am among enemies.

As I am usually going on to attack a terrorist organisation, defend a decent man like Trimble, or to support a war against a gangster like Saddam, you would think I could feel myself among people who, though they might want to put tough questions, basically shared my assumption that the IRA is morally delinquent, that Trimble is trying to do his best, and that Saddam should be shot on sight.

You would be wrong. By and large, the researchers and reporters I will meet in any branch of the BBC find these beliefs revolting.

Same general deal at Australia’s ABC. Public funding attracts those sort of people.

(Via the vigilant Zsa Zsa)

Posted by Tim Blair at July 24, 2003 01:13 AM

Bloke I know works at the ABC. Lefty. Nice guy, but lefty.

Posted by: Gabor at July 24, 2003 at 01:36 AM

Left-wing ABC employee. Now THAT is tautology!

Posted by: Gabor at July 24, 2003 at 01:37 AM

What's a tauto ... oh, never mind.

Posted by: tim at July 24, 2003 at 01:58 AM

NPR is the same here in the US. I still don't understand why there have to be ANY government funded broadcasting activities in this day and age.

Posted by: rabidfox at July 24, 2003 at 02:46 AM

I was commenting on the BBC's bias problems, and happened to mention the similarities with the CBC (Canada), and also the ABC. My wife wife then asked "what is it about publicly funded xBCs that seems to lead to the same obvious bias?

Suggestions anyone?

Posted by: Biased Observer at July 24, 2003 at 03:25 AM

"In understanding the BBC approach to any subject, you should bear in mind that there is the ‘BBC view’ and the ‘mad view.’ie Workers rights are a Good Thing - any other view is mad."

George Junior at

Posted by: Softly at July 24, 2003 at 04:30 AM

Tim, a tautology is a tautology. So is that.

Posted by: Joe G at July 24, 2003 at 05:47 AM

How in h*ll did so many people convince the law-makers of various countries that funding those places was "good"...when all they are are make-work slots for the otherwise unemployable.

Posted by: MommaBear at July 24, 2003 at 06:26 AM

Watching the BBC on PBS is like someone taking a crap directly onto my eyes while pissing in my ears.

Posted by: Jerry at July 24, 2003 at 08:55 AM

Come on people, it is only really the news and current affairs part of Government broadcasters that need to be flung into the outer darkness. These broadcasters much better drama and comedy programmes than commercial telly, or at least they the commercial channels up to the mark.
In fact I would say that the BBC, ABC et al are the only welfare that most of us A and Bs get.

Posted by: Toryhere at July 24, 2003 at 10:04 AM

"In fact I would say that the BBC, ABC et al are the only welfare that most of us A and Bs get."

True enough. Like the pimples on the kid serving the burger and fries, sometimes you have to look past the presenter and focus on the content.

Caveat: current affairs, mediawatch and eric berner require frequent application of corrosive anti-pus poultice

Posted by: The at July 24, 2003 at 11:13 AM

It's not just the ABC, BBC. There's a majority of luvvies on most broadsheet subs desks. Fortunately down to 50% in the opinion pages. Still 80% in the letters editors desks.

Posted by: slatts at July 24, 2003 at 11:30 AM

Why are government-funded places pro-left wing? Maybe because they don't have to worry about ratings, and therefore can do news and current affairs the way they like it. I guess the next question would be why journalists (and virtually any profession needing uni training) tend to be over-represented by left-wingers.

Posted by: Andjam at July 24, 2003 at 11:58 AM

Would there be any merit in the theory that the movement to the left towards a leftist position follows the trend that journalists now tend to be university educated rather apprenticed or trained as tradespeople if you will?

This is not a rhetorical question, nor an ironic post. I would like to be corrected if I am making silly generalisations.

Posted by: James Hamilton at July 24, 2003 at 12:13 PM

Complaining about bias in publicly funded bodies is ultimately a waste of time. By nature, they attract people with left tendencies. It's how it is.

Problem is, it's gotten worse over thirty years because the lopsided growth of social engineering in tertiary education - any course with " - Studies" on the end - has exponentially increased fodder for these outlets. Media Studies courses teem with academics who are so far left they just about meet Hitler coming round the other side.

It's amazing how people whose mantra is diversity cosy up in such protected, insular enclaves, clutching their broadsheets to their hearts and nodding to each other in the warm recognition of reflected sanctimony.

Oh, and another latte, please waiter. Can it be a bit warmer, this time? Thanks. That last one was a bit cold.

Posted by: ilibcc at July 24, 2003 at 12:29 PM

If the ABC didn't exist, it wouldn't be necessary to invent it. The ABC is just a sheltered workshop for intellectually and culturally disabled nonentities locked in a '70s timewarp who couldn't survive in the real world. Instead of offering an exciting and stimulating alternative to commercial radio and TV (its only justification for existence),it feebly attempts to copy them.

