May 19, 2004


From: Tim Blair
Date: Tue May 18, 2004 1:45:59 PM
To: David Marr
Subject: abc bias

Dear David,

Do you believe that Media Watch is an example of the ABC's lack of political bias?


Tim Blair

From: David Marr
Date: Tue May 18, 2004 2:33:19 PM
To: Tim Blair
Subject: Re: abc bias


UPDATE. Gareth Parker has more.

UPDATE II. So does Andrew Bolt:

Instead of simply vilifying non-Leftist commentators, why not give some a chance on your show to argue back? Isn't that fair?

Posted by Tim Blair at May 19, 2004 04:45 AM

It seems like only five days ago Tim said he had to take a month off. Time passes quickly down under.

Posted by: Carey Gage at May 19, 2004 at 05:48 AM

They're on the metric calendar.

Posted by: Ken J at May 19, 2004 at 06:02 AM

His comments section was imparting a decided list to the continent.
It was starting to list to starboard.
For the lubbers among you.

Posted by: Mike H. at May 19, 2004 at 06:05 AM

I -knew- there was a reason I was still checking this site every day!
*beams a smile*


Posted by: Vicki at May 19, 2004 at 06:59 AM

I don’t know about Australian news media, but here in the USA a count of descriptive terms etc. will not give an adequate picture of bias.

Bias is manifested by also by the implicit reference frame in which a story is told.

For instance, if the reporter’s main response to every problem is to ask “Well, what is the government doing about it???”, then the reporter is showing a bias toward government-based solutions & insinuating a socialist premiss as presumptive basis for civic thought.

Posted by: ForNow at May 19, 2004 at 08:11 AM

Pictures and video clips play a major role in bias determination as well. The zoom feature on a camera can make a small demonstration look rather large. And have a significant impact with only a few seconds of exposure, as we all have seen.

The most recent examples of this being the willingness of the media to display images of abused prisoners and the mutilated remains of those contractors in Fallujah, but not to show the murder of Nick Berg, or the pro-Coalition demonstrations in Iraq. There are other examples (on both sides of the fence, I should add).

So measuring bias on a TV broadcast is highly subjective; after all, a story that is slanted to one person probably sounds proper to another. Measuring bias even semi-accurately will probably require a wide range of metrics, and observers of different perspectives, to get some sort of average.

Posted by: The Real JeffS at May 19, 2004 at 08:45 AM

I knew that in addition to statistics one has to use qualitative inductive reasoning & hypothesis-formation. And I was thinking, how to get info theory into this? Ah, image reconstruction of course, a tip of an iceberg too. All we need now is an inverse variational track as well.

Posted by: ForNow at May 19, 2004 at 09:03 AM

Media Watch used to be enjoyable viewing until Marr took over. Used to be country-wide in outlook too - occasionally concentrating on regional papers and news providers.

And the fun element of the show used to have a human element to it. You could laugh at the typos and mis-statements of journalists while knowing full well that 'there but for the grace of God...' Now it's just boring, smug, metrocentric and vengeful.

It's the David Marr Show, with Marr the Star delivering soothing PC condescension for the enjoyment of Balmain Basketweavers.

Posted by: CurrencyLad at May 19, 2004 at 10:57 AM

The ABC’s bias is very evident to me! Especially Late Line. If you saw last Mondays Media Watch the first few seconds were on the Bagdad photos then proximately 7 minutes, on how 8 out of 10 think the ABC isn’t bias, then more on Flint and Jones saga again.
Bias is dependant upon ones own bias, I think it is good to have a external look at the ABC, they are among the first to want inquiries into police, politicians, etc, etc.

Posted by: Fred at May 19, 2004 at 11:46 AM

Last night's ABC current affairs program PM carried this story on the Rehame analysis.

Mark Colvin is worried about how much it will cost:

MARK COLVIN: Allegations of ABC bias always come up in election campaigns, but this year they've come early ... The ABC's Staff-Elected Director and the Labor Opposition have criticised the (Rehame) move. And the question that no one has been prepared to answer today is – how much does it cost?

Reporter David Hardaker is worried about its exploitation of workers:

The company was called to account earlier this year by the journalists union, the MEAA, over the way it employed the people who monitor the news. The MEAA's Victorian branch secretary is Pat O'Donnell.

