August 05, 2003


What the hell is the Sydney Morning Herald talking about with this "iconic" crap?

The ABC has axed iconic televison programs such as The World at Noon and Behind The News as it carves more than $26 million from its annual budget - and says it will endure more funding pressure if that is the price for its editorial independence.

For “editorial independence” read “everlasting uselessness”. The ABC should consider Frank Devine’s fine idea:

Maybe it's time for the corporation to cut free of the taxpayer and mutualise in order to claim an audience. If a million Australians want an ABC (it's not impossible), they would only need to raise $500 a year each to keep it going with its present girth.

Having watched Emily Brown, a girl scout of my acquaintance, at work raising $700 to attend the World Jamboree in Adelaide next year, I don't think this is too hard.

A user-supported public broadcaster would be genuinely answerable to its backers, and no government would dare raise an eyebrow at it.

And the rest of us could ignore it.

UPDATE. The Australian is also shrieking about iconic ABC programs. Please ... meanwhile, Daniel Mandel reviews the icons.

Posted by Tim Blair at August 5, 2003 02:48 PM

Iconic? That's some kind of enema, right?

Maybe I'm thinking of a high colonic...

Posted by: Joe G. at August 5, 2003 at 03:19 PM

I spoke to Dad this morning, and he suggested that the A.B.C. might be deliberately axeing 'iconic' programs in order to make the government feel guilty, and attract sponsorship from others...
And if that's the case, the plan seems to be working. I think it's the S.A. government who've said that they will provide state funding for 'Behind The News'?!?

Posted by: TimT at August 5, 2003 at 04:14 PM

Like any Dad, I do my best to protect my children from harmful influences. That's why I don't let them watch the ABC, and if they do, it has to be with strict parental supervision.

This 'Behind the News' show thats being axed has me worried.... Is it possible that they have been showing it to my children at school? Without me there to vet it?

I understand that a recent episode of 'Behind the News' dealt with the United Nations, no doubt presented as an undeniable good, and another dealt with the causes of the Iraq war; I can imagine....

Such a stress these days, watching out for one's young ones!

Posted by: Geoffrey McCowage at August 5, 2003 at 04:25 PM

Iconic? Pot Black.

Posted by: ilibcc at August 5, 2003 at 04:25 PM

I notice that your email address ends with '' - so I take it that you work at a public school, eh?
Different from the one to which your kids go to, I suppose...
I hope that you bring no end of right-wing bias and prejudiced opinions to the school!

Posted by: TimT at August 5, 2003 at 04:32 PM

More Bill Steamshovel. Less John Shovelan.

Posted by: pooh at August 5, 2003 at 05:01 PM we go again - raging fury over questionable use of an adjective.

"behind the news" is an icon for hundreds of thousands of students over 30 years who have either

a) developed a keen interest in understanding the workings of the media as a result of watching the programme


b) been poisoned by the red-scourge that is the ABC as a result of watching the programme

depending on your viewpoint. i'm sure there will be 72 dictionary definitions of "iconic" shortly, but it'd be bloody minded to deny the programme the status.

pooh - best line on site in ages...

Posted by: chico o'farrill at August 5, 2003 at 05:10 PM

Use of overworked cliches like "ďconic" is indicative of the intellectual shallowness of most of the writing in the SMH. There's nothing iconic (as in religious pictures to be worshipped) about the ABC.

I won't miss the "World at Noon", but if they want to cut programs, why not start with overpaid, second-rate talents like Andrew Denton, who last night scraped the bottom of the barrel by interviewing convicted murderer and doggrel-writer, Chopper Read (his second appearance on ABC TV - are they really so short of interviewees?) Also, do they really need to throw big bucks at Wendy Harmer - recycling second-hand talent discarded by the commercials; or is this a token PC gesture to the hairlip disabled ?

Posted by: Rob (No 1) at August 5, 2003 at 05:21 PM

Brisbane local lefty/dingbat public broadcaster 4ZZZ has been on the air since 1975, the last few years totally funded by subscription. If the market was freed up, there would be room for intellegent broadcasters with a centre/right/libertarian sway, who would pull bucketloads of advertising revenue from the commercials (ie punters who can afford Mercs and top shelf booze) and viewing audience from the ABC who are forced to it by the cretinous programming on the commercials. Result- everyone happy except the ABC who is funded by those still watching it and 7,9 and 10 who have lost a wedge of revenue.
It's called the real world, boys.
(Mind you, if the fund cuts result in Kerry O'Brien being replaced by Mr. Squiggle, I'm back to the ABC- Blackboard could do Lateline).

