Sunday, July 8, 2012

ABC news sucks

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Lovingly referred to as 'Aunty', the cute moniker for Australia's tax payer-funded media outlet.

And to be honest with you, I don't really have a beef with the ABC as a whole - no, my beef is mostly with its news media efforts.

Don't get me wrong, there's lots of things to love about the ABC; Radio National can be very informative, and ABC News Radio is great for listening in to our political apparatus on-the-go.

But recently, I've have a growing queasy disdain for it.

It began with an ABC Four Corners investigation into people smuggling about a month ago, a hot topic here in Australia.

A rather abrasive Sarah Ferguson (the reporter, not the troubled Duchess) confronted the alleged kingpin of an operation working out of Canberra, the business end of a people smuggling racket.

It copied a style smilar to Today Tonight or A Current Affair, both gutter 'journalism' mainstays of Australian television - journalism for the already lesser informed citizen.

The report was even promoted by 2GB radio of Sydney - which was quite bizarre, especially with an ABC reporter plugging their report on a normally right-leaning station such as 2GB.

Sarah confronted the guy head-on, aggressively,  and he was lovingly referred to as 'Captain Emad' - I guess he was a some kind of captain...?

He soon fled the country after the bluster, and despite criticism of the Australian Federal Police in the media on their handling of Captain Emad, they later made a media statement making it clear that they were in fact already aware of and watching him.

It was the most ridiculous piece of journalism I had seen on Four Corners in recent times.

But back to the news arm as a whole.

ABC News 24, the high definition digital TV station, was supposed to furnish viewers with news 24 hours a day (hence the name) in a similar fashion to Sky News, Australia's pay TV news channel.

For a time, it was good. However, it has quickly become a droning and repetitive sleeping tablet.

This news station has two or three issues they will flog to death all day - unless the Second Coming of Christ is taking place, the same subjects are repeated over, and over, and over, until Question Time or the late afternoon politico blabberfest gets to air.

It's hardly 24 hour news - you can switch over to any other news bulletin on any other station and be instantly informed of a million different things that happened throughout the day, and it's almost pathetic in comparison to the ABC.

ABC News 24 does not set a news agenda. Understandably that can be difficult in a 24 hour news cycle environment, but instead of digging anything new, ABC News 24 is for all intents and purposes a big fat recycling truck that has sound recordists and cameramen dump feeds from press conferences into it.

And that's another thing. Whatever programming there is can be instantly broken into to cover a mind-numbing press conference, from say, the Prime Minister, from some dull location such as the Whitlam Institute where she will be harping on about Labor and Labor values.

With no journalism being done, it's just a megaphone for big politicians on both Gillard and Abbott's side.

That's why they're called press conferences - they're conferences for press to ask questions, not to have the unedited drivel of politicians blurted out.

Much the same thing is reflected on the online outlets for ABC news.

The ABC news Facebook page for instance might post a picture of a hose dripping ice in a cold area of the country and ask for an opinion, with a question such as:

"Blah blah, is it cold where you are?"

Oh wow, gee ABC, I don't know, I thought I was reading the posting of a news outlet, not amateur meteorologists.

And the same open-ended questions apply for any other story - there's no spontaneous opinion from the commenting public, ABC can ask them if they think a puppy is cute, and people will still all line up giving their opinion on a insignificant story.

In comparison to others, say the BBC or even NPR, the ABC News Facebook page is painting by numbers.

The ABC news website is a shadow of its former self, which is a shame given the recent upheavals in the print media, especially since the likes of the Sydney Morning Herald are earmarked to put up paywalls.

But maybe we shouldn't be so harsh on old Aunty and her news gathering efforts, especially given that Australian news media in general on the way down to the pits of hell as a whole.

Oh yes, the left bias is still there, as is the latte elite attitude in many of its opinion pieces; that I'm not even taking issue with, even though it's so blatantly obvious, especially on the adventure that is Q&A.

But for all the bashing that corporatised media takes in Australia from the left, I can undoubtedly attest that that very corporatised media finds new stories and sets agendas and angles a whole a whole lot faster than ABC news could ever dream of.

It's even far more in touch with its consuming public.

Which is actually not a good thing entirely - if ABC is supposed to be the brand of neutral and common sense news and reporting as a publicly funded entity, it's not doing its job by that account.

Everyone has that aunty they stop visiting.


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