Matt Canavan and the ‘bad show’: ABC defends Q+A panellist pick | Weekly Beast

Former ABC news director among those questioning choice of senator who called Covid lockdowns harmful. Plus: Alan Jones conspicuous by his absence

Former ABC news director Max Uechtritz was just one of the big names to slam the public broadcaster for inviting Nationals senator Matt Canavan on Q+A and giving him a platform to say the report from the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) is “fear porn” and Covid lockdowns are harmful.

.@David_Speers and @ErinVincent1, you’re discussing the most important climate science update in almost a decade on #QandA tonight… but where is the climate scientist? @ABCTV @QandA #Auspol #IPCC #WhereIsTheClimateScientist

— Climate Council (@climatecouncil) August 12, 2021

While Canavan said he agreed with the overall findings of the report, he took aim at one of the report’s authors for comments that he said were “more like spin than science”.

“You saw the spin over the past week as they drip-fed the fear porn about this, rather than just release the science,” Canavan said to Q+A fill-in host David Speers.

Prof Peter Doherty and climate scientists including Prof Nerilie Abram questioned the choice, as did commentators John Birmingham, Jane Caro and former Q+A star guest, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

I'm not the only former Director of ABC News and Current Affairs who thinks this was a serious error by #qanda.

With the public desperate for rational, credible debate/info the program should not pander to fringe lunacy.Any counterpose excuse doesn't pass intellectual muster

— Max Uechtritz (@plesbilongmi) August 12, 2021

But the ABC stood behind its choice. “The Australian electorate gives Matt Canavan a platform,” an ABC News spokesperson told Weekly Beast. “He’s a multiple-times duly elected representative of Queensland in the Senate, and the former federal resources minister, and he has a significant voice on policy in this country. Hearing his views and having the opportunity to publicly scrutinise and debate them is the democratic process in action. And that is what Q+A is all about.”

An absolute insult to intelligence - I won't be watching #QandA and I presume many others will feel similarly

— Colette Garnaut (@ColetteGarnaut) August 10, 2021

This is the justification which author Tim Dunlop has previously criticised. He says “the bad show”, as it is sometimes referred to, is “predicated on getting as extreme views as they can on the show rather than informed views and letting people go at it”.

“The [ABC] argument always seems to be the people are elected or they are important in some way to the conversation,” Dunlop said.

Q+A is certainly having a bad year, what with a drop in ratings from a timeslot change and then a host, Hamish Macdonald, who quit halfway through the year after disappearing for weeks. The program’s reputation has taken a battering and may not recover, although the ABC insists it will continue with rotating hosts and be back with a new host next year.

But compared with Four Corners, which is celebrating 60 years with a special program on Monday, Q+A is not feeling the love.

And apparently not one climate scientist could be found to go on the show. So Canavan’s nonsense goes unrebutted by anyone with real expertise in the science - Shameful #qanda

— Malcolm Turnbull 💉💉 (@TurnbullMalcolm) August 12, 2021

Alan Jones goes dark

Is Alan Jones on the nose at Sky News Australia? A little over a year ago the former 2GB shock jock was hired to host his own show on Sky After Dark and marketed as the network’s flagship talent.

But this week, as Sky rolled out its 25th anniversary celebration with full-page ads in the Daily Telegraph, Jones was conspicuous by his absence. He was the only Sky After Dark figure not to be featured.

Alan Jones and Peta Credlin
Alan Jone (pictured with Peta Credlin) was the only Sky After Dark figure not to be featured in the 25th anniversary full-page ads. Photograph: Macquarie Media Promo

Sky’s “There For Every Moment” campaign showcases presenters Andrew Bolt, Peta Credlin and Paul Murray; as well as Sky News presenters Kieran Gilbert, Peter Stefanovic, Andrew Clennell, Laura Jayes and Annelise Neilsen.

So where was Alan Jones? After the Tele dropped Jones’s weekly column last month – apparently because it didn’t “resonate” with readers – there was widespread speculation News Corp was distancing itself from the 80-year-old. Not so, said News: “These decisions should not be confused with the company’s corporate position or, in this case, a signal that News Corp Australia no longer supports Alan.”

We got a similar response from Sky News about why Alan had got the cold shoulder this week. “There are a number of ads as part of this campaign which will feature a variety of journalists and anchors including Alan Jones,” a Sky spokesperson told Weekly Beast. “Sky News promotional and marketing activity rotates across our hosts and programs throughout the year.”

With several of Jones’s videos cited as part of the YouTube ban for violating its medical misinformation policies, perhaps Sky needed him to lie low.

