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How About We Let the Sport do the Talking?

The London 2012 Paralympic Games are here, they’re finally here. The biggest ever Paralympic Games have returned to land of their spiritual birthplace, England. Over 4000 athletes have converged on the Paralympic Village, ready to compete across 21 sports, some everyday sports and some  adapted especially for athletes with a disability. This Paralympic Games has also seen the most number of tickets sold for the entire event, with 2.4 of 2.5 million tickets snapped up by sports mad people from the United Kingdom and around the world.

The television coverage domestically has also promised to be huge. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the perennial broadcast partner for the Paralympic Games again won the right to broadcast the event from start to finish. The ABC coverage of this year’s Paralympics has been much talked about. With the advent of digital television and the subsequent new channels allowing for greater coverage of this important sporting exhibition, more coverage, much more was promised.

Across two channels, the ABC have begun broadcasting a total of nine and a half hours daily from the Paralympic Games. This is a big shift from years previous when a highlights show and some radio commentary were the stock standard fare and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation should be congratulated for committing to such widespread coverage and the fact that the exposure of the Games is heading in the right direction, up.

Aside from the opening ceremony, which was brilliantly- read minimally narrated and impressively broadcast to the Australian people, the televising of the actual sporting prowess of our Paralympic athletes began right as the competition started.

That broadcast was headed in the studio by Stephanie Brantz, no stranger to sports commentary, as well as being co-hosted by comedian Lawrence Mooney, actor Adam Zwar and Sam Pang. Guests joined the hosts throughout four and a half hours of coverage on the ABC’s digital television channel.

A number of the finest voices of ABC Grandstand and ABC Radio  were stationed at the sporting venues across London, ready to bring the action to a curious Australian audience to a magnitude never seen before in this country.

If there was a failure of the coverage last night, it was that there was too much talk and not enough action. The stars of the Paralympics are supposed to be the athletes who’ve put in massive effort over the years and overcome more adversity than most people will ever encounter.

Instead, for much of the night, we were made familiar with the comedic exploits in particular of Lawrence Mooney and Adam Zwar, but also Sam Pang, who’ve been in the United Kingdom for some time already. The chat was interweaved with numerous introductions to the Australian team and some of its members individually, but that would ideally have taken place while there was little or no sport on, say between 6 and 7pm last night.

Oh and another thing. The only thing “live” about most of the coverage last night and yes the website says it was supposed to be live, is that the commentators were broadcasting live from London. Very little of the sport appeared live amid all the chin-wagging back in the studio. At one point the swimming heats went from one of the later heats in one event, directly to the second heat of presumably the next event. I’m sorry, but to me live coverage means footage of the actual competition is beamed to our televisions instantaneously,  not people sitting around in a studio talking about the sports we want to see as viewers.

As an indication of just how wrong they got it with the coverage last night, Twitter was abuzz with comments lamenting the lack of athletic action being displayed on televisions around Australia. One person even remarked to me that they were so disappointed they felt that switching off after a while was the only answer.

So here’s a radical thought: more sport and less talk. We know the c0-hosts are funny or at least try to be. But they’re not why we as viewers are tuning in. We want to see sporting genius, we want to share the joy of stellar efforts in the pool, on the road, the track and the other arenas. If we wanted a laugh we’d go to their gigs. To steal a line from Elvis and alter it just a bit, a little less conversation, a little more sporting action please.

Hey Guys and Gals, Don’t Worry About Your ABC

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is copping it from all parts of the political spectrum these days with regards “balance” as well as impartial reporting of news events, though much less the latter. But lately it’s been the left, the core constituency of the ABC that have been the loudest to decry the direction that the publicly funded news organisation is taking in relation to their approach to guest spots on the 6pm political panel show The DrumAll this has been happening while many on the right of the political spectrum still continue to amp up over what is still seen as a left wing bias of the entire news organisation.

The biggest complaint of recent months has been that the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), particularly through regular guests Tim Wilson, Chris Berg and James Paterson appears more than any other think-tank on the daily political commentary show.

