The ABC was established in 1932, following in the footsteps of the BBC. In its early years it was a shining example of a revered public broadcaster.
The key to its early success was having two strong minded, long serving General Managers who ensured that the place was well run, with everyone knowing their place.
But as the years went by senior management progressively outsourced responsibility to producers and celebrity presenters and the organisation lost its way, so that now it is little more than a mouthpiece for “progressive” outpourings.
It still remains an important national institution, especially in regional Australia, but its political obsessions, catering almost exclusively for inner suburban elites, render it in dire need of reform.
As Alston argues, the fundamental problem is that the ABC is a protected entity, with a guaranteed income in excess of a billion dollars, while commercial media outlets struggle to stay alive.
With no competitors it doesn’t have to earn a living and has no incentive to perform or innovate, let alone live within its means. Instead of catering for its audience it prefers to lecture to them.
Effectively accountable to no one, it feels free to ignore its charter obligations, or the interests of its audience, ignoring valid criticism or contemptuously dismissing it.
Despite being founded in the depths of the Depression it has long since lost interest in the joys and struggles of the middle class.
Instead of relating to basic issues such as jobs, families and incomes it prefers to pander to the elite, inner urban instincts of people like themselves.
Alston concludes with a practical reform agenda for adoption by government, but no doubt it will be strenuously contested by the organisation.
Richard Alston AO has been a barrister, a senior Cabinet Minister, Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Federal President of the Liberal Party. He is currently a businessman and company director.