Is The Public Interest Served By Public Broadcasting?

February 7, 2014

By MARCUS BREEN, Professor of Communication and Media, editor of the International Journal of Technology Knowledge and Society, and member of the Institute for Law, Government and Policy.

In the past couple of  months several news articles and print media discussion pieces have assessed moves against the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) the national public broadcaster. Late in January, the ABC’s journalism was called into question by the Prime Minister Tony Abbott, for its coverage of refugees seeking to escape into Australian territorial waters from Indonesia. Abbott statementsIt was a nationalist-centric set of comments that is notable for the way it coinstructs the ABC role as one that offers preferential reportage of Australian interests:”Prime Minister Tony Abbott has berated ABC News, arguing that it is taking ”everyone’s side but Australia’s” and that journalists should give the navy the ”benefit of the doubt” when it comes to claims of wrongdoing.”

Following this outburst, and a somewhat less subtle one last year from Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who asked if teh ABC was promoting the national interest. Bishop the role of public broadcasters has become a hot target for conservatives. The ideals of a public broadcaster like the ABC are independence and criticism, hallmarks of the modernist model of society.
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