Life is Good at Their ABC

What can taxpayers expect for the billion dollars a year that underwrites the ABC? Not much over the Christmas season, which begins when shows go on hiatus at some point in November and very often doesn’t end until March, when rested leftists return to preach the goat-cheese gospel

paul barryWhy is Media Watch presenter Paul Barry so sad?  He’s sad because he and his ABC mates get a huge paid break over Christmas — but he’d rather be working, of course. Barry signed off on his November  21 episode, “But for now until next year, we’re sad to say that’s all from us. Goodbye.” 

He didn’t say when next year his show would deign to reappear. Such disclosure might be embarrassing.  On recent years’ precedents, we’re talking February 6.[1]

The obvious way to make Paul Barry and his mates happy again is for the ABC to schedule a couple more Media Watch episodes this month or cut short the January furlough. It wouldn’t cost much since salaries are being paid anyway and facilities are lying around unused.

But the ABC prefers to wave an early bye-bye to most of its ABC current affairs gurus and their milling teams of helpers. It then fills the vacated slots with overseas rubbish like the aptly-named UK quiz show Pointless (currently at Series 10, Episode 70. On December 19 Pointless will screen twice – both times as repeats).

ABC people should be doubly happy to forego some of their excessive Christmas break because they’ve just negotiated that wonderful new enterprise agreement. It includes a one-off $500 payment[2] in addition to three annual 2% pay rises (the first back-paid to July 1), seven days paid “domestic violence leave” and an increase in maternity and spousal leave.[3]

There are plenty of other ABC perks too, like 15.4% employer-paid super  or well over 20% for those on the old super scheme.  The norm in the private sector is the obligatory 9.5%. The ABC also has a flexible salary-packaging arrangements   “allowing you to effectively salary sacrifice to suit your individual financial requirements. Options available include superannuation, cars, childcare and laptops.” As with all the public service, ABC enterprise bargains have lots of minor perks too, though even the ABC has nothing to equal the “DECA Day” leave provision at the Defence Department, “to enable an employee to be absent for a non-specified reason”.

A little ABC perk I did notice in the current EBA is that you can get a $20 tax-free meal allowanceafter working eight hours (on 6am or 11am starts. I suspect that 2.01 and 7.01 pm are popular knock-off times at Ultimo and Southbank). In ABC parlance, disappearing for a sixth of a year is called “taking a break”. It used to be self-described as “taking a well-earned break” but this phrase, abbreviated to WEB, attracted undue satire.

On the same November 21 evening, Q&A’s Tony Jones signed off, “Now, this is the final Q&A of 2016.”[4] And on  the website, he says, “Thank you for watching Q&A. We will return in February 2017 and hope you will also come back to ask the questions and join the conversation…” When in February, exactly, Tony? On last year’s precedent, QandA might reappear as early as February 6, but who knows?.

I can’t pretend to be an admirer of Q&A but it’s odd that Jones hasn’t told his fans why he’s deserting them for so long. After all, he’s not underpaid. When ABC stars’ salaries were accidentally leaked by an ABC staffer in 2012, Tony Jones topped the list on $355,789. Guessing that he’s improved his pay by 3% a year, that would put his current taxpayer-funded paypacket at a $412,456.[5]

Jones is also billed as co-host of Lateline. His last appearance there was November 23,  interviewing King Abdullah of Jordan. His contribution to Lateline since November 23 consists of his mugshot at the top of the Lateline web page.

Some ABC TV programs disappear but their presenter soldiers on in a different role. An example is Geraldine Doogue’s Compass. It began its Christmas break on November 6, with Doogue signing off, “Well, I hope you enjoyed that program, and especially so, because it’s the last program for the year. Have a wonderful holiday season when you get to it and we look forward to offering you a brand-new season of Compass in 2017. But goodbye for now.”

She doesn’t tell us when Compass will resume, and its historical track record is erratic, to put it mildly. In 2015, she finished on November 29 and Compass belatedly returned on February 28, 2016. But actually, that program and the next on March 6 were about Pope Francis, syndicated from overseas and already more than a year old. (Compass’s motto could well echo Nellie Melba’s – “Sing ‘em muck; it’s all they can understand”). Doogue herself didn’t run  an interview program  until March 13, 2016.

However, Doogue has her substantial slot on ABC Radio with Saturday Extra at 7.30am. She kept that going through November and also last weekend. I don’t know if it’s on again next Saturday (10/12/16).

It’s not her “breaks” I’m cranky about but how she’s turned Compass into yet another ABC loudspeaker for Leftist elitism and moral superiority. She called her September 4 Compass program, “The Moral Compass – Capitalism Under Pressure”. The website summary opens with  this crushing non-sequitur:

“Are the Brexit vote, the Trump phenomenon and the resurgence of One Nation all signs that democracy and capitalism are under pressure and failing to deliver? If so, what can we do to build a fairer more equitable system?”  

