A common held belief, often pushed by elements of the right-wing of Australian politics, is that the government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation (or the ABC, Aunty, whatever you want to call it) maintains a level of editorial bias to the left-wing of politics.

This is quite a serious claim to make of a broadcaster that is both government-funded and legislatively bound to provide “independent” broadcasting to the Australian people. If the ABC did in fact maintain an editorial bias in its news publications and broadcasts, it would in fact be violating its charter, and would in fact deserve to have its right to exist questioned.

However, in my experience, and the experience of many, this is far from the case.

Take, for example, this news article about the latest Newspoll results. The headline reads “Abbott’s satisfaction rating on the rise”. Mmm, a headline proclaiming the popularity of the leader of the Liberal Party.

The rest of the article reads as follows:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has maintained her popularity over Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister in the latest opinion poll.

The Newspoll published in The Australian shows Ms Gillard leads Mr Abbott as preferred prime minister by 45 to 36 per cent.

Bang! Gotcha ABC! Look at that, blatant editorialising for the Left!

Sorry, sarcasm took over there. Let’s look at every statement in those paragraphs objectively. In the previous Newspoll, Ms Gillard led Mr Abbott in the preferred PM stakes 46% to 37%. In today’s Newspoll, she leads 45% to 36%. Same margin, only both leaders have lost a point. More importantly, it means the ABC’s reporting is factually accurate.

The next paragraph, like the headline, actually points out Mr Abbott’s gaining ground on the PM in different measures:

But the poll sees Mr Abbott’s job satisfaction rating up 6 per cent, from 36 to 42 per cent, in the past month.

Look at that, praising the Right. Surely this can’t be! Again, from the neutral point of view, this is factually correct, so there is no problem.

The article goes on to discuss the party results next, pointing out that:

The primary vote for the major parties remained steady, with the Coalition on 44 per cent, the Government on 33 per cent and the Greens on 12 per cent.

On a two-party preferred basis, the Coalition continues to poll an election-winning lead of 6 per cent.

Again, pointing out the Coalition’s strong position in the polls, and again, doing so accurately. Certainly no left-wing bias here.

The article then concludes by quoting the Prime Minister:

The Prime Minister declined to comment on the poll, saying if she speculated on polls she would “get very little else done given the number of polls that we see”.

“I’ve got a lot of hard work to do as Prime Minister. We’ve got a lot of hard work to do as a government, and we’ll get on with doing that work,” she told AM.

I’m sure the Right would have you believe that a lack of a quote from Mr Abbott would indicate a left-wing bias. However, the only reason they’ve quoted Ms Gillard is because she fortuitously appeared on ABC radio this morning when the poll figures were released, so it was logical to seek comment from her on the numbers. Had Mr Abbott done the same (which he has not), he too would have been asked to comment.

No, the ABC does its absolute best to maintain its independence and freedom from editorial bias – something that cannot be said for its commercial competitors (*cough* News Limited *cough*).

If this article were to be written by an institution with a left-wing bias, here’s an example of how it might actually read:

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Abbott loses ground in latest Newspoll

Today’s Newspoll results spell bad news for Tony Abbott and the Coalition, losing 4% of it’s two-party preferred (2PP) lead to Labor, and failing to gain ground in other key areas.

Labor’s primary vote increased by 1 point to 33%, with the Coalition dropping by the same margin to sit at 44%. The Greens and others remained unchanged.

Labor has also clawed back on the Coalition’s 2PP lead – gaining two points to be at 47%, while the Coalition fell the same amount to sit at 53%.

The news was no better for Mr Abbott in the preferred PM stakes, with the Liberal leader failing to gain any ground on Ms Gillard, despite her rating falling by a point. Ms Gillard leads the preferred PM ratings 45% to Mr Abbott’s 36%, a net lead of 9%.

The only good news for Mr Abbott was a slight rise in his satisfaction rating as Opposition Leader, on the back of his opposition to the Carbon Tax and other government initiatives.

Mr Abbott did not offer any comment on the polling figures this morning, however Prime Minister Gillard was modest about her government’s improving fortunes in the polls. She said was not interested in speculating on poll results, and was determined to get on with the tasks at hand.

“I’ve got a lot of hard work to do as Prime Minister. We’ve got a lot of hard work to do as a government, and we’ll get on with doing that work,” she told ABC radio this morning.

—–

There you go, now THAT is a piece deserving of being labelled biased. Again, it tells the facts, however it represents them in a way that is far more favourable to the Labor Party, and critical of the Liberals. If I read that on ABC News, even being a left-leaning member of society, I would be disappointed in its lack of neutrality (and the fact that it looks like it was written in five minutes by a 22 year old non-journalist student, which it was).

I don’t know whether to believe that the Right expects that all media should do what Murdoch’s papers do and report favourably towards it, or whether their inherent opposition to any form of public-owned entity makes them anti-ABC, but I don’t understand it. The ABC, in my view, goes a long way to providing objective, unbiased, informative reporting in this country, and most certainly fills a void left by the commercial operators. Their taxpayer fundbase will always see them prone to political attacks, and while I think it’s vital that all media, the ABC included, be held accountable, I firmly support and am very thankful for the existence of the ABC.

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