I often listen to Conversations with Richard Fidler in which Richard Fidler is the interviewer. He has a knack for letting people talk or persuading them to move on. He is pretty empathetic and I haven’t figured out how you plan an interview that will last for an hour. How many times is he taken by surprise and the interview goes off in a different direction to what he expected?
Anyway, today, by chance, I found a little snippet in which he is interviewed by Linda Mottram on PM. It is from September 2018 – so quite old – and Richard Fidler is being interviewed about the role of the ABC and the role of the government as the ABC’s funding source. Fidler comments that a lot of the commercial stations look for excitement and division and “send people running to their tribe”. I loved that phrase. We all seek our tribe when controversy hits and social media (and commerical media) loves controversy and loves to emphasize our tribal instincts.
But Fidler points out that a public broadcaster has a unique role in all that – that the ABC seeks to share stories from all different parts of society without judgement or controversy – just for the sake of sharing. That is what Conversations is all about. As I potter about the house making beds, hanging out washing, consoling the cat, I listen to all his interviews and I’m never sure what I’m going to get. One day it’s a seaweed scientist, one day it’s the daughter of an Aboriginal woman who died in custody, one day it’s a man who found his birth Mum when he was 41, one day it’s a woman who wrote a book about Gypsies – it’s very diverse and very lyrical. Most importantly, it simply IS. It doesn’t try to persuade or excite or enrage.
As Richard spoke, I felt the truth of his words. My parents listened to the radio a lot (we didn’t have television) and they always listened to the ABC. As a young adult in Melbourne, I fell in love with Triple J. Triple J made me proud of being Australian. I liked how they supported Australian music, I liked how they encouraged young people to vote, I liked the comedians they supported, I liked that their DJs were young, and Triple J is where I first got interested in the political environment I live in.
Fidler also points out that countries where public broadcasters become state broadcasters lose that impartiality. Poland and Russia’s state broadcasters are loudspeakers to promote the government’s work. Fidler does not suggest that Australia is at that point but he strongly advocates for continued independence of the ABC.
Independence is what I value. So much news is owned by an opinion and will always promote that opinion. I trust the ABC because it is funded by tax payers and therefore it naturally encompasses all opinions. Of course opinions are expressed on the ABC. And lately I find the concept of “balance” to be bizarrely skewed where you get fact on one side and unsupported opinion on the other. But the ABC tries hard to represent a wide range of listeners and to be as impartial as possible.
Australia has done a lot lately that I am NOT proud of. But the ABC is one institution which I think unites and supports Australia’s people and if we ever lose that, I think there’s a danger we might lose our identity as a nation all together. The ABC is a rock in this crazy polarized world.
I recognise tha