She quizzed her panel,

“Tonight, are our democratic values falling short of our current needs? And if so, how can we redeem our system? … Now, I’d like to ask you all, is the democracy and the capitalism that we have known failing us, really?” (By “we” and “us”, I assume Doogue means “my kind”.)

To paraphrase, she’s saying that if Leftists don’t win a democratic vote, it’s a failure of democracy and democracy should be replaced by a “fairer” political system where only Leftists can win.[6] She hasn’t twigged that the hoi polloi are now  in successful revolt  against her kind.

Doogue also had harsh words to say about the top 1% wealthy Americans, suggesting they should share their money around more.[7] Doogue was on a $182,013 paypacket in 2011-12 (current guestimate, $211,002) and  is well and truly in among Australia’s top 1% wealthiest. If you’d like Doogue to share her money with you, drop her  a line.

Getting back to ABC holidays, I marveled at the final November 20 episode of Foreign Correspondentfor 2016, where “impartial” presenter Emma Alberici ran a mickey-mouse poll proving that Donald Trump was only half as popular as lice, and about as popular as cockroaches and haemorrhoids. Last year Foreign Correspondent closed on December 21 – a good effort – but didn’t resume until March 15 , 2016. Wow, quite a break! The ABC archives page shows that  in 2014, Foreign Correspondentclosed on October 14 and didn’t reappear until April 14, 2015!  The Foreign Correspondent team must have been captured and eventually released by aliens.

Alberici, like Tony Jones, is notionally co-host of Lateline. Since November 20 she’s appeared there three times, on November 28, 29, and 30, interviewing Labor’s Penny Wong and Brendan O’Connor and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Will she appear again in December? Time will tell, as TV journos put it with gravitas.

Four Corners had its final episode on December 2. Unlike the other programs, it has announced it will resume on February 6, 2017.

ABC Insiders with Barry Cassidy finished up on December 4. On last year’s precedent, it will probably return on February 5, 2017.

Science and climate-alarm show Catalyst finished up on November 15. Presenter Dr Graham Phillips, “sad” like Paul Barry, signed off, “Well, that’s the last Catalyst for this year, so from all the Catalyst team, thank you for watching…Thank you for coming with us on this incredible journey”. Well, Catalyst’s climate doom-mongering was certainly incredible.

Phillips might have added that the brutes like Michelle Guthrie running the ABC have axed Catalystaltogether, along with up to nine staff who will queue at the cashier’s counter for the ABC’s particularly generous redundancy payouts.[8]

In 2015, Catalyst finished on December 9 and re-started on February 2 this year. That was better than its peer programs at the ABC.

It is perfectly possible for resource-intensive ABC current affairs programs to run through the Christmas period almost without a break. ABC-TV 7.30 last year had its final program on December 30, and was back on deck on January 4, 2016. Two years earlier, it did considerably better, finishing on December 30, 2013 and amazingly, re-starting on January 1, 2014.

You may be wondering how the hordes of ABC lower-level people involved with Q&AFour CornersCompassForeign Correspondent etc will occupy themselves during the long hot summer.[9]ABC journos get six weeks paid leave a year, to make up for their working on various public holidays. But the non-journos involved with programs get (theoretically) only four weeks paid holidays.

Those involved in the November 20 episode of Foreign Correspondent included Producer (1 person); Camera (2); Editors (5); Research (2); Archives (2); Titles (1); Graphics (1); Production Managers (2); Associate Producer (1);  and Executive Producer (1). Four Corners has a senior crew of close to 20. Heavens know how many supernumeraries inhabit QandA.

I suppose if these people have got no programs to work on from late November to February, they  just  bustle around, public service-fashion. Happy holiday, one and all!

This Quadrant Online survey has been an “incredible journey”, as ABC people would say, into journalism and holidays as practised by a statutory authority. I’d witter on about it some more, but it’s time to collect my meal allowance from my spouse and then go on a well-earned break (from housework).

Tony Thomas’ book of essays, That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print, is available here

 


[1] The last time Media Watch started earlier than February was in 2012

[2] The ABC’s EBA 2013-16 also involved a $500 one-off payment.

[3] All the gory details are not yet public.

[4] Jones’ final show ended with a musical skit by three Left “comedians” satirizing Pauline Hanson (“Youse have changed the color of the seats”) the Liberals’ George Brandis, and climate sceptic Malcolm Roberts (“This bloke is perversely ignorant, a climate change denying, unrepresentative flake”). QandA of course saw no reason to satirise any  Green or Labor senator.

[5] Maybe the ABC could give a conservative a turn as QandA presenter. The Australian’s columnist Janet Albrechtsen would be great.

[6]  I have no idea why a non-Left voting result says anything about a “failure of capitalism”.

[7] Doogue: “If we could get that money moving around so that there was more of a sense that it was shared.”

[8] An ABC staffer is entitled under the current enterprise bargaining agreement to four weeks salary for each year’s service up to five years, and three weeks salary for each year thereafter, to a maximum of 24 years service.

[9] Tim Flannery’s Climate Council would describe it as an “angry” summer, the scientific term for above-average heat.

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