Who in turn is worried about sham contracts:

PAT O'DONNELL: The company intended to move people away from the award payments, the method of payment of people, and put them onto what we described in the Industrial Relations Commission as "sham contracts".

And the ABC's 'Staff-Elected Director' is worried:

DAVID HARDAKER: The appointment of Rehame to monitor the ABC outside an election campaign has alarmed the ABC's Staff-Elected Director, Ramona Koval.

So alarmed, she was clearly unable to speak.

Posted by: ilibcc at May 19, 2004 at 12:07 PM

Can you believe that twit Marr?
I wish I had come here first. I just finished making complaints to the following programme websites about bias: Media Watch...of course,
The 7:30 Report...yet ANOTHER critic of the Iraq war was given a platform last night, Lateline, the same, more Iraq criticism, Foreign Correspondent...their Islamic obsession,
Dateline(SBS)...more Israeli vilification, and Isight(SBS) using the pretext of examining obesity to hound American culture and companies.
For that irritating twit to use Media Watch to defend the ABC was bad enough, but to continually dismiss claims of bias is just plain insulting!
The public don't think the ABC is biased???
Which public?

Great to have this site back!

Posted by: Brian. at May 19, 2004 at 12:11 PM

OK! OK! So I watch Critical Mass...but I left criticism on their website too. I have a particularly strong stomach ;-)

Posted by: Brian. at May 19, 2004 at 12:24 PM

Typical of MW's style:

They started the program talking about Hogan's heroes humour on the same page as Abu G stuff, but they decide not to mention in their program The Daily Mirror or The Boston Globe publishing fake abuse photos.

Posted by: Andjam at May 19, 2004 at 03:04 PM


I think one can safely say that measuring media bias is like asking "What color is Schroedinger's cat?" People have to agree there's a cat there in the first place!

Even attempting to define any media bias metrics will cause problems. We'd have to import a bunch of Wookies as impartial observers.

"Tip of the iceberg"! LOL!

Posted by: The Real JeffS at May 19, 2004 at 03:36 PM

I've been watching George Negus' little show when I get time and found it pretty enjoyably. Lots of fluffy stuff to make me feel good about how wonderful we all are.

He couldn't help himself. He just had to pretend to be a cutting-edge journo. He had Major-General Peter Cosgrove on the other week and talking on issues and couldn't resist asking the Maj-Gen what he thought of the DEEPENING QUAGMIRE that Iraq had turned into or how much unsafer the Howard govenrment had made Australia by siding with those gung-ho Americans. I was soooo close to thinking "good old Negus has a show again, good for him". Now it's "another bloody lefty on the ABC pandering to their own fancies and biases" so much for unbiased journalism.

Posted by: JakeD at May 19, 2004 at 05:02 PM

Check out ABC Watch for more stuff like this.
Tim has a link for it on his main page.
ABC Watch is an EXCELLENT site for those concerned with how our public broadcaster has been hijacked.

Posted by: Brian. at May 19, 2004 at 06:11 PM

Bah. Marr's actions betray him.

And Negus has been doing just that on his new show for ages. Last year on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War ceasefire [27th July, 1953], George Negus declared on his ABC TV vehicle that South Korea was a US puppet. He was interviewing a Korean expert and the academic noted that North Korea does not recognise South Korea and views it as a US puppet state.
"But it is , isn't it?" interjected George.
The academic looked at Negus as if he were surely joking and moved on without answering the question.

Here it is.
DR ANDREW O'NEIL: There are low-level talks. The North Koreans, though, have consistently maintained that they...that they MUST talk to Washington. They genuinely believe that the South Koreans are kind of...basically puppets of Washington, and that really the main game in negotiations is talking to...

GEORGE NEGUS: That'd be right, wouldn't it?

DR ANDREW O'NEIL: Um...I th...I... It assumes that the United States can really tell the South Koreans what to do, and I think that's making a lot of assumptions. But, um, certainly from North Korea's perspective, Washington's the main game.
Note that later on, Negus also questions whether it was right for Australia to be "involved in the 1950's". That would be referring to that small UN police action I guess.

Posted by: bargarz at May 19, 2004 at 06:13 PM

Maybe Media Watch need to hire Yobbo. His quick survey on inherent media bias at BlogJam is worth checking out.

