Media Watch host calls for the ABC to burst out of its bubble to ensure its survival

The ABC’s future is dependent upon breaking out of its inner-city bubble and getting out into the suburbs, Media Watch host Paul Barry said last night.

“We represent what we regard as common sense well-educated objective point of view and you know what? Maybe it’s not. Maybe you’ll agree with me but there’ll be a whole lot of people out there who will say ‘That guy is fucking nuts’,” Barry told a book launch in Sydney.

Barry made the comments on Wednesday night in the inner-Sydney suburb of Glebe while interviewing his Media Watch predecessor Jonathon Holmes about Holmes’ book on the future of the ABC, About Aunty.

During the interview, Holmes warned Nine’s acquisition of Fairfax may result in further pressure on the ABC from News Corp and its conservative commentators.

“One of the scariest realities of Australian media right now is this – there were three gorillas – News, Fairfax and the ABC. We don’t really know what the consequence of nine taking over Fairfax will be down the track but if a consequence is that the major newspapers – The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review are even further defunded than they are now.

“You will effectively be left with with two gorillas – a right-wing News Corporation and left-wing ABC. That is extremely dangerous for Australia and extremely dangerous to the ABC. It’s desperately important that we’re not left… News Corp is always going to portray the ABC as being left and of course [this] will be true in comparison with News whatever you do.

“I don’t know what the answer to that is but it worries the heck out of me.”

Holmes repeated the long-asked question of where the ABC can find a “right-wing Philip Adams” to counter what many critics of the national broadcaster see as its ‘left-wing’ bias, something he partly put down to the demographics of the organisation’s staff.

“I think the sort of person that most ABC people think about when they make their programs are the sort of people [who] think roughly the same as they do and I think they think that’s somebody a little bit left of centre.

“They are talking to people like me and they are not talking to people who think differently to me.”

Faced with murmurs of dissent from the audience, many of whom were Friends of the ABC, Barry came to Holmes’ defence, saying: “The ABC is predominantly staffed with people like us, some younger than me and him, luckily.

“People who are generally urban, inner-city, well-educated and we have a take on life and our take on life differs from 20% of the population of 30 or 40 or 50% of the population, whatever it is.

“Those people are not generally well represented. We don’t go when we do Q&A, we don’t go to Bankstown often to bring in the Lebanese audience or all of the working-class audience.

“When when we do most of these programs we don’t have working-class commentators, we don’t have many Muslim commentators, we don’t have many right-wing nutty Catholic commentators. There’s a whole bunch of people whose voices are not represented.”

Holmes also described the corrosive effect of the ABC on the campaign of complaints from the government over 2018, putting it down to the Liberal Party’s animosity towards political editor Andrew Probyn.

The future for the ABC remains uncertain, Holmes told the audience, suggesting there may not be a need for a national broadcaster in an age of streaming media:

“Maybe the answer is eventually there isn’t going to be a place for public funding broadcasting, when there isn’t any broadcasting anymore and when the proliferation of media outlets is so great that this was something born at time of media scarcity and we don’t need it now.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.