Posted by: Habib Bickford at August 5, 2003 at 05:26 PM

26 Mil would just about cover Phillip Adams' snack bill for "Friday Night Live", wouldn't it?

Posted by: Habib Bickford at August 5, 2003 at 05:28 PM

And Gus the Snail could do New Dimensions and be more entertaining than arm-waving, hairy George Negus.

Posted by: ilibcc at August 5, 2003 at 05:44 PM

I thought Frank Devine's proposal was excellent, but I'm afraid the general public has been brainwashed into believing they need the ABC (even though most of them don't watch or listen to it);and that the ABC has a right to an unlimited call on their taxes. It's about protecting culture, right? No, it's about social welfare for middle-class elites.

But here's a solution. We need a Maoist approach. Drag all the bureaucrats out of the Workers Palace on Harris Street, kicking and screaming, and make them work among the people for two years, preferably in sweatshops in Cabramatta at miniscule piece rates for 12 hours a day or in dirty steelworks in Wollongong or on drought-ravaged farms with no food to eat, so they can get in touch with their roots. Then re-educated and refreshed by their contact with the common people, they would come back to reinvigorate the ABC to become genuinely everyone's.

We'll call it sabbatical leave.

Posted by: Rob (No 1) at August 5, 2003 at 06:01 PM

I was forced to watch "Behind the News" in primary school. It is brainwashing, pure and simple. Good riddance.

Posted by: Alex Robson at August 5, 2003 at 06:02 PM

I don't care what goes as long as they keep "Critical Mass"- the only chance to see the Margoyle in action; it's better than dropping a few blotters.

Posted by: Habib Bickford at August 5, 2003 at 06:06 PM

"hairlip disabled"

What a prick.

How big's yer dick, Rob? Got any imperfections?

Posted by: The at August 5, 2003 at 06:35 PM

Yo dudes!

Any chance I can stop paying advertising imposts on purchases I make based on what network they advertise with and my assessment of their political priorities? Free-to-air my ancient dead ass. Fart go suck (anag.).

Posted by: Buddy Ebsen at August 5, 2003 at 06:55 PM

BTN is watched by just about every school child in this country. I remember watching it in the eighties. With so many having watched it, how can it not be iconic?

Posted by: Stewart Kelly at August 5, 2003 at 06:56 PM

Hey Rob 1 — did they teach spelling were yo want to schol?

Posted by: Buddy Ebsen at August 5, 2003 at 07:07 PM

No imperfections on my dick, The, just big,hard and throbbing, as your arse can attest, mate.

Posted by: Rob (No 1) at August 5, 2003 at 07:17 PM

All this bickering about the ABC is having positive effects. The ABC's sycophants are having to put up their heads and thereby disclose their agressive, nasty, personal, and self centred traits. I don't wish to denigrate the ABC's current coterie of commentators and reporters, I just wish their lopsided presentations were balanced by others who were capable of upsetting the sycophants.

Posted by: Robd at August 5, 2003 at 07:50 PM

"just big,hard and throbbing, as your arse can attest"

More anal fantasies. I see.

Posted by: The at August 5, 2003 at 08:51 PM


I will take the liberty of correcting Rob, who should have said ugly, talentless, female, hair-lipped disabled.


You should have stuck with dancing.

Posted by: ZsaZsa at August 5, 2003 at 09:36 PM

Frank Devine's amusing idea for funding the ABC is (sadly) not feasible. It won't (as he knows) happen. So ... go back to the way it was before the comrades changed it. Licences. If people had to put their hand into their pocket/purse, or even pay by credit card, they'd soon start demanding value for money.

Posted by: John Galt at August 5, 2003 at 09:38 PM

Interesting thought re the licenses for the ABC.

I prefer the system I saw with NPR when I lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Once or twice a year they held a fundraising drive, offering coffee cups, T-shirts, etc. to those who would phone in and pledge donations of a certain amount. They would rave on about what great shows they were delivering, argue their case for financial support, and while NPR is every bit the liberal-left as the ABC, it didn't irk me nearly as much as the ABC does, since it's largely funded by those who want to pay for it, rather than compulsorily through the tax system.

