Is Michelle Guthrie remaking the ABC in Murdoch’s image?

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(Image via themonthly.com.au)

What Michelle Guthrie and her band of redundancy-happy managers are doing to the ABC is a crime against the public interest, writes Dr Martin Hirst

IT'S TIME to stop mucking around.

I wrote last Friday about the increasing levels of unhappiness with Michelle Guthrie’s leadership of the national broadcaster. I suggested that, from my reading, the relatively-new managing director is running out of friends and that her “honeymoon” is over at the national broadcaster.

I am now more convinced than before that Michelle Guthrie’s plan is to remake the ABC in Rupert’s image; this will then pave the way for it to be broken up and for parts of it to be sold to Murdoch’s News Corp.

This has been on the Institute of Public Affairs' (IPA) planning board for a while, and both Abbott and Turnbull have adopted this as their "to do" list. If the ABC is sold-off, expect a wholesale purge of any “freethinkers” who refuse to drink Rupert’s Kool-Aid.

Only those who are able to freely express loyalty to the new regime will survive, which means that current ABC staff will have to audition for their jobs. I think the process has already started.

Chris Uhlmann — Andrew Bolt’s new bestie at the ABC?

You might remember ABC’s political editor Chris Uhlmann went out of his way to blame the South Australia blackouts on renewable energy, rather than the failure of a number of pylons carrying Victorian coal-fired electricity into the state.

There was a backlash, and a storm of protest at the time Uhlmann’s ridiculous claims were broadcast and published. Several people complained about the bias in Uhlmann’s coverage, but he was staunchly defended in the News Corp press, including by notorious denier, Andrew Bolt. Bolt is big on the motto “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

In this case, Uhlmann became a convenient “useful idiot” in Bolt’s daily rampage against the sins of the “green Left” cabal he sees under every bed:

How does Dutchie sleep with so many communists under every bed? (Source: heraldsun.com.au.)

Now, according to reports last week, an internal inquiry has found that the ABC’s most senior political reporter has done nothing wrong, and that his reporting was factual and within the organisation’s editorial guidelines. 

I wonder if Uhlmann’s tweeting around that time was also taken into account.

This one seems a little petulant, to say the least:

The exoneration of Uhlmann is a puzzling decision to many, given that over 180 complaints were lodged about his blackout reporting.

Uhlmann may be already safe, but for other high profile ABC “personalities” the loyalty testing has only just begun.

For evidence of the trend to showing fealty to the Murdoch doctrine is accelerating, look no further than this tweet from 7.30 host, Leigh Sales, praising a column in The Daily Telegraph by raging Trumpinista, Miranda Devine.

I contacted Leigh to see if this retweet equalled endorsement but, so far, I have had no reply. I wonder why Leigh Sales thinks this bitter rant by an angry, authoritarian Trump supporter is “a good, thought-provoking read”. What was so “thought provoking” in the Devine, Miss M’s column?

Was it this headline: Hillary’s crybabies need to grow up

Or was it this scintillating argument: 'If you needed proof for why Trump won the election, look no further than the hypocrisy of the left’s crybabies and sore losers, even now imagining they can bully their way into refusing Trump the job he won fair and square'?

Fair and square? There is so much officially-sanctioned voter fraud perpetuated in the U.S. that almost no election is very fair. Minorities are actively discouraged from voting and, when they do register, in many states, it is made difficult for them to actually vote.

That’s not so say this is the only reason Trump won, or even a major one, but "fair and square" it wasn’t.

Remember, it was Trump who, right up until he unexpectedly won, was claiming "voter fraud". Clinton won the popular vote by an unprecedented margin, Trump won a majority of the Electoral College. Millions of words have since been written to explain how this occurred and why most mainstream commentators missed it.

However, no one except Miranda Devine and her Alt-Right fringe-dwelling friends are saying that Trump won because of ‘the hypocrisy of the left’s crybabies and sore losers’.

If that’s what Leigh Sales thinks, then her credibility as a reputable political journalist just went up in smoke. Of all the analysis and commentary on the U.S. election that exists in the world, why did Sales think that this was a "good read"?

Perhaps it was the list of alleged crimes by anti-Trump protestors who, if Devine is to be believed, have been on a violent rampage since the election. Devine called these events (if they’re true) "actual hate crimes". But, as we know, actual facts are not so sacred over at The Daily TellMeLies.

