ABC’s ideological blinkers come at a high price

ABC’s ideological blinkers come at a high price, by Chris Mitchell.

News is not just what happens. Often it’s what an editor, news editor, chief of staff or executive producer decides to chase or ignore on a given day. …

[The Australian] is one of the few papers in the world whose paid digital circulation has passed its all-time print circulation high. It now sits, in print and digital, about 50 per cent above its print peak. Figures released last week in the US show only The New York Times and The Washington Post in this category among US city-based newspapers. The Australian’s sister paper, the US national financial daily The Wall Street Journal, is also among this elite group. All rely on strong, unique content driven by experienced reporters and editors that people are happy to pay for online.

It is decisions about what to cover or ignore that often get our ABC into trouble. While many of its main presenters are experienced journalists with long track records, too many of its [executive producers] are young and only recently out of the clutches of universities where their heads have been filled with things not always likely to resonate with mainstream audiences. Yet they make content decisions. You know the stuff: climate change, gay marriage, transgender rights, Trump derangement syndrome, endless pieces on asylum seekers driven by immigration ­activists.

This is a pity because, despite all its bleating about funding cuts, the ABC is by far the nation’s best-resourced news service.

In an era in which people consume news they agree with, the NYT and Post are overwhelmingly benefiting from their anti-Trump bias, just as this paper thrives on its positioning on the centre-right. Why should the ABC be any different? Why not run news people on one side can agree with?

As a publicly funded broadcaster, the ABC should not be to the left of the electorate that pays for it. Its board, MDs and editors should have done much more over the past two decades to move its politics to the centre. That’s not even considering its legal duty under its charter to present a balanced coverage.