Six vital questions

  • Why does the ABC insist on showing a never-ending stream of Pommie "celebrity" chef shows, when English cuisine (as it’s laughingly called) is among the world’s worst?  Is this the last bastion of the great Australian cultural cringe?
  • Is there really a huge audience for the seemingly endlessly proliferating house and garden renovation programs on commercial TV, or is it just that they’re cheap to produce and they can defray costs through product placement sponsorships?
  • Does that jerk Jamie Durie really have an ocker accent that makes the late Chips Rafferty sound like an Oxbridge don, or is he just bunging it on for effect like Ernie Dingo?
  • Does anyone with an age and IQ over 15 care what the featherheaded residents of the Big Brother household get up to, or who gets voted out?
  • Why does a beautiful, intelligent woman like Gianna bother watching this crap, let alone blogging about it?
  • Do any of the ABC’s many blogosphere critics ever stop to think what an appallingly banal wasteland Australian TV would be without SBS and ABC (despite ABC’s pommie chef crimes against humanity and occasional blatant political bias)?
  • About Ken Parish

    Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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    cs
    cs
    2021 years ago

    Gees Ken, looks like you’ve just cleaned your pipes.

    Oh, and I agree with every point.

    Gummo Trotsky
    2021 years ago

    1. Don’t know, but Nigella Lawson is the finest dish I’ve seen on a celebrity chef show.

    2. Sadly, both.

    3. What about that berk Nigel Whatsisname then, what plays the violin? He was definitely bunging it on.

    4. No.

    5. Because it’s there?

    6. Probably not. And the bias only gets noticed because it runs counter to the bias that we’re used to seeing elsewhere. Like Foxtel and all those fiercely independent newspapers owned by that Rupert bloke.

    James Russell
    James Russell
    2021 years ago

    Do any of the ABC’s many blogosphere critics ever stop to think what an appallingly banal wasteland Australian TV would be without SBS and ABC?

    They’re all too busy watching Big Brother to care about that. Joking aside, when you look at the blog of a staunch ABC critic like Tim Blair, do you see someone who acts like he gives a shit about anything that could be described as “cultural”?

    As for the gardening shows, the answer to both your questions is “yes”.

    Scott Wickstein
    2021 years ago

    I’m actually a huge fan of the Soccer Broadcasting Service, myself.

    I think I actually wrote somewhere back in the mists of time (ie back in my blogger days) that the ABC does alright when it comes to it’s non-news functions; which makes it’s foibles there the more grating.

    I can’t really comment much further, as I’ve no interest in television beyond sport myself. Foxtel could ditch 37 of their channels and I’d not notice.

    Tim Stevens
    2021 years ago

    “Why does the ABC insist on showing a never-ending stream of Pommie “celebrity” chef shows, when English cuisine (as it’s laughingly called) is among the world’s worst?”

    Odd, as I watched some chef tonight make poached pork with pureed onions, which looked strangely like something my dog might excrete, I couldn’t help thinking exactly the same thing.

    mark
    2021 years ago

    Yes, Scott, but the ABC’s news service is quite possibly the best on TV: the only real challenger is Nine (whose right-wing, but admittedly untaxpayer-funded, bias is about as severe as ABC’s (which is a good thing: they balance each other out)). Well, okay, there’s SBS too. But I never get control of the TV at 18:30, so I’m stuck between the commercials and ABC.

    Ten are sensationalist, superficial morons; Seven are retch-inducing and I’ve had real concerns about their trustworthyness (but I don’t remember why ;-); SBS I rarely watch; ABC are biased slightly left-of-centre unless they get pissed off; Nein are biased slightly right-of-centre except in certain abberrant circumstances (where the right-wing view is clearly piss, or advertisers/laziness-involving-press-releases causes them to adopt a particular POV). As for Foxtel, let’s see: we’ve got BBC and CNN, who don’t seem to concentrate on actually reporting *news* very often; we’ve got FOXNews, who’re legendry; and we’ve got SkyNews, who are laughable. So, yeah. Say “no” to TV news, I guess.

    Dave Ricardo
    Dave Ricardo
    2021 years ago

    Ken, agree on all points, but you raise an issue worth more discussion.