Sky inquiry on hold

We’ll have to wait at least another week to see Jones, Rita Panahi and Rowan Dean giving evidence at the Senate inquiry into YouTube’s temporary ban on Sky News Australia after the ACT lockdown made the hearing impossible.

Sky’s chief executive, Paul “Boris” Whittaker, will also appear before the media diversity inquiry which is investigating why the broadcaster was suspended from YouTube for seven days and whether the media watchdog should have taken any action against the alleged Covid misinformation on subscription or free-to-air television.

One question Whittaker will have to answer is why Sky News suddenly deleted at least 31 videos questioning the public health response to Covid-19 after the YouTube ban was lifted.

The vice-president of government affairs and public policy for YouTube, Leslie Miller, and the director of public policy for Google Australia and NZ, Lucinda Longcroft, will give evidence for the digital platforms.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd, the department of communications and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (Acma) will also appear next week at a rescheduled hearing.

Leunig’s lore

The Age editor, Gay Alcorn, has defended the Leunig cartoon the paper published on Monday, which was roundly criticised as a dangerous anti-vaccination message when it appeared in Nine’s Melbourne paper and the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Very cool that the Age just lets Leunig publish his anti vax trash during a pandemic,” said one critic. “Very very cool and responsible.”

In 2015 Leunig famously compared the Victorian government’s No Jab, No Play policy to fascism, and to be fair he doesn’t go that far in his latest.

Leunig goes there (again) on vaccination. @theage

— Michael Rowland (@mjrowland68) August 18, 2015

“It is not an anti-vaccination cartoon, which the Age would not run in the middle of a pandemic as it would risk undermining crucial public health messages,” Alcorn told Weekly Beast. “People may or may not like the cartoon, but it does not discourage vaccination or spread misinformation about vaccination.

I had to do a cartoon about a Leunig cartoon today, that’s a first!

— john shakespeare (@johnshakespeare) August 9, 2021

“It is a very pointed cartoon mocking what Leunig sees as the entitlement of Australian passport holders – from over-drinking to watching footballers get concussed to taking selfies at art galleries. The last item refers to looking down on the unvaccinated as nut jobs, etc – agree with it or not, there has been this tendency among some Australians and Leunig is commenting on that. The idea that cartoonists can express just one acceptable idea would be dull indeed.”

One reader wrote: “Could Clive Palmer’s ads and Michael Leunig’s cartoons please be placed together? That way I can avoid both at the same time.”

“Methinks Michael Leunig needs a healthy, countervailing dose of Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” wrote another.

News Corp cuts

Days after the global company reported record profits, News Corp Australia has made another round of deep cuts to journalism across its newspaper empire.

News Corp declared a profit of US$330m (A$445m) for the year to the end of June, compared with a loss of US$1.26bn last year.

Last week chief executive Robert Thomson said content deals struck with Google and Facebook would significantly boost the company’s revenue.

“These deals, which are confidential, will add revenue annually into nine figures and are a profoundly positive sign of the ongoing transformation of the news landscape,” he said.

But Australian staff are not seeing the largesse from the profits. Weekly Beast understands there were half a dozen voluntary redundancies handed out before the axe fell on another 25 positions across the newspapers, from arts reporting roles to photographers and feature writers.

Some of those who chose to take redundancy were happy to post farewell messages on social media.

In other news to my 176 followers 😂, I’ll be finishing up with The Australian in a couple of weeks as the last of the staff photographers. I’ll still be taking pictures, I just get to be my own boss now. Also I can finally talk shit on Twitter without getting in trouble from HR.

— Aaron Francis (@aperture81) August 12, 2021

The national broadsheet was hit hard. There were 10 positions made redundant at the Australian in Sydney and another four in Melbourne. With journalists working from home it was a secretive process as people were tapped one by one and told their job had disappeared. By the end of the week, names of the staff walking were emerging. The departure of Aaron Francis marks the end of the staff photographers at the Australian.

— cameron adams (@cameron_adams) August 12, 2021

Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance media director Adam Portelli said it was particularly galling considering the company’s recent profit announcement.

“Last week, News Corporation boasted of ‘the most profitable year since we created the new News Corp in 2013’ and an increase in Australian newspaper subscriptions of 25%,” Portelli told Weekly Beast.

“News is set to reap millions of dollars from deals with Facebook and Google under the News Media Bargaining Code which must be invested into journalism.

“For News Corp to be considering more cuts now shows a disregard for both the staff affected and the communities they serve. News must reconsider any proposed cuts.”

The cuts came several months after Murdoch’s regional newspapers – including the 160-year-old Northern Star in Lismore – were merged with News Corp Australia’s city mastheads.


Amanda Meade

The GuardianTramp

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