Miranda says:

'... the bashing of a 15-year-old boy wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat in Maryland.’

She means, the kid who got into a scuffle with anti-Trump protestors after taunting them. He wasn’t some innocent bystander, he was taking political action himself. He was pushed, not "bashed" and he apparently "banged his head when he fell over".

The anti-Trump rally was very peaceful, you can see an excellent report about here:


However, Miranda prefers to get her unbiased facts from websites like Freedom Daily, where this was posted.

Miranda says:

‘... a 24-year-old on the subway in New York wearing the red Trump cap [was bashed].'

The source for this is the man himself, who is alleged to have reported the incident to police, but there are no other witnesses.

However, the Daily News story has been amplified on Miranda’s favoured Alt-Right websites and so it found a way into her column. But there’s a problem, the guy’s wearing a white Trump hat in the photos. Was this "me too" or did he have to get a new hat?

Miranda’s final allegation of anti-Trump supporters being violent – and one that has been around for a while – is this one:

‘... a 50-year-old man in Chicago suspected of being a Trump supporter [was bashed] ­because he was white.’

The only problem with this one is that the anti-urban legend site Snopes has debunked it. It wasn’t about politics, it was about a traffic incident.

Here’s the Snopes verdict:

While it's clear Wilcox was assaulted, it seems from initial police reports and his own statements that the assault stemmed from a traffic incident. Bystanders are heard taunting him for voting for Trump, but that's not what the impetus for the beating was.

It's also not clear, as some publications are claiming, that the battery suspects in the video were supporters of Trump's Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. One woman can be heard off camera asking, "Are you gonna pay for my shit?" which seems to align with the police statement that the fight stemmed from a traffic accident resulting in property damage.

Further, the racial undertones of some of the posts surrounding the video raises the possibility that the incident is being exploited in order to further inflame tensions on the heels of a charged and contentious election.

The story and video has been shared by the American "white nationalist" website Stormfront, which has been backing Trump.

This is what Stormfront have to say:

These are the people that Miranda thinks are worthy of her support, while she pours scorn on the "crybabies". Sorry Ms Devine, you’ve been punked by more fake news.

Miranda also fails to mention the number of "actual hate crimes" being committed in Trump’s name since the election:

We can’t believe this, of course — just look at the "disreputable" media reporting this: CNN, The New Yorker, People, Fortune and Time. Even the BBC is perpetrating this Left "crybaby" conspiracy against good free-thinking (overwhelmingly white) Trump supporters. Why would you believe any of this when you can rely on websites run by your Alt-Right frends?

Of course, sites like Right Wing News say that all of these attacks – on women in hijabs, on African-Americans and on Hispanic-looking people – are all made up. Unlike these stories, which Miranda believes are all true.

However, let’s pause for a moment and give Leigh Sales the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps she wasn’t suggesting that this bit of Miranda’s story is so "thoughtful". Maybe it was the long quotes about "why I voted for Trump" lifted directly from the The Washington Post. This was just lazy plagiarism on Miranda’s part — putting “quote marks” around it doesn’t make it your own work. Is this what Leigh was applauding?

Well, when we try to check out the comments of the Trump voters, it’s not hard to find the ones Miranda quotes from and the majority are registered Republican voters.

Such as this one:

How does a registered Republican "defy the stereotypes" of Trump voters? The following are also typical Trump voters, even if Ms Devine can’t see it.

Christopher Todd, 53, of Florida wrote:

'I voted for Trump on the calculated bet that he would nominate conservative Supreme Court justices. If people want to permit gay marriage or abortion for any reason, then make both legal through the legislature, not via an unelected oligarchy rewriting the Constitution.'

Lori Myers, 51, of Texas, wrote:

'I voted for Trump ­because the media was so ­incredibly biased. They were ­unhinged in their obvious role as the Clinton campaign propaganda machine.'

Let’s be fair, though, to the 7.30 host. Leigh’s beat is Australian politics, so maybe she thought that Ms Devine’s take on the domestic aftermath of Trump’s victory was the "thoughtful" bit of the column.

'If Malcolm Turnbull ­really wanted to succeed as PM, and preside over a broad church Liberal Party, he would bring Bernardi in from the cold. Inside the tent, Bernardi could save the government from itself.'