Those people who argue that only the ABC maintains our cultural standards are deluding themselves. Take classical music: ABC FM's programs are conservative, amateur and unadventurous. As for jazz, an hour a day is considered sufficent - too much might lead to riotous behaviour! If you want to listen to jazz broadcasts in Sydney, you go to Eastside FM or North Shore FM for all day broadcasts. These are small, private-sector, creative, community initiatives which are challenging the grey boring fuzz that comes out of the Winter Palace on Harris Street.

Everyone's ABC is no-one's ABC.

Posted by: Rob at July 24, 2003 at 12:36 PM

Or should that be everyone's taxes are no-one's ABC. The orchestras used to be OK, though. But the bookshops? Please.

Posted by: ilibcc at July 24, 2003 at 01:19 PM

Several of you have asked why so many people working at government-funded enterprises are left-wing. I spent over a decade as a fully paid-up member to the "Whining Lefties Revolting Against Everything And Everyone We Can Think Of". And the answer is really very simple.

Left-wingers refuse to work in free market enterprises because they believe that in doing so:

1. a capitalist employer will exploit them

2. they will be part of the system that exploits others, and

3. making profit is evil.

Working in a government-funded enterprise allows them to believe they are not part of the exploitative capitalist system. If they are forced to work in a profit-making venture (such as a newspaper), then they do their level best to maintain their values by ensuring that at least on the surface they uphold good old fashioned marxist thinking by waging war on capitalism, the 'system', the government, the right wing, you name it.

Is this delusional thinking? Yes. I never said it made sense. But it's a pretty accurate picture of what I lived for more than ten years.

Posted by: Preston Whip at July 24, 2003 at 01:27 PM

I'd miss the public broadcasters if they were gone.

Yes, their current affairs are biased. But their documentaries are much better than commercial offerings. I'd much rather watch a science, history or business doco from one of the public broadcasters than the crap they put on the Discovery channel.

I'd also say that initiatives like Triple J fill a void left by the commercials.

Posted by: PK at July 24, 2003 at 01:35 PM

PK, their docos were once good but now usually have the most appalling left-wing spin put on them irrespective of the subject matter.

Docos once explored places and people, now they 'explore issues', meaning they project their preconceived ideas onto all manner of subjects and present this as impartial information.

Publicly-funded bodies do this best of all.

Posted by: ilibcc at July 24, 2003 at 02:29 PM

James Hamilton is right. We can blame the demand for credentialism for sloppy left-wing journalism.

The old tradition of a solid hard-nosed apprenticeship, learning on the job approach has been discarded in favour of questionable qualifications in communications/media studies taught at third-rate institutions by third-rate academics bitter and twisted because they
couldn't get a real job, who fill their heads with theoretical garbage.

When it comes to journalism, there's a lot to be said for being educated in the University of Life. Plus some remedial work on English.

Posted by: Fred at July 24, 2003 at 03:13 PM

As I posted some time back, the late Robert Nozick wrote at length on the media's opposition to capitalism. An excerpt follows:

The opposition of wordsmith intellectuals to capitalism is a fact of social significance. They shape our ideas and images of society; they state the policy alternatives bureaucracies consider. From treatises to slogans, they give us the sentences to express ourselves. Their opposition matters, especially in a society that depends increasingly upon the explicit formulation and dissemination of information.

Intellectuals now expect to be the most highly valued people in a society, those with the most prestige and power, those with the greatest rewards. Intellectuals feel entitled to this. But, by and large, a capitalist society does not honor its intellectuals. Ludwig von Mises explains the special resentment of intellectuals, in contrast to workers, by saying they mix socially with successful capitalists and so have them as a salient comparison group and are humiliated by their lesser status. However, even those intellectuals who do not mix socially are similarly resentful, while merely mixing is not enough--the sports and dancing instructors who cater to the rich and have affairs with them are not noticeably anti-capitalist.

See at: http://www.cato.org/pubs/policy_report/cpr-20n1-1.html

An extensive von Mises library can be found at: www.mises.org

Posted by: ZsaZsa at July 24, 2003 at 07:28 PM

Eoghan Harris is one of the few Irish journalists not steeped in left ideology. A friend who is a journalist (also one of the few) told me an interesting story about Ireland's major journalism school. The head of department is a closet IRA supporter and it is he decides which graduates get which placements. Be a good lefty and you get the plum national daily. Think for yourself and go work for a free sheet.

Posted by: Edmund Burke at July 24, 2003 at 07:59 PM

Don't watch the discovery channel....At least on Foxtel in Australia, it's pretty sad. The History channel, on the other hand, plays nothing except docos 24 hours a day. Infinitely better than anything the ABC could serve up - and not publically funded! How is that even possible?

Posted by: Yobbo at July 24, 2003 at 08:13 PM

I couldn't live without the ABC, with whom I have a love-hate relationship, because where I live it is all I get. I love it because when it is good, it is very good, but when it is simpering lefty rot (that is, most of the time) it is utterly infuriating.
Let's not forget kids shows: how could I have survived having twins without Bob the Builder, Brum, Little Bear...

Posted by: rosemary at July 24, 2003 at 09:24 PM