    Right wing ABC critics act as if the only thing broadcast on the ABC is news and current affairs, when in fact that is but a small proportion of what gets broadcast.

    The ABC also broadcasts:

    drama, comedy, music (various kinds), sport, children’s programs, cooking programs, gardening programs, documentaries, nature programs, religious programs, educational programs, etc.

    How come Tim Blair, Professor Imre Bunyip, the IPA and Richard Alston never mention those? That represent 95% of what the ABC does.

    Gianna
    2021 years ago

    (ah, ken, you flatter me…the cheque is in the mail.)

    you’re forcing me to make a very sexist claim here, namely that reality TV is merely sport for females. well, it is a truth universally known that females are socialised to prioritise relationships, while males apparently prioritise watching other males run into each other carrying sticks and balls.

    females enjoy watching relationships develop in the house–friendships and enmities and love affairs–and the group dynamics and gossip and shifting allegiances. we’re from Venus and that.

    i am also happy to admit i’m a people watcher from way back and these shows are field day for anyone with an interest in social and personality psychology. to the claims that it isn’t real, i say the environment is just as fake as any social psych experiment. and if you put a bunch of people into an enclosed environment and observe them continuously, you’re still going to get group dynamics and human interaction and relationships – the physical context is a red herring.

    having said that, even i get fed up with it now and then…but it’s still better than watching sport.

    Dave Ricardo
    Dave Ricardo
    2021 years ago

    Big brother is voyeurism, pure and simple.

    Some like to watch.

    Homer Paxton
    Homer Paxton
    2021 years ago

    Ken,
    Your comments are food for thought but I just can’t stomach the reality shows. It just shows people don’t swallow every bit of rubbish around.

    The taste of ABC/SBS viewers is obviously high.
    Particularly the SBS test pattern!

    Jason Soon
    Jason Soon
    2021 years ago

    Here here!
    And I’m perfectly happy for middle Australia to continue paying taxes to subsidise my elitist musical tastes on ABC FM.

    boynton
    2021 years ago

    can’t agree with Gianna here or with the generalisation of reality shows and gender. This is one woman who won’t go near Big Brother, who resents merely reading the name, even watching an ad for it (during the football) or catching the last moronic minutes before an ABC style drama that now surfaces elsewhere.
    People used to look to drama and narrative rather than fake social experiments for revelation. I know these aren’t mutually exclusive, but it disturbs me that there’s a sizeable demographic happy to go along with that crass commercial circus.
    Cooking shows and DIY are possibly more about voyeurism than the kids in the compound. Vicarious domesticity.

    bargarz
    2021 years ago

    C’mon mark,

    How can you say the ABC has quite possibly the best news broadcast on TV if you can’t compare it to SBS? SBS shits all over ABC now.

    Paul Watson
    Paul Watson
    2021 years ago

    I’m surprised that the thing about “The Block” which no one has mentioned so far is that Kez Packer would appear to be making a profit out of it. And I’m not talking about all the product placement stuff (predictably highlighted on last Monday’s Media Watch).

    The thing is that, for three of the four couple, the only thing they will get out of the show (apart from the fame’n’glory) is the difference between the “reserve price” and what “their” renovated unit goes for. (Plus probably a few power tools, and other portable goodies).

    Given that all of the units were “shells” at best at commencement (at least one could not be said to be “at lock-up stage”) then the stated “reserve price” for these shells – @ $595,000 each – seems a might high.

    I’m no expert on Bondi real estate, but I’d be surprised if a smallish renovated unit in Bondi is worth more than $800k. Remembering that all fixtures and building materials are presumably “contra”, the “value” of these must be guessed, but I would say that $150k would be an absolute minimum. This leaves the 11 weeks (?) labour (if you haven’t watched it, the show is no “sit on the couch” deal for its participants) of the three couples valued at around $50k ($25k each), or quite possibly less.

    $25k is a fair bit of money in some contexts. But I’d think that, for the average yuppie renovator, if they made a profit – after materials – of $25k upon selling their pad, then they wouldn’t be especially rapt about the return on their 11 weeks of hard work.

