Tuesday, May 18, 2004

ABC bias and the GenX prolegentsia

I have no idea how David Marr can term looking for bias within the ABC the tassie [sic] tiger of broadcasting.

Here, I don’t mean at all to give a free kick to Richard Alston, Andrew Bolt, or any of the other nutbars for whom tracking ABC bias is indeed a quixotic, if not obsessive quest. Rather, the simple fact is that the ABC’s bias sticks out like dogs balls, and I don’t see how anyone could NOT see this.

All media outlets have some kind of over-arching contextual ethos, or “bias”, if you prefer. This can change gradually over time – witness the Age’s transition from being a Left-leaning newspaper in the 1970s and 80s to today’s vacuous lifestyle rag; apolitical, but still, of course, “biased”.

For its part, the ABC’s bias is probably as plain-vanilla as you could expect, in 2004, of a large media organisation, charged with being scrupulously neutral. Like just about every sector of industry today, the ABC’s ranks are comparatively boomer-heavy and GenX-light. With boomers’ numerical dominance, it is hardly surprising that soixante-huitard hegemonic values – anything-goes materialism, but with a compulsory touch of the alternative/Left thrown in – predominate at the ABC.

If anyone is entitle to complain of “bias” at the ABC then, it is the under-40s – ONLY. Boomers who cry “bias” might as well be haranguing a male dog for having balls.

I bring up the generational angle not because I particularly care – as I’ve previously written, I don’t. The fact that ABC is (mostly) just another boomer plaything does not have nearly the degree of impact on me that, say unemployment and the house-price bubble do.

Rather, the generational angle is mainly notable for its inbuilt irony – the very generation that has been locked-out of well-paying (by GenX standards, if not by boomer ones) jobs at the ABC is now expected to have its best and brightest unpick ABC broadcast content for signs of bias – all while being paid quite possibly less that the wages of a 15 y.o. fast-food worker. I say “best and brightest” because, having worked for a media monitoring firm, the skill level required of the monitor is at least on par with that of a competent journo, and possibly a bit higher.

The way the bias-monitoring tender was set up indeed smacks of masterplanned ultimate payment by piecework. While as successful tenderer, Rehame will not be requiring of its GenX sub-contractors the dizzyingly detailed qualitative analysis that rivals company Media Monitors originally proposed (measure . . . the balance in volume and prominence of all items, as well as identify the key issues and examine their tone and language . . . [including] whether the material presented by ABC reporters and anchors selects or omits pertinent facts . . . [with a particular emphasis on checking] choice of words, especially weighted “descriptors"), the tender envisions enough qualitative analysis to ensure that this one will be going through to the $7 an hour uni-educated monkeys of Glebe and Fitzroy, not of Bangalore.

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