October 11, 2003


Chris V identifies a recent example of the same sort of quality reporting that gave us the Jenin “massacre”. These days, the only person who believes the massacre myth is the ABC’s Peter Cave:

Was there a massacre in Jenin? Well, yes there was.

Little wonder that the ABC has lately been found guilty of bias:

Serious bias was displayed in 12 cases of the ABC's Iraq war coverage, an independent review panel found.

The Independent Complaints Review Panel upheld 17 of the 68 complaints, and said 12 of them involved serious bias by a reporter or presenter within an individual broadcast.

In relation to another four complaints, the panel identified breaches of an ABC editorial directive requiring presenters and reporters to refrain from emotional language or editorialisation in reporting the war.

In another instance, sources were inadequately identified.

Here’s The Australian’s report on the findings. Privatise the ABC.

Posted by Tim Blair at October 11, 2003 04:19 PM

That was Sams other half ChrisV.

Posted by: Gary at October 11, 2003 at 04:37 PM


Posted by: tim at October 11, 2003 at 05:19 PM

How was lunch?

Posted by: Gary at October 11, 2003 at 05:33 PM

Long, of course. With EXPENSIVE WINE.

Posted by: tim at October 11, 2003 at 05:38 PM

Dear old Auntie ABC!
At least since Alston gave them the big serve, Melbourne's 774 has lifted it's game--particularly John Faine.
But Radio National--no change. I guess that the latter does'nt matter too much considering the miniscule size of their audience.

Posted by: Gadfly at October 11, 2003 at 06:33 PM

What one wants to be true and what one 'feels' to be true trumps the facts all the time. If the facts don't fit your view of the world, the facts are suspect.

Actually, you don't think of them as facts at all. Just statements produced by some group influenced by 'them'. (Whoever your particular 'them' is.)

All of us have to watch out for this, to be honest.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at October 11, 2003 at 08:03 PM

Jesus Gary. Do you have any idea how disturbing it is being referred to as "Sam's other half"?

Thanks for the hat tipping anyway :)

Posted by: ChrisV at October 11, 2003 at 10:40 PM

"Neither Mottram nor Shovelan could be contacted for comment. But ABC sources said they were "appalled" at the report's "lack of context" and "inaccuracies"."

Oh, the delicious irony of that last sentence.

Posted by: Alex Robson at October 11, 2003 at 11:14 PM

The ABC's director of news and current affairs, Max Uechtritz speaks about the findings.

"We have full confidence in all our reporters, presenters and producers who covered this war.

"They provided hundreds of hours of programming around the clock, under difficult and constantly changing circumstances up against dozens of daily deadlines and using a wide range of sources.

"No other news organisations are subjected to the same level of scrutiny as the ABC, and if they were, I'm sure the results would be very interesting."


Two questions come to mind:

Did he have confidence in a reporter who intentionally endangered children by filming them near muntitions in order to "sex up" a story?

What is the relevance of comparing the ABC's reporting to the commercial networks?

Posted by: ZsaZsa at October 12, 2003 at 12:36 AM

ChrisV: Well I was going to say Sams Boy Toy but I didn't want to out you guys. woops sorry.

Posted by: Gary at October 12, 2003 at 01:01 AM

I don't think that the ABC should be privatised, to have so many of our newspapers and TV stations and that, all 0wned by a very small number of people gives a very limited number of veiwpoints. Less news more oppinion.

Posted by: Dave-26x at October 12, 2003 at 02:25 AM

Privatise the ABC? Who would by it? Oh, yeah, the ACTU.

Just close it down, the sooner the better.

Posted by: George at October 12, 2003 at 07:41 AM


You are making the typical leftie mistake of confusing media ownership and editorial line on the one hand with journalistic independence and diversity of analysis and comment on the other.

Take the example of The Australian newspaper. It is owned by Murdoch and, like every other one of his papers, took an editorial position in support of toppling Saddam Hussein's regime. However, its pages were still packed with letters to the editor and opinion and comment pieces vehemently opposed to the war. Apart from a huge range of guest contributors and reproduced articles from overseas publications, its own regular columnists range all the way from Janet Albrechtson to Phillip Adams - that pretty much covers the field, in my view.

The Australian seems to take its obligation to cover a broad range of opinion much more seriously than the ABC does. Given that Murdoch ultimately wants to sell a lot of papers and reach a lot of people, a narrow-based approach would be self-defeating in any case for a commercial organisation. This is another disciple that the ABC does not have to face.

This isn't a big wrap for The Australian, by the way - I'm just using it as a convenient example, particularly since Murdoch is always held up as the ultimate bogeyman in the "narrow media ownership" argument.

Posted by: Bob Bunnett at October 12, 2003 at 12:50 PM

PS: Here is a great piece of ABC bias that will amuse our Yankee mates who read this blog.

Another one of Linda Mottram's "converations" with someone who thinks just like her.

The shared assumption in this one is that Californian millionaire entrepreneur Ah-nold could not possibly understand what deep trouble the Californaian economy is in and needs a pair of Australian public sector radio hacks - who are obviously smart enough to figure it all out - to tell him from a distance. Good Lord!