    And if the participants were unionized actor-builders working ~80 hour weeks, then I’m quite certain that Kez’s bill would be much more than $2,100 per week per cast-member.

    Gianna
    2021 years ago

    Boynton, i do realise there’s a fair few girls who like sport. i’m just pointing out that frankly, reality TV isn’t all that different from other meaningless forms of entertainment. tell me why sport isn’t crass and commercial?

    Scott Wickstein
    2021 years ago

    Also Gianna quite a few of the lads at work are watching BB…

    Geoff Honnor
    Geoff Honnor
    2021 years ago

    The irony is that many of the ABC’s critics are of course avid ABC viewers/listeners – make of that what you will. It could well be the hard-edged angst of the spurned lover, in operation…..

    When someone like Monica Attard refers to Pim Fortuyn as “the late Dutch facist leader” on ABC Radio, their despair seems entirely understandable to me.

    The ABC sets itself the sort of standard which that sort of sloppiness renders instantly, into vacuous pomposity.

    I’ve got no problem with the ABC’s political slant being left liberal – to expect otherwise from a liberal democratic public broadcasting service would be naive to say the least. I do have a problem with a perceived lack of commitment to pushing past the ideological comfort zone, in an investigative sense, and that happens a lot.

    boynton
    2021 years ago

    sorry gianna – I was a bit grouchy this morning. There’s so much crass stuff around in general it gets depressing. Guess we all need some pure meaningless diversion in our lives. And yes -unfortunately sport continues its decline into entertainment and its drift away from its grass roots (local drama). Guess that was the inevitable outcome of a national competition.
    I was watching 10’s less pretentious coverage – for old time’s sake really.

    James Hamilton
    James Hamilton
    2021 years ago

    A quick note on the comments.

    ABC Left Wing bias goes beyond news and current affairs. It pervades almost everything it does on its national broadcasting bands at least. It most definitely pervades the cultural content as well as news and current affairs.

    Does Tim Balir have the tastes of a philistine? Do you Tim? I know I don’t and I think the wankers shovelling their garbage in between the usually good imported shows on ABC TV on Sundays are enough to make anybody a philistine. It is not just the ABC mind you, Australian Arts in general is puke.

    Did you see Feedback (Talkback?) the other night after George’s 6:30 show? The one where the woman gets paid $250000 per year. They interviewed some people at a festival somewhere about ABC’s Sunday arts show. Cracked me up. I think they may just have been a bunch of redneck homophobes taking the piss. I reckon Media Watch should investigate. I sense they were paid actors hamming it up as super-luvvies.

    Which leaves me wondering what came first. Me becoming a philistine or the “Arts” in Australia?

    Dave Ricardo
    Dave Ricardo
    2021 years ago

    “ABC Left Wing bias goes beyond news and current affairs. It pervades almost everything it does on its national broadcasting bands at least. ”

    I agree. Whenever the ABC broadcasts a football march, the commentators always are more excited when the ball goes down the left wing.

    And, just the other day I was watching a nature doco on birds of prey, and I am sure the camera focussed more on a wedge-tail eagle’s left wing than on its right wing.

    Davr Ricardo
    Davr Ricardo
    2021 years ago

    … football match …

    But that reminds me. The broadcast of this year’s Anzac Day march definitely paid more attention to the left side of the march than the right …

    Yobbo
    2021 years ago

    “How come Tim Blair, Professor Imre Bunyip, the IPA and Richard Alston never mention those? That represent 95% of what the ABC does.”

    I’d say it’s probably because, like most Australians, they don’t watch them.

    I watch programs on the ABC approxiamately never. In fact, I watch very little TV at all.

    Bias on Channel 9 doesn’t really annoy me like it does on the ABC. I enjoy “A Current Affair” even less than any show on the ABC. The difference is, If I don’t like it, I can exercise my right as a consumer to switch off.

    I have to fund the ABC no matter how shit it is. And that’s the real argument here.

    Dave Ricardo
    Dave Ricardo
    2021 years ago

    Yobbo,

    that is a shithouse argument. We all pay taxes for all sorts of things we don’t use or don’t like.

