Anyone who has doubts over the way massive Liberal Government cuts over years are affected the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s ability to do its job well might have a rethink if they had watched last Saturday night’s Eden-Monaro vote count.
And why? A reverse strap showing some very early return figures appeared before 7pm and remained unchanged for the best part of three hours.
The figures showed the Liberals virtually had the election sewn up by then, even given the expected leakage from the Nationals.
It ran through news ad breaks – the image at right is from 7.07pm – and the ABC’s election analyst Antony Green was clearly unaware of it a short time later (top image, left).
It was still front and bottom as Nationals head honcho Larry Anthony spun the result at 8.23pm. (top image, right)
It took some three hours into the count before a sheepish Antony Green was supposedly finally alerted to the problem and apologised around 10pm for the glitch that had highlighted the totally misleading figures for so long.
The Bug doesn’t blame Green for missing the error; he had enough on his mind pressing the wrong buttons and overcoming the usual computer glitches he has had to deal with on election nights for many years now.
But just consider this: was there NOBODY involved in the broadcast who picked this stuff-up early and alerted the techno nerds to fix it? Or Green himself for that matter?
While The Bug applauds the national broadcaster for covering the count in such an interesting by-election, it was a very bad and very amateurish look that hopefully will not be repeated to tarnish the ABC’s image further.
The ABC didn’t help itself with the wording it used to introduce its by-election stories the following night in some of its 7pm Sunday TV News bulletins.
In Sydney, newsreader Jeremy Fernandez told viewers in a matter-of-fact manner: “As expected it was a close call but Labor has claimed victory in the Eden-Monaro by-election….”
But viewers of the 7pm News in Queensland and Victoria were told by ABC talking heads: “Labor has claimed an against-the-odds victory….”
Against the odds? Weren’t we told for the months leading up to last Saturday that it would be remarkable if the Morrison Government won Eden-Monaro because no government had taken a seat off the opposition in a by-election since the Jurassic period, or somewhere around that time?
It turned out when the actual story screened that it was Labor leader Anthony Albanese who was using the “against-the-odds” description, obviously to colour the outcome in his and his party’s favour.
Fair enough for a pollie to try that one on. But why some ABC newsrooms fell for it and presented it as a fact in their bulletins has left us scratching our heads.
Clearly the original script sent out from the main Sydney newsroom was used by the newsrooms in Melbourne and Brisbane even though someone in Sydney later had the sense to change it. And it would have been so easy for other states to insert a few extra words such as “Labor has claimed what its leader says is an against-the-odds victory ….”
No doubt the incident has been carefully entered in the register of ABC sins being kept by the Coalition parties and the Murdoch cheer squad.
And why should the ABC take all the election-night “glory”.
We journos at The Bug were never important enough when we worked in the mainstream media to warrant having our knicker draw ruffled up by federal police but we suspect we would always have lacked the utter professionalism and devotion to duty to have ever co-penned an article of the breathtaking quality of this one.
Well done, Annika!