Australian think tank calls for privatisation of ‘biased’ public broadcaster
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Australian think tank calls for privatisation of ‘biased’ public broadcaster

The proposed privatisation of  the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) could be the ultimate blow to Australia’s clean energy policies if it pushes through. A free-market think tank with strong private industry connections has recommended that the public broadcaster be reined in by transferring its management to the private sector.

The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA)  released a report this week saying that the ABC is biased against the fossil fuels industry. In March, the IPA commissioned iSentia to carry out analysis based on ABC’s coverage of energy policy issues, including the coal-mining, coal-seam gas, and the renewable energy industries. It found that the ABC’s reports were heavily in favour of renewable energy.

“If bias at the ABC is systemic, only structural reform will solve it. A new board or management won’t change the culture. Privatising the ABC is the only way to ensure taxpayers’ money is not used to fund biased coverage,” the IPA said on its website.

Those opposed to the fossil fuels industry are arguing to the contrary, saying privatisation of the ABC would limit reporting on renewable energy policies, giving way to big-scale investments in fossil fuels. Environmental group GetUp! said privatising the ABC will thwart Australia’s burgeoning renewable energy industry in favour of fossil fuels.

Len Cooper, secretary of Communications Workers Union, said in June that Prime Minister Tony Abbott made a pre-election pledge to his party, industry think tanks, and supporters that he would dismantle policies that are not favourable to investment. Cooper added, “the IPA has over 100 policy demands it has wanted and wants the Abbott Government to implement”.

Cooper also named some of the guests who attended the 70th Anniversary IPA dinner in April 2013 before the federal election. These included mining queen Gina Rinehart and media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who was one of the keynote speakers.

Cooper accused the IPA of being an instrument in forming the Liberal Party and also a fundraiser for the party with major donors from the resource industry such as ExxonMobil, Telstra, WMC Resources, BHP Billiton, Phillip Morris, and Caltex, among others.

ABC Friends also noted how Abbott praised his fellow keynote speakers, especially Murdoch.

Without specifying what items on the IPA’s list to radically transform Australia he would not implement, Abbott’s broad response was: “a big ‘yes’ to many of the 75 specific policies you urged upon me”. So what would be the result if the IPA’s policy for the ABC was implemented? Public broadcasting – gone. The ABC to be broken up and sold off, and SBS to be fully privatised.

Large-scale protests are already brewing against Abbott’s leadership policies. GetUp! said “we actually had a good laugh, until we realised – this is no joke. “

GetUp! also said the IPA’s report purports to have  uncovered “media bias” but the fact remains, “As we all know by now, the right-wing think tank just happens to be supported by the likes of Murdoch and Rinehart.”


Thick, dark smoke from coal-fired power plants. (Photo: ABC)

The scary truth is right now we are watching the IPA’s radical conservative agenda become a reality before our eyes – from the dismantling of the carbon price to a budget that elevates big business over average Australians. Its seemingly impossible wish list of 75 conservative items has been rapidly ticked off as our Prime Minister adopts them with abandon.

Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne described the Coalition as an “Abbott-Murdoch-Rinehart collaboration directed and promoted by the IPA”.

Meanwhile, the Guardian said there are many indicators on how to determine whether news reporting is objective or biased. But whether ABC is biased or not, “A KPMG report leaked in 2006 considered the ABC to be highly efficient and underfunded.”

A positive mention from Crikey: “The ABC provides a high volume of outputs and quality relative to the level of funding it receives … the ABC appears to be a broadly efficient organisation.”