Is this what Leigh Sales is applauding?

If so, she’ll be a good fit in the new Murdoch-approved ABC.

Is it too early to gauge Michelle Guthrie's impact?

I wrote a few weeks ago that it might then have been too early to make a call on Michelle Guthrie’s appointment and its impact on the ABC, but maybe now we can begin to see the future under her leadership.

After this week’s news of more staff and programming cuts and the appointment of yet more Murdoch-approved on-air talent, there is little doubt.

As our secret source told IA on Friday, the “honeymoon is over” for Michelle Guthrie — the cuts are happening on her watch and with her approval.

And the IPA will also be pleased that one of its favoured sons, Tom Switzer, now has two programmes on Radio National.

Tom won't display any anti-Trump bias, he knows who runs the show.

The IPA and Murdoch’s journalists can sit back and relax, because judging by what we know of Switzer’s political persuasion and the last two podcasts of Between the Lines, any worry that “Uncle Tom” might display an “anti-Trump bias” can be laid to rest.

Andrew Bolt is pleased with the removal of Jonathan Green, but Tom Switzer is apparently not conservative enough for the Herald Sun blogger.

Bolt’s readers are none-too-pleased either:

FYI Bryan, Patricia Karvelas and Nikki Savva are still on the Murdoch payroll

The ABC regards the changes to next year’s line up as the normal round of annual commissioning — a “nothing to see here” moment.

But replacing perceived “lefties” with perceived “conservatives” is upsetting to a large segment of the ABC’s loyal audience — like “Dave Bradley”, who left this comment on The Guardian’s website:

It might be upsetting to some, but one thing that axing Jonathan Green and First Dog on the Moon from Sunday Extra does do – and this may be the real reason for the shift – is it helps quieten down the barking from the right of politics that the ABC is a nest of “lefty traitors”. It also helps Ms Guthrie to get the place shipshape before the ABC firesale, which I believe will be about August next year.

It’s Malcolm’s fault, not the “elites”

Last week, Malcolm Turnbull again signalled his hostility to the ABC in an interview with Leigh Sales on 7.30.

Luckily, James Hennessy at Pedestrian TV was watching and able to call out Turnbull’s tired clichés about so-called “elite” media:

'Folks, I warned you all yesterday. I warned that Australia's conservatives were trying to steal Donald Trump's 'elites' narrative and extremely clumsily apply it to our country. Now Malcolm Turnbull is trying it. That's right. Malcolm Turnbull, the man with hundreds of millions of dollars who lives in a plush Point Piper mansion is suddenly not a fan of elites.'

History has not yet recorded what Turnbull thinks of former Murdoch CEO Kim Williams’ new show on Radio National, which will broadcast the thoughts of ‘high-profile Australians discussing what they believe are the issues, ideas and concerns of the day’, but let’s hope that worrying about it will keep the PM awake well into the night.

What can we do?

My story about the "Murdochification" of the ABC from last week seems to have hit a nerve. I suggested in the comments thread that people might like to write to Communications Minister Mitch Fifield to express their concerns.

Several people did, including IA reader, Oz-demigod, who sent the following email to the Minister and encouraged others to follow suit:

Minister, it is disgusting, depressing, lacking in vision and completely unAustralian that you sit back and allow the destruction of the Australian Broadcasting Commission [sic] (ABC). This current government, who you are a senior member of, is doing nothing but following the 'policy' directions of the IPA. I have copied in the link for you to browse at your leisure and have also copied in points 50 and 51:


50 Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function

51 Privatise SBS

You are an Australian PUBLIC servant, NOT a loyal employee and card carrying member of the so called 'think tank' IPA. How can you stand by with no conscience and watch as Australian institutions are torn apart like this[?]

Maybe you should change your official title from Minister for Communications to Chief of Propaganda and personal lackey of Murdoch and the IPA.

You should be disgusted in yourself and your colleagues.

If you do send a note to Mitch Fifield, please copy and paste it to the comments section on this article, so we can keep track. You can also sign this petition at Hands off our ABC to save science programming.

You might also consider joining Friends of the ABC in your state. You can find out more from the ABC Friends' national office.

Read more by Dr Martin Hirst on his blog Ethical Martini and follow him on Twitter @ethicalmartini.

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