OPINION: ABC Radio’s The Media Report is dead. Good.

abc-logo2While it may be bad karma to speak ill of the dead, I’m going to risk it.

This weekend, ABC National finally put The Media Report out of its misery (not that you’d know it by looking at its web site).

It went out in much the same way it’s been meandering on for the last few years – with something dreary, lacking in topicality and repetitive. On this occasion it was a programme on media chefs that could have been broadcast at any time in the last couple of years (apart from a bit of a voiceover, most of it was actually a repeat from last year).

There was some fuss when ABC National took the axe to its specialty lineup. But The Media Report did not deserve to be saved. And like many of those shows, it had a small audience.

Each week I’d dutiful listen to the show, and each week, I’d wonder why I bothered.

Despite covering one  of the most fascinating industries, at one of the most crucial times in its development and having some of the most controversial and colourful characters in the country open to it, the program was almost always soporific.

There’s a moment in the film Good Morning Vietnam when the DJ played by Robin Williams is despairing at the station’s music policy. He remarks: “That’s what they play to insomniacs who don’t respond to strong medication.” That’s how I felt about The Media Report.

A typical show might spend 20 minutes dissecting the challenges of journalism in Papua New Guinea, followed by an earnest discussion about why an ABC reporter on an obscure local station had once worked in the commercial sector and failed to declare it on air.

I’m sure the show’s defendants would say some of the problem was a lack of resource, which I’m sure was a problem. But it felt like more of the issue was we were listening to the somewhat rarefied interests of the presenter, Anthony Funnell. His bio suggests that he’s been a virtual ABC lifer, apart from a stint in the charitable sector. It all made for desperately dull-but-worthy radio. And never once, did I hear any passion injected into the show.

The sad thing of course, is that there is a place for topical and interesting discussions of the media world (which would, by the way, also demand a view point that doesn;t start with the assumption that commercially-funded media inherently evil).

The ABC has already proved that it can do this sort of thing well with The Gruen Transfer’s take on the advertising landscape. And Media Watch on ABC1, which last year gained a new presenter and new production team came back to life somewhat. (It returns on February 9.)

But the powers that be at ABC National need to realise – it wasn’t that there was no demand for a show like The Media Report; it just wasn’t good enough.


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