Monday, February 03, 2014

Monday with the Fairfaxians, and waiter, don't forget a large dollop of chocolate ...

There's a schizophrenia at work at Fairfax.

Here's today's digital line up for the start of the day for Sydney Fairfaxians:

A bit of union and Labor bashing - a pet project for the Fairfaxians in recent weeks - balanced by a piece on the bizarre world views of Kevin Donnelly in Leave sex lessons to straight teachers, writes Pyne's reviewer, and a nun having a go at the Catholic church by noting the obvious, Nun calls Church patriarchal, bishops dismissive of child sex abuse claims.

There, that takes care of the progressives, and the eastern suburbs types in search of union bashing click bait, in one fell swoop, with bonus Woody Allen titillation, never mind that  the letter was published here a long time ago, at least in terms of internet time ...

And then there's the headliners in the comments section:

Oh dear.

It's always hard to tell when Paul Sheehan is being deliberately stupid, or stupidly provocative.

Here's one line in ABC and SBS merger simply makes budgetary sense:

It is crucial to look past the irrational hysteria about political revenge and ideological warfare in any restructuring of the ABC and SBS. The government of the day has no control over the content of the ABC and there are no plans to dilute this valued independence.

And here's the closing par:

The ABC has been unhinged by the issue. It is obsessional. It is not the content of stories and comment which is the main problem, but the sheer scale of its coverage. This brings into question the judgment of the news and current affairs division, and its self-perpetuating, cultural proclivities at the most basic, granular and reflexive level. Unless this audit considers the scale of the ABC's obsession about asylum seekers, across all platforms, it will be another bureaucratic exercise in self-preservation and self-vindication.

Yes, there are no plans to dilute this valued independence.

For the love of the long absent lord, won't someone dilute this valued independence and call into question the obsessional behaviour of the ABC's news and current affairs division!

In fact every moment contemplating Sheehan's rhetoric reeks of a fierce desire by Sheehan to dilute the ABC's independence, and to do so on the most spurious of grounds:

Compounding this debacle has been the performance of the ABC itself in running the Australia Network. It is dreadful. If it was meant to enhance Australia's reputation in Asia, it has been an abject failure on the basis of dullness alone. But the ABC has been worse than dull. It chose to knowingly damage Australia's relationship with Indonesia by publishing Edward Snowden's leaks of Australian spying in Indonesia. It then chose to knowingly damage Australia's reputation in Asia by running for an entire week with accusations of torture by Australian navy personnel, despite not having a shred of corroborating evidence, and despite a super-abundant pattern of false claims made by asylum seekers who have destroyed documents, scuttled ships and claimed abuse.

It's wondrous how the right wing commentariat tend to the Stalinist. What is needed, what is wanted and deeply desired, is that the ABC behave like the Pravda of old. Avoid the likes of Snowden, pump propaganda into Asia, serve the government, keep the tosh flowing ... because, you know, Snowden isn't a news story, not a story at all ...

Raving on like this also allows you to get the ABC coming and going. What's the worst crime of all?


Yes, it's an outrageously dull broadcaster. Which is also not dull, but simply outrageous and obsessional and conspiratorial and whatever else hyped up adjective you have at hand.

It's what you get when call on a hanging judge.

As for the notion of merging the ABC, SBS and now NITV, this has been kicked around forever, and ironically the first time it gained real moment was under a Labor government.

Because Sheehan is such a tedious bore - why doesn't he join Hendo amongst the chums in the lizard Oz? -in order and click to enlarge, the SMH on 16th October 1985, The Age on 21st September 1986, The Age 25th September 1986, The Age 17th March 1987 and The Age 29th August 1987:

Well it makes for more amusing reading than Sheehan.

So let's now line up, decades later, for a fresh round of merger follies.

How many decades can this sort of fluff-gathering and navel-gazing go on?