    People who don’t have kids pay for schools. People who don’t use public transport pay for it. People who don’t get sick pay for hospitals. If you’re a pacifist, tough luck , you still pay for the army.

    What makes paying for the ABC so special?

    mark
    2021 years ago

    Bargarz: yup, you’re right (I assume ;-)). (I guess this means SBS shits all over Nein, too, eh?)

    Dave: Good call on the left wings. As for your reply to Yobbo, I guess the problem isn’t that ABC’s news is biased, so much as that it’s biased away from *them*. Would they complain if ’twere right-wing? But I don’t think making a comparison with public schools and universities (and libraries!) would help; they’re all places of intellectual growth, a topic which is of course hideously infested with lefties…

    Jason: Yeah, like JJJ or ABC Sports (wait… sports is AM… I like your qualifier, meaningless though it is).

    cs
    cs
    2021 years ago

    This so-called left-wing bias is a very arbitrary standard in my view. If there was a mogul on the left who set up a new network that was the equivalent but opposite of, say, Fox News, then from this perspective the ABC would automatically be pervaded by right-wing bias.

    Yobbo
    2021 years ago

    It’s only shithouse in your view, Dave. Unlike the ABC, shools, hospitals, public transport and the army are services that we would need, regardless of how they were funded. There are decent arguments for privatisation of those too, but it’s beside the point.

    The ABC is not a necessity. There are 3 free-to-air commercial stations, and pay TV as well. If it disappeared completely, its market share would be quickly cannibalised by the remaining TV media, and nobody would be any worse off.

    We don’t need a government-funded TV broadcaster any more than we need a government-funded Newspaper. Why we still have one is a mystery to me.

    Niall
    Niall
    2021 years ago

    Bargarz is right. SBS outranks the ABC in 9 out of 10 occasions. Having said that, I’d take the ABC over the commercial crap any day

    bailz
    bailz
    2021 years ago

    As shocking as this may sound to some, I have about (OK, exactly if you don’t count the hand-held one that I take to the cricket) 6 televisions in my house, and only 3 are tuned to receive ABC (although 1 picks up ABC digital, which is actually pretty good): those that my parents watch. I couldn’t give a shit what’s on the abc (not when you can download Nigella’s episodes …)

    And Ken, I like you, but dude, don’t knock The Block. Not only is it quite possibly the greatest television show ever invented, it’s entertaining as well. Please, you can’t tell me that you’re not slightly interested to see what they do to their pads, considering your apparent enjoyment from renovation.

    The drama! The renovations!! The squabbles!! GOLD!!

    Ken Parish
    Ken Parish
    2021 years ago

    Bailz,

    I have actually watched the occasional renovation/backyard blitz-type program. What pisses me off, though, is their proliferation. Is there really a demand for so many of these shows? They’re crowding out other more diverse programming, which would no doubt be equally crappy given that they’re commercial stations, but at least it would be a different sort of crap.

    I think home renovation is a bit like sex in one respect: both are participant rather than spectator sports. You might get the occasional decorating idea or handyman hint from warching one of these shows, but you’d do much better to buy a job lot of old House and Garden magazines at a second hand store or lawn sale.

    On Yobbo’s neo-liberal “abolish the ABC” rant, this is one of many areas where the market forces mantra is just plain silly. Much of the prgramming on ABC and SBS wouldn’t get a run on commercial free to air TV, because it doesn’t command a large enough audience to make it profitable. Does that make it “elitist” for government to fund such programming? Not unless you think only those who can afford cable TV should have the privilege of a wide cultural range of programming. Should pensioners, the unemployed and other low-income groups be sentenced to watch only commercial TV lowest common denominator crap?

    As with education, I think equality of opportunity principles dictate broad community access to a wide range of programming. As Dave Ricardo said, there are lots of services provided by government that not everyone uses. Mindlessly applying the “user pays” market forces mantra to all such situations is just plain stupid. It exemplifies an “I’m alright jack, bugger you” complacent attitude that I find outright repugnant, because it entrenches unmerited inequality. This isn’t real liberalism, it’s greedy bastard nonsense.

