As has been the case on many other days, I was alarmed yesterday to hear that the Federal Government had entered into a deal with One Nation. The deal involved the latter supporting the government's media reform bill in exchange for the former changing the charter of the ABC, among other things.
Why One Nation's push against the ABC is wrong
Fortunately, it looks like this deal will not proceed. Other crossbenchers in the Senate, whose support is required for the bill to pass, declined to support the deal with One Nation, and vote against both the media bill and the proposed changes to the ABC charter.
Read more from DJC: Political integrity? Pffft, you've got to be joking!
One of the changes to the ABC charter requested by One Nation involved requiring the ABC to present a ‘balanced’ account in news reporting. This got me to be thinking about whether the ABC, or any media/journalist, had a responsibility to provide a ‘balanced’ account of the news.
My strong belief is that no media has a responsibility to present a balanced view.
News reports should never be balanced, they should be factual. It is the business of the news to present the facts. And the facts are, by definition, neither balanced or unbalanced.
The current ABC charter requires that news reports be accurate. This I most certainly support, given that it focuses on presenting the facts.
There have been some high-profile and celebrated cases where the ABC has presented news that is neither accurate or factual - and this is highly lamentable. Every effort needs to be made to ensure that each item of news reported by the ABC is true and correct. But there is no reason why coverage should be balanced.
Contrary to the protestations of Trump media advisor Kellyanne Conway, there is no such thing as ‘alternative facts’. Facts are facts. Facts are the truth. Facts are an accurate representation of reality.
Balance only applies when presenting opinion. In my view, opinion should be avoided all together by ABC journalists. The opinions of journalists are no more or less valid than the opinions of anyone else. That is why I never read editorials or opinion pieces. ABC journalists, like all journalists, should keep their opinions to themselves when in the media, and focus on gathering and reporting the facts – accurately.
I am strongly of the view that there are too many opinion pieces in the media today. Too many journalists, especially News Limited Journalists, offer opinion rather than facts. Some actually specialise in offering opinions. For the journalist, it is easier and for the media outlet, it is cheaper
The ABC should leave opinion to Andrew Bolt and the crew at Sky, Miranda Devine and the crew at The Australian, and instead focus on reporting the facts of each and every case. If they report the facts, they need not and should not worry about balance.
I am no fan of One Nation. This is not because I disagree with their views (although I most certainly do), but because they lack the intellectual grunt required to make the distinction between facts and accuracy on the one hand, and opinion and balance on the other.
One Nation is so poorly informed that they still think there is a debate going on about climate change.
Perhaps the issue that One Nation has with the ABC relates to a dislike of the facts reported by the corporation. Further, not liking the facts does not mean they should not be reported, and not agreeing with the facts does not mean that there should be more balance.
If One Nation were to demand that the ABC have in place better procedures to ensure they do report the facts accurately, I would be 100% supportive. I am also 100% supportive of extracting opinion from news reports on the ABC, and every other media outlet.
The primary reason I don’t read The Australian is the amount of opinion pieces masquerading as news. The primary reason I don’t watch Sky is its obsession with opinion masquerading as news.
At least in The Financial Review, which I do read every day, opinion pieces are clearly marked. Opinion should be the business of blogs, like this, or the comments of people interviewing journalists. The news should be about the facts.
The ABC should have the resources to present all the facts accurately, not have their charter ammended to encourage balance.