Media Analysis

Queen Elizabeth, King Arthur and the knights of the ABC round table

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(Image by Dan Jensen)

In the week of the Queen’s passing, it seems most of the media – having suffered a few months of stable federal government devoid of the customary scandals – have finally left the building and may now be seen revelling in her death as if this one single event somehow encapsulates their raison d'être.

And we are not just talking about the usual mainstream media suspects or just the media, either.

The Victorian State Liberal Party Leader proved once again that if anyone can take it to the next level of idiocy, it’s, well, Matthew Guy.

In his tribute to the late monarch, Guy chose Parliament to announce that Queen Elizabeth’s lineage (unbeknown to her) included children's storybook favourite, “King Arthur” — of the Round Table:

“In all those times, in all those monarchs from figures well known, King Arthur, Henry the Eighth and so on, the longest reigning of them all was Queen Elizabeth.”

Guy’s sombre, heartfelt homage was met with Tim Smith MP (of drunken car-crashing through private homes, anti-lockdown fame) calling out with gusto: “God save the King!” — though it is unclear to which King he was referring.

Of course, we will not be holding our collective breath as we await the mainstream media to pursue Guy with the same fervour and dogged perseverance reserved for Albo’s interest rate “gaffe”— no matter that King Arthur is a fictional character.

There is no end to Victorian Premier Dan Andrews’ super-powers, either, according to AFR Melbourne Bureau chief Patrick Durkin. In Durkin’s considered opinion, Andrews was able to convince the PM to hold the commemorative holiday for the Queen’s passing on the day before the Grand Final holiday, thereby increasing his re-election chances.

We hate to break it to you, Patrick, but the Victorian Liberal Party is Andrews’ best and not-so-secret weapon for re-election.

It is fair to say that the death of Australia’s monarch – coming as it did after her seemingly endless reign – was newsworthy. For staunchly pro-republican websites, like Independent Australia, it was not cause to dance on the woman’s grave. But certainly, the possibility that her death might facilitate the path to becoming an independent nation with our own head of state, was not lost on us. It is logical, surely, that the end of the Elizabethan era should signal a new beginning.

However, for the vast majority of the media, it sparked a “mourning” frenzy that can only be described as farcical. Not for the first time, the most sensible coverage appeared on satirical websites, such as The Shovel, which lamented its inability to beat the absurdity of the actual media reports. 

But, perhaps, for the first time, the gong for the most idiotic goes to “our” ABC. We have discussed the gradual hijacking of the national broadcaster by its predominantly conservative board and the general decline of once weighty programs such as Insiders and Q&A, before. However, viewers tuning in to News Breakfast to find everyone dressed in black and ABC Chair Ita Buttrose herself appearing to discuss with Sarah Ferguson and David Speers the gloves she wore when the Queen last visited this colony, surpassed parody.

Having exhausted anyone and everyone who attended any official royal events or met the Queen while standing on the side of the road – and the cousins, neighbours and hairdressers with whom they shared their experience – if we were to tune in to the ABC today, perhaps we would be treated to exclusive interviews with everyone who had a Freddie Mercury poster on their wall — because close enough, right?

Meanwhile,  we had the likes of “hard-hitting” reporters like Lisa Millar, who was busy justifying a role for herself within the new-look ABC by darting about the English countryside following the procession of the coffin.

Ever the consummate professional, Millar still found time to chastise Albanese for, wait for it, announcing a public holiday in honour of the Queen:

“I've got to tell you, PM, we're getting a bit of feedback into the program from people concerned about that public holiday, concerned about small business, hospitals, doctors, what is your message to them this morning?”

And then, unable to get a rise from the Prime Minister,  Millar quickly changed course and decided to go on the attack on the republic referendum, instead, in the following exchange:

MILLAR: Prime Minister, on British television overnight you indicated that there would be no debate about a republic or a referendum in your first term. Could there be one in your second term if you are re-elected?


PRIME MINISTER: Well, that's not for answering now at this point in time...


MILLAR: And why can't you tell me if it may be a priority in your second term if you won?


PRIME MINISTER: Because it's not appropriate now, Lisa, to talk about constitutional change. What is appropriate right now is to commemorate the life of service of Queen Elizabeth II.

Elsewhere on the ABC,  former republican, turned head of Prince's Trust charity, Julie “Jewellery” Bishop, shared with 7.30 her "obvious" knowledge about what PM Albanese will do about a republic:

There won’t be a referendum this term for a republic. That’s obvious. … If the Labor Party want to persist [with a republic], it will have to wait for the next election or the one thereafter.

This was followed by fawning over King Charles, who will, apparently, make a "magnificent and refreshingly modern monarch" and Bishop's belief in his “deep affection for our nation and our people”.

And ABC’s Q&A will discuss the republic with far-right ex-Senator and Liberal Party Far-Right nutter Eric Abetz tomorrow. No official representative from the republican side is scheduled to appear.

For those of us who have preferred to view it through a positive lens wherever possible, in essence, the ABC in 2022 has been remade in Ita Buttrose’s image, complete with Women’s Weekly-style attention to fashion detail and superlative coverage of all things royal.

How royally … balanced.

This is an abridged version of an editorial originally published in the IA weekly newsletter. Subscribe now to read the full version online in the IA members-only area.

Follow IA managing editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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