    Tysen
    Tysen
    2021 years ago

    I enjoy watching documentaries on ABC and sometimes, if the remote control is too far away, I might watch one of their news programs. But is this the best way of spending the public’s money? There is no doubt that a well defended population, with broad access to education and health services, is something that we should aim for. But I can’t see how anyone can say that the ABC is so essential to our society that it should be treated in the same regard as health, education and defence, and therefore funded by the public.

    Of course, the ABC does provides many benefits. My parents love watching it, and I watch a few documentaries that simply wouldn’t air on commercial TV. But the issue is whether the benefit the ABC provides is greater than that which 5-600 million dollars worth of research grants, industry incentives or health/education spending would allow.

    In my opinion, as an unemployed honours science/law graduate who knows of at least one PhD in organic chemistry that works as a cleaner, we could better spend the money on other areas. Of course, cutting ABC’s budget isn’t going to help that, but somewhere along the line someone has to ask whether it is in our best interests to continue fund a television and radio network when there could be better ways to spend the money.

    Perhaps it would be cheaper to provide documentaries free to video stores and just combine the news divisions of SBS and ABC onto a single channel.

    Tys
    Tys
    2021 years ago

    Damn spell checker!

    mark
    2021 years ago

    What about public libraries, Yobs?

    Gianna
    2021 years ago

    SBS has some of the best journalists around. Did anyone watch Insight last night? Jenny Brockie with Tom Schieffer…great interview.

    Boynton – no dramas. I mean, no worries (there’ll always be dramas)! And I’m only stirring about the gender aspect anyway. I just don’t take reality TV as being a serious threat to civilisation in the way, for instance, Salman Rushdie once argued. Just because the show dwells on the sometimes boring minutae of reality, doesn’t mean we should assume it is trivial. Zen and the art of navelgazing…

    mark
    2021 years ago

    I had high hopes for “reality” TV programmes like Big Brother and popstars. Maybe if ’twere exposed to the public just how shallow and, well, *bloody idiotic* the cult of celebrtiy is (where you can stick someone on TV for a few nights, have people watch them scratch their arse, and create a celebrity), then they’d start to question it a little.

    Well, that’s what I’d hoped. Turns out that a shitload of people just fell for it (oooh! Oooh! Mr X from Big Brother is going to be at Belconnen Mall today only! Come on, we’d better go see!)

    bailz
    bailz
    2021 years ago

    If Mr. X turned up at my local mall, they’d be 4 or so drunk blokes in the crowd screaming some very naughty things at him…

    mark
    2021 years ago

    *encouraged*

    Yobbo
    2021 years ago

    “Should pensioners, the unemployed and other low-income groups be sentenced to watch only commercial TV lowest common denominator crap?”

    Crap is in the eye of the beholder, Ken.

    You may not think “Foreign Correspondent” is crap, but Australian citizens, by and large, don’t watch it. Rove live is it’s direct competitor and won the gold logie this year.

    So I find arguments such as “The ABC is the only station to produce non-crap programs” elitist. The only shows I watch with any regularity are “Buffy” and “Star Trek: Enterprise”. I don’t think they are crap, but you probably do. It’s subjective.

    If we didn’t have to publically fund the ABC, people would have more money to throw around on things like Pay TV. Also, if the market wasn’t so heavily regulated, it would be more affordable to most people. I have Foxtel, and I can tell you that the quality of documentaries on The History Channel, Discovery Channel and the like are far superior to most anything you’d see on the ABC.

    So, no. It’s not a case of “fuck the poor”. It’s a case of “let the poor decide what services they pay for.” While a lot of pensioners may watch the ABC, I think you’ll find most unemployed people don’t. They’d rather have an extra $1 a week in their dole cheque.

    It is still possible to subsidise Australian documentary or drama without the unnecessary expense of running an entire TV station to do it.

    Anthony Jukes
    Anthony Jukes
    2021 years ago

    “While a lot of pensioners may watch the ABC, I think you’ll find most unemployed people don’t. They’d rather have an extra $1 a week in their dole cheque.”

    Call me a cynic, but for some reason, I don’t see the government axing the ABC in order to raise unemployment benefits.

    trackback
    2021 years ago

    A Blog Conversation

    Lots of ABC lovers over at Troppo Armadillo.