Posted by: Bob Bunnett at October 12, 2003 at 12:59 PM

"But Radio National--no change. I guess that the latter does'nt matter too much considering the miniscule size of their audience"

It does matter Gadfly, because my taxes pay for it.

The environment is a pet cause of the left. How about we sell the ABC, get the 8 cents for it or whatever its worth and divert the running costs of $750 million a year into getting the Murry flowing, or addressing salinity issues. It would be a good way to determine if the left are more interested in fixing problems, or in having a publically funded platform from which to whinge about problems.

Posted by: Gilly at October 12, 2003 at 03:17 PM

Bob wrote: "Given that Murdoch ultimately wants to sell a lot of papers and reach a lot of people, a narrow-based approach would be self-defeating in any case for a commercial organisation."

But Bob, don't you realize that Murdoch need only attract us rich crypto-fascist "millionaires" to sell advertising? The lumpen proletariat whose cause is championed by Phil Adams et al supposedly have neither a pot to piss in nor a window to throw it out of...Just ask Michael Moore. He's poor as a church mouse and subsequently of no interest to big media buyers. Except all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants.

Posted by: JDB at October 12, 2003 at 06:22 PM

What kept you, Tim? UK agents of the Sun King have been pushing the privatisation line with regard to the BBC for months. If you've only just got the nod to ramp up the campaign in Oz its seems like a pretty depressing commentary on 1) your place on the Murdoch food chain, 2) the current importance of Australia to Rupes.

Forget the cultural and social value to the nation of the ABC, and outside the capital cities its big, its seems only the commercial factor counts, meaning the Sun King may just want more market share.

Media barons all under stand that their business depends on getting and keeping a licence. Politicians grant the licence so the relationship is symbiotic, arguably unhealthily so. During the Iraq war, Murdoch was negotiating to acquire the Hughes satellite TV business from GE, which needed Congressional committee approval. Hardly the time to emulate his late father Sir Keith who founded the family fortune by exposing the Anglo-Australian blunders at Gallipoli in 1915. Nope, time to toe the party line and promote Dubya's escapade in Iraq for all its worth. Politicians upset by by critical coverage in the ABC/BBC? Not a problem John/Tony, just privatise the offending organ and your next election campaign could be a rails run. Get the picture? The influence of special interest groups is a major weakness in the Weatern liberal democratic process.

Luckily Rupes is 73, making Newscorp the only media group where the PE ratio is three times the life expectancy of the CEO. But another possibility looms. As yet John Malone's 23% holding in the preference shares doesn't carry a vote, but if it did the OZ/UK governments would run away in panic if a real Yank got control of News.

Posted by: bluedog at October 12, 2003 at 07:40 PM

>Nope, time to toe the party line and promote Dubya's escapade in Iraq for all its worth.

And the fact that this resulted in stories that better reflected reality than anything coming out of the BBC naturally eludes you.

Posted by: John Nowak at October 12, 2003 at 08:12 PM

Just because people were killed doesn't make it a massacre. Only when people that aren't fighting back are killed, and the Palestinians were definitely fighting back. Killed 23 IDF soldiers, and wounded 75. The fact that only 52 Palestinians were killed, and only three that weren't actively firing upon the IDF, isn't a "massacre," it's a sign of admirable restraint.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at October 13, 2003 at 12:25 AM

very old saw, in war the first casualty is truth. So it proved in Iraq, where the truth was and is elusive. Continuiing government enquiries into the evidence supporting the case for war in US, UK, Aust may confirm this point to those inclined to see things as they are.

Posted by: bluedog at October 13, 2003 at 07:36 AM
What is the relevance of comparing the ABC's reporting to the commercial networks?

I was asking myself this question the other day.

Then I thought, if other networks are similarly scrutinized and evidence of similar "bias" seems to be found, whether that "bias" is endemic to the practice of journalism per se rather than evidence of a "bias" of the network itself?

For example, I recall a Channel Nine News report back in July that suggested that Tony Blair was "admitting that WMD would not be found" in a speech where he said "...even if no WMD are found ...", etc. Naturally, ABC Watch had a spray on this, but Channel Nine (certainly no den of lefty bias) reported similarly. Is this bias, or simple sensationalism?

So if the transcripts of all Channel Nine's Iraqi coverage were heavily scrutinized, just as the ABC's coverage was, would we expect to find many other instances of such bias and editorializing? Possibly, if the above report is an indicator. And would anyone seriously suggest,then, that Channel Nine was guilty of systematic anti-US bias? Not at all.

Of course, it is expected that the media remove all bias and editorializing in their reports. That such instances have been detected in the ABC's coverage is a good thing, and I'm sure the producer will have a quick chat to the presenters and advise that they've fumbled, and to try better .

Posted by: Geoff at October 13, 2003 at 10:16 AM


Being tax funded the ABC has an obligation to not editorialize the news and not to cater for an ever shrinking audience. If things like the Kay report are read out completely then there mite be a case for the ABC providing a service.

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