Tom Jacobs

The ABC of semantics…


Tom Jacobs feels an ABC allied to the artistic, scientific and intellectual community is understandable when there’s a fat kid on the other end of the media see-saw using his wallet for extra weight.


The first gig I was hired for as a comedy writer was on a show for the ABC. I was 24 years old, and although the show didn’t get past the early table meetings due to production reasons, the fact remains that someone with limited experience like myself was actually given the opportunity at the ABC.

It was a home for aspiring creative people.

The ABC doesn’t produce populist “reality” wank like Big Brother or those talent shows/cooking programmes that make up a huge chunk of scheduling. Watch A Current Affair and you’ll get half an hour of  shifty plumbers, shady carpenters and dodgy electricians, and a whole lot of heated confrontations in supermarket car parks. There’s more cultural appeal in Peppa Pig than there is on Today Tonight. The wavy oscilloscope logo has been like a quality seal of approval for most, but to others its news and journalism has often become the source of conservative ire.

It’s very tricky writing about bias. You can hardly divorce yourself from bias or subjectivity on a conscious or subconscious level. Journalists can try to be faithful to objectivity, however, this is usually compromised by the reporter’s understanding of the world and editorial input.

I’ve seen the arguments from those who support the budget cuts to the ABC. They are unhappy with their taxes going towards an institution they deem biased and would prefer to get their news from one of the mainstream papers or news sources…and therein lies their contradiction. It appears that people wish to be preached to as the converted because that’s their comfort zone. They don’t want to be challenged and need strength in maintaining their views.

So, the ABC has come to be regarded as an enemy of conservative thought due to its alternative view and editorially-independent journalism, plus its alliance with the artistic, scientific and intellectual community. However, it’s a much-needed balance when there’s a fat kid on the other end of the media see-saw using his wallet for extra weight. The ABC’s critical examinations have usually been fairly evenly distributed on the political spectrum as they criticise where criticism is demanded. If one party is under the critical magnifying glass more than the other then it should say more about the political party in question. It’s like trying to blame a journalist for Watergate while calling Nixon the victim. Or does it say more about the journalist if he/she was already anti-Nixon? There’s no semantic decoding magnifying glass big enough to answer the question without setting the newspaper on fire or committing ant-colony genocide.

Semantics is the politicians’ best friend and worst enemy.

“There will be no cuts to the ABC or SBS” is what he said, but what Tony actually meant was, “there will be cuts to the ABC and SBS”.

It must be difficult for Malcolm Turnbull, the most ideologically ambidextrous-winged member of the Liberal party, as he has to go on the road and defend the broken promise saying, “the ABC and SBS couldn’t be exempt and that we would be seeking to address waste and inefficiencies”.

This “waste”, according to Bill Shorten, is also 400 people who will be made redundant.

But strangely, Chris Pyne has started a petition to save an ABC studio in Adelaide, as it would be a sensitive issue for his electorate.

I can only imagine what political move the ABC board might make by curtailing services to conservative electorates.

One can realise that bias is a double edged sword and it’s not as easy as AB…

Tom Jacobs

Tom is a writer and budding comedian who, when not writing and 'comedying', enjoys collecting old blues records and doing terrible things to his cat with a fork.

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One Comment;

  1. James said:

    Very thoughtful piece. I would add that the ABC reaches viewers that the commercial channels do not cater for.

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