Maybe that's why they even had a few decent shows, like The Car Guys.

As for TimT, well, what can I say, hook, line and sinker.....

Posted by: Geoffrey McCowage at August 5, 2003 at 09:57 PM

Thanks, ZsaZsa, I'm happy to be corrected.

Posted by: Rob (No 1) at August 5, 2003 at 10:37 PM

The ABC would be a lot cheaper to run, and a lot more valuable, if they simply played repeats of The Goodies, Monkey and Astroboy around the clock.

Posted by: Yobbo at August 5, 2003 at 10:40 PM

The trouble with the ABC (and the chattering leftist rabble outside who support it) is that they believe that the rationale for the ABC is to EMPLOY THEM.
Arguments like "where else would my point of view be aired" and "who else would support all these talented people" totally miss the point.
Without Government (read you and I as taxpayers) support the answer for most of them would be "Nowhere" and "Nobody".
Talent will always thrive when it meets the needs of an audience. 20 million taxpayers should not be undemocratically forced to pay to broadcast the minority leftist dogma of a handful of trendies.
Borrow a chain saw from "gardening australia" and do some topiary on the undergraduate socialists in news and current affairs. Save some real money and save the ABC in the process.

Posted by: The GOP Elephant at August 5, 2003 at 10:52 PM

Okay, so do any of the dissenters here want to offer a reasoned justification of why the A/B/CBC should be taxpayer supported? What is the rationale for redistributing wealth from the majority to satisfy minority cultural preferences, especially when the money has to first pass through the gigantic sieve of government before it gets to the broadcaster? What, substantively, is wrong with Devine's proposal of a ~$40/month fee for those who want that kind of broadcasting?

The three justifications I usually hear are these:

1) Service to remote communities, who don't have access to any other broadcasting.

2) Dissemination of homegrown cultural content.

3) Exposure of "non-commercial" forms of culture to those who would not otherwise be aware of them.

I don't think any of these explanations justify large-scale inefficient redistributions to largely unaccountable agencies, and Devine's proposal sounds pretty good to me, but perhaps I'm missing something. Bonus points if you can make the argument without reference to your backside.

Posted by: murray at August 6, 2003 at 03:01 AM

Murray: The stupid proles don't know what's good for them, so government is here to make sure they take their medicine.

That's the argument in a nutshell.

Posted by: Yobbo at August 6, 2003 at 04:20 AM

What I find amusing is that most of us right wingers would pretty much always look to the ABC first for intelligent entertainment, but don't even bother with Aunty's slack and biased news coverage. The answer is clear, split the ABC up into smaller businesses and privatise them. The good parts would survive easily, on the subscriptions of and/or advertising revenue from the ABs, the news and current affairs part would go the way of the dodo unless it introduced some balance.

Posted by: Toryhere at August 6, 2003 at 10:29 AM

Ah well, Geoff, it's not the first time that sort of thing has happened to me! I do like your comments about the ABC, though.

Posted by: TimT at August 6, 2003 at 11:00 AM

"Iconic" = "Containing about as much useful information as one of those little pictures on your computer's desktop."

Posted by: Paul Zrimsek at August 6, 2003 at 12:06 PM

The only intelligent entertainment at the ABC is their orchestras and I'm not sure they exist any more.

This is point which many miss: news and current affairs will always be slightly to the left when presented by a government- or community-based broadcaster. Governments are ususally prepared to cop that.

What's less acceptable is the leftwing sensibility that filters through the balance of the programming. The comedy is political, the drama is political, the so-called entertainment is political.

Everything is political except a few odd programs such as cooking and gardening, the latter of which an excellent suggestion for its chainsaw was offered by the GOP Elephant.

Posted by: ilibcc at August 6, 2003 at 12:53 PM

ZhaZha & Rob, if I can interrupt your mutual tugging:

I see amongst the schoolyard name-calling you employ the slur "female".

Couple of real thinkers...

Posted by: The at August 6, 2003 at 01:49 PM


Female was included as one of the factors contributing to her employment: any male comedian as unfunny as Harmer would have trouble getting work. Then again, Shaun Micallef has his own show. Go figure.

Anyway, thanks for joining the tug-fest. Perhaps we should organise an old-fashioned circle jerk.

Posted by: ZsaZsa at August 6, 2003 at 03:05 PM