Posted by: bargarz at May 19, 2004 at 06:30 PM

Radio program PM has questioned when it talked about spin coming out of the White House, and the answer it got from the media monitoring organization was pretty poor.

Posted by: Andjam at May 19, 2004 at 08:50 PM

Media Bias:

I see it in much (most) of the media here in the US. I feel as if those in the 'media elite' believe we (the unwashed consumers) are children who must be constantly TOLD and SHOWN the correct views to have.

However, when confronted about it, there is denial. "No bias here."

Could it be that those in the media believe their world view is so OBVIOUSLY the correct one, they actually see no bias? All the people they work and socialize with hold the same views so they are never confronted with any other views.

Perhaps they have convinced themselves that nobody in their right mind would have an opposing view because it never occurs to them to question their views? It wouldn't seem like bias to them if they believed 99.9% of the people thought as they do.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at May 19, 2004 at 08:55 PM

Peter Cosgrove the Chief of Defence is a four star General. However he was a two star Maj-Gen when he was in East Timor.
I would have to say Australia has become more of a terrorist attack, from maybe 22% to 23%. What would make that risk go down?

Posted by: Fred at May 19, 2004 at 09:03 PM

I would probably argue that yes, Australia may be more of a target since 2001, but then again, how could we have avoided this?

Consider the case of Canada and France, which were famously non-supportive during the Iraq war. They still find themselves on terrorist "to-do" list, sometimes even above Australia.

Believing appeasement will "get you off the list" is a mug's game, as the sort of tactics terrorists use does, and always has, relied on the weakness of its victims.

Posted by: Quentin George at May 19, 2004 at 09:37 PM

at risk of interrupting the huffin' and a puffin', SBS (shock horror - lefties in your porridge alert!) is presently running an excellent series titled "Fine Line" perduced by Ellen Fanning - she's sticking it all media fairly firm, both govt funded, and not.

Tonight's ep features an interview with Raphael Epstein from PM about why he made claims he could not substantiate during the Timor crisis - his answers seem honest at face value - and reveal much about why war reporting is occasionally flawed.

Fanning has done more to genuinely investigate bias in the media over 4 half hour TV eps than 32 Alston-initiated compelete wastes of my taxes.

Posted by: chico o'farrill at May 19, 2004 at 09:56 PM

Tim quotes Andrew Bolt: Instead of simply vilifying non-Leftist commentators, why not give some a chance on your show to argue back? Isn't that fair?

Good idea! Tim, why not you? That's worked pretty well in the past, hasn't it?

Posted by: John at May 20, 2004 at 02:27 PM

I'm sure when Tim gets a tv show, he will, John. Perhaps then some of you trolls will crawl out of the woodwork and demand to be guests. Oh wait -- I forgot: trolls turn to stone when exposed to sunlight. Never mind.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at May 20, 2004 at 08:44 PM

Well TIM , time to bcome a fifth columnist.
Do a reverse Chris Hutchins.
Write Marr a mea culpa and he'll be eating out of you hand like Stalin's little bird.
Thee's nothing they love more than a little grovelling.
lets face it:- all you're getting now are ONE WORD replies.

You can then report to us from the inside.

Do this and am sure we can have a whip round to subsidise your measly ABC salary.
When you go for the Interview
Shout three times " Sharon is a war criminal"
twice "Bush has an IQ of a texas steer"
and brush up on "the internationale " in case they ask you to sing it.
Oh and do a John Cleese DON"T MENTION THE WAR !
piece of cake.
they'l kiss you both cheeks.

Posted by: DAVO at May 20, 2004 at 09:23 PM

Bolt clearly wants to stick his snout even further in the public trough. Not enough we taxpayers have to fork out for his pathetic appearances on "The Insiders", now he wants a cheque from "Media Watch" as well. The hide. Go get some equal time from Alan Jones.

Or how about the bloghead stands down indefinitely in favour of the Bolt?

Posted by: Miranda Divide at May 23, 2004 at 10:44 AM

Well, why shouldn't he get his turn at "the public trough"? Are you saying that only people of certain ideologies should have their perorations paid for by the taxpayers? Sorry -- rhetorical question; I know that's actually exactly what you are saying.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at May 23, 2004 at 11:36 AM