Why, forever, and yet for all the bluster and the bullying by Sheehan, he provides not a shred of evidence that a merger would indeed produce efficiencies (as opposed to rivalries, turf wars and loss of services), and that said efficiencies would be used to fix up services, especially in the already degutted and ruined SBS (John Howard achieved that, courtesy Christopher Pearson and chums), or the woefully underfunded NITV, which looks to ancient documentaries and dramas to fill in its 24 hour schedule.

But then Sheehan really doesn't have the first clue about anything:

Commercial broadcasters are under pressure to make profound adjustments as the internet increasingly delivers TV and radio via computers, iPads and smartphones. One obvious example of where a public broadcaster could cut costs is by ending the provision of foreign-language news, given that such news is available at no cost through the internet.

And how much does Sheehan think this sort of programming costs SBS? And what would he put in its place? First run dramas and news and current affairs of a dinkum kind? At what cost?

It's filler. It's SBS saying they don't have any money to do anything else.

The pond has had first hand experience of these mergers.

If it's serious, a lot of money is spent on new premises, re-branding, new business cards, new this and that. In short, substantial sums of money are pissed against the wall, and then the dysfunctional in-fighting begins, with in this case SBS and NITV, as the junior partners, certain to get the raw end of the prawn.

If it's not a practical merger - separate buildings and brands maintained, with perhaps an attempt to merge head offices and accounting - even more money is pissed against the wall with lack of result and bugger all to do with efficiencies.

It's what ministers and governments do, in the name of change and progress and being seen to do things.

If you want a minor but classic example, witness the resounding failure of the merger of the AFC and the NFSA (here), which despite the smallness of the agencies involved, was nonetheless front page news in its day.

Stupid people of the stupid Sheehan kind doing stupid things while bleating "efficiency".

As for hapless Amanda Vanstone, the pond has finally worked out why the ABC programmed Brendan O'Neill over the break.

It was to make listeners think that Vanstone was bearable. See, they seemed to be saying, any dissent or fuss over big Mandy, and we'll hit you with our O'Neill stick, and make you listen to his old programs over and over again here.

But how mean of Fairfax to juxtapose Vanstone's Cabinet correct with Cosgrove and SPC, with Aid and Abetz: Coalition defends taxpayer funding of Cadbury:

Everything Vanstone said in praise of the SPC decision made a mockery of the nakedly political intent of the Cadbury decision.

Please allow the pond to do a little subbing:

Then there is the Cadbury decision. That the company is struggling is terrible news for all the employees and the owner. But if we are refusing to buy enough of their chocolate for them to be profitable, I cannot see why the government is to blame. Eaters of this type of chocolate should be able to tell the company what is wrong. Is it the product or the price? Have the unions negotiated a deal that was OK when the sun was shining but is now bringing the company to its knees? 
These are all fair questions. How on earth would $16 million remove whatever it is that is making them unprofitable? The fairest question is why doesn't the owner, foreign owned Cadbury, do what needs to be done? The government decision would have been a hard one. No one likes saying no. Nobody wants a factory to shut, especially in Eric Abetz's home state of Tasmania with an election looming. 
But unless the underlying problem is fixed, a handout will just extend the pain. The sooner they fix the problem the sooner job security will be restored. If it can't be fixed, the sooner the workers are told that, the sooner they can get on with the difficult task of finding other work or just go on the dole with all the other bludging Tasmanian greenies. 
Taxpayers cannot continually bail out failing companies and failed islands like Tasmania. The government gets a tick for having the courage and strength to make this decision. No one said government was a bed of roses.

A bed of roses? Perhaps not, but it's a fair bet that government and its defenders is a bed of bullshit. (Interested readers can revert to the Vanstone original to see the decorative touches added by the pond to Vanstone's celebration of the SPC decision).

As for the rest, the Vanstone piece underwent a curious makeover:

Uh huh. So someone else has noticed the boondoggling of Kevin Andrews.

