It was a sullen faced Sonya Kruger who told Channel 7 viewers last week that the Big Brother house had been placed in a COVID-19 lockdown, with all activities suspended. A member of the production crew had apparently tested positive and the plug had been temporarily pulled on one of the network’s top rating show pieces. It was no doubt devastating news for the program’s many viewers, a bit like being told all the bachelors on Paradise Island had returned a positive test for gonorrhea or that one of the Alaskan bush people had been savaged by a moose. Shell shocked Kruger looked like she had just been told a flotilla of Muslim refugees was heading towards Australia.
All this happened in a week when the ABC was forced to cut over 200 staff members following a $84 million budget cut. This of course sent the pack of well known ABC haters into a jubilant exhortation of joy and smug satisfaction – a validation of their never ending campaign against the national broadcaster. The usual suspects like the crew from Sky News and the various Murdoch parrots were again at the forefront, bashing Aunty for its supposed ‘activism’ and left leaning bias.
Clearly they would love to see the ABC and SBS further emasculated, either greatly reduced in size, privatised or as some of them have suggested, abolished altogether. Their attacks almost invariably centre on the broadcaster’s editorial bias, be it their discussion of global warming, refugees or many other contentious issues. Their critique never extends to the vast bulk of the ABC’s programming, whether it’s the regional radio network, the comprehensive news services or the excellent output of television documentaries, drama and light entertainment.
For many years in media terms, it’s been the ABC that has defined Australia and public support, be it in Melbourne or Mooloolaba, clearly indicates this. Recent surveys show that that the ABC is by far the most trusted news source by Australians at large. Programs such as Four Corner’s, Q&A, Australian Story, Insiders, Landline, and The 7.30 Report tell you more about this country that the entire commercial networks put together.
Whilst networks 7, 9 and 10 often push their own brand of Aussie jingoism, they source much of their content from the US or from globally franchised shows such as The Voice, Big Brother, and Australia’s Got Talent. From the early days of Australian television their reverence has always been for the American model with shows like Disneyland, The Mickey Mouse Club and endless sitcoms preferred over genuine Australian content. We were the cultural lap dogs of US TV and even when we presented a home grown ‘tonight’ style program, it was a yank like Don Lane that we imported as the host.
Has anything changed since TVs were first switched on in Australia, way back in 1956? We now have numerous channels with the introduction of digital auxiliaries such as 7Mate and Nine Rush. There is definitely more content across all the networks but much of it is American trash – endless reality and home renovation shows, often repeated up to three times a week. This is the TV equivalent of fast food and it’s almost as if these programs only exist for the networks to punctuate with what often seems an excessive number of commercials.
You might find quality documentaries and drama on Netflix and other streaming services but seldom on commercial free to air TV where dating, renovation, cooking and xenophobic border control shows set the standard for a monotonous, brain numbing mediocrity. It’s no secret that networks like 7 and 10 are doing it tough financially but rather than raise their program standards to attract more viewers, they now pitch to the lowest common denominator.
Yes folks, it’s a downright culture war between the forces of trash and those of treasure. The ABC is undeniably the gem in the mix with an independent and vibrant public broadcaster never more important in this country than right now. Time to send the Aunty bashers packing and vote with your remote!