Wanting people to have stronger relationships is a very desirable aim. Achieving that is not necessarily simple. Presumably the government is not writing to all newlyweds offering a voucher. That would be like saying: ''Congratulations, you might think you're happy but we're putting 20 mill on the table that says you won't be.'' 
This decision has all the hallmarks of a government wanting to be seen to do something. That does not make good policy. Consider this: to get this so-called benefit you need to know about it. Unless the government is about to waste a whole lot of money on an advertising campaign, the most likely place you will learn about it is through a counselling business. That is, you are already in the door as a customer. This then becomes nothing more than an industry subsidy disguised as benefaction.

So that's how it's done in Fairfax land.

Give an apologist for the Government space, and then, after a little berating of Kevin Andrews - which is a bit like smacking Cory Bernardi or Barney the fundamentalist Christian dinosaur - and then let them conclude:

Oh well, two good government decisions out of three ain't bad.

Not so fast. If the SPC decision is good, then the Cadbury decision is woeful. And vice versa. Even if you love a man using ANZAC day to peddle VB beer and getting pissed as a national pastime, at best it's one out of three ...

And two half-baked columns out of two at the head of the Fairfax page, no matter how they're dressed and paraded, is surely bad ... and bad ...

Meanwhile, over at the lizard Oz, the treacherous, traitorous Murdochians have broken Tony Abbott's plea.

"If there's credible evidence the ABC, like all other news organisations, is entitled to report it, but you shouldn't leap to be critical of your own country. 
 "You certainly ought to be prepared to give the Australian navy and its hard-working personnel the benefit of the doubt.''

Give the Navy the benefit of the doubt?

Why according to the reptiles the addle headed frock wearers in the Australian navy are a mob of bunglers who don't know where they are or how they got there ...

Armed with state of the art navigation systems, they couldn't navigate their way around a bath tub.

Which reminds the pond. It's been awhile since we saw this one:

Come back at once David Pope! Your country needs you.

The pond waits with bated breath Abbott's vigorous denunciation of the over-critical reptiles as treacherous traitors of an un-Australian kind ...

Why they're just as bad, perhaps worse than the ABC.

Someone get Paul Sheehan on to the job, so we can read a story about the HUN, the Daily Terror, the least trusted newspaper in Australia, and The Australian merging into one fundamentalist brand.

Let there be no differences, let there be no distinctions, let there be no variety or diversity, and let's end this jibber jabber about multiculturalism and indigenous broadcasting, all in the name of efficiency.

Collectivisation comrades, and group mind think, it's the new future, and we can thank comrades Sheehan and Vanstone for guiding us down the path.

Why soon we'll all be able to chant some subsidies good and some subsidies bad ...

(Below: but wait, there are a few reasons for Fairfax to exist, and one of them is David Rowe. More Rowe here).


  1. Why did Bishop get stuck into the Australia Network and say it was not abiding by its charter? (other than an obvious warm-up to ripping it out from the ABC and giving it to Murdoch.)

    Apart from perhaps a preponderance of kid's programmes, it's English language learning programmes and news etc. are interspersed with commercial offering (like Home and Away and The Block). It's structured English classes are a major learning asset for many people in Asia/Sth Pacific wanting to improve their language skills. I don't see Sky doing anywhere near as much educational programming.

    What complaints has she received about it? And has she (or the so-called complainants) ever watched it?

    The US and the UK both see overseas TV services as important and haven't commercialised them.

    You can check out Australia Network's coverage here -

  2. Chuckle! Love that headline over Vanstone's article. It puts the Governor-General in the same basket as canned fruit. Sliced Cosgroves in heavy syrup, anyone?

    On dullness and misinformation, I stumbled on Brendan O'Neill while dabbing the digital dial and he gave a dissertation on the Counter-Culture movement which was completely wrong and then inexplicably moved from that to criticism of feminism and environmentalism.

    “The Navy should be given the benefit of the doubt” is absurd; should the Navy have been given the benefit of the doubt over the Navy sex scandals? On the one hand, so the logic goes, we shouldn't take the word of boat people because they are acting “illegally”, but we should take the word of the a Navy which acted illegally in breach of international law by encroaching into Indonesian waters.

    The pond and Rowe have analysed it well.


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