It is a simple fact that the IPA has appeared more than any other think-tank that exists in the Australian political landscape. IPA guests have taken up  42% of the appearances of representatives of these organisations for the of the period between June 2011 and June 2012 according to an investigation by Andrew Kos for Independent Australia here

The investigation found that the next highest appearance rate for think-tanks was the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) at just under half the rate of the IPA (at 18%), followed by Per Capita with 16% of appearances and then the Centre for Policy Development responsible for 10% of the guest spots over the year examined.

So clearly the vast majority of think-tank appearances have been as a result of guests from the Institute of Public Affairs. An undeniable fact. But does this automatically translate into a right-wing bias on the part of our state-funded national broadcaster? Sorry, rhetorical question there. The answer is a clear ‘no’.

Sure the IPA and the other major right-wing policy body the CIS have dominated 60%, over half of thinky body spots on the show but to measure bias because of the higher appearance of one or two think-tanks over any other is a pretty ridiculous measure.

A much better way would be to measure based on political leanings of each individual guest, cumulative over each and every time that The Drum has aired.

Even without having done the raw numbers it is also an incontrovertible fact, that, like the IPA dominating the guest list, those that outwardly appear on the left of the political spectrum strongly outnumber those that identify with the right side of the political spectrum. You simply lose count of the times when two of the three panelists are of the left.

The very idea that you can have any form of political balance on a panel when a show, before it even starts has an uneven number of people as commentators, regardless of political affiliation is completely laughable.

The same goes for the other major free-to-air program in the realm of politics, Q&A and the Sunday program Insiders. With the formeryou have a regular panel of another uneven number, 5 guests where again people of the right side of politics are always strongly outnumbered. Sure, you’ll find your regular Q&A panel has a wider diversity of guests than The Drum, which usually leans toward those of the left that support Labor but there’s still not an overall balanced cross-section of views displayed due to the panel size and choices.

As for Insiders, again, like The Drum, you have 3 panelists, journalists from both Fairfax and News Ltd and the occasional freelance writer. Again too you have a political imbalance, always slanted to the left, partly because of the number of commentators on the show, partly because of the overwhelming number of writers who identify with the political ideology of the left.

So please, to my friends on the left, quit with the whingeing and whining about what you perceive as a right-wing political bias creeping into the political programs of your ABC. You have nothing to worry about, it’s still tilted nicely in your favour. You only need to start worrying if the number of guests representing your beliefs is tilted in the other direction. If balance is truly what you want, then call for an equal number of spots on each of the political shows. But I suspect that deep down you might just be complaining you don’t like what you’re hearing from a small number of people.

The fact that now everyone, left and right, are getting their knickers in a knot tends to indicate that maybe, just maybe, the ABC is heading toward less of a bias toward the left.

The Hide and Seek Poll

This Saturday the 28th of April the people of Queensland will go to the polls again. No, not in a run-off election to decide for certain which side won the recent state election, we already had that burnt on our retinas. No, it’s not to decide the President in a second round election which has been a popular occurrence recently, with East Timor going to a run-off poll and France headed that way next month. Give up? You could almost be forgiven, even if you’re a Queensland local for doing so. This Saturday marks the running of the Brisbane and other city and regional council election’s. As elections go, these local government polls have been part of a barely seen and just as rarely heard campaign.

The vote this weekend will see the people of Queensland return to the polls just over a month after the state sent the most brutal of messages to a long-term ALP Government so on the nose that barely a shadow of the former Queensland parliamentary Australian Labor Party remains in the parliament and even this situation could be bettered this weekend for the LNP with the by-election for the state seat of South Brisbane, vacated by former Premier Anna Bligh well within reach for a buoyant LNP machine that has felled almost all before it.

But the main game this weekend will be the council elections to be held for every council across the state this weekend. The local government elections have lacked in the visibility that the state government election did, with outsiders drawn in to comment and dissect the extraordinary 5 weeks of the historic campaign and the very short election night wait for the result, which was almost not even required, a waste of broadcast time almost.

Advertising for the council election seems to have been almost non-existent, with television campaigns only really ramping up in recent weeks with the two main mayoral candidates, the incumbent LNP Councillor Graham Quirk, the serving Lord Mayor and the ALP mayoralty hopeful, Ray Smith the focus of television commercials.

On the letterbox drop side of the advertising coin there has also been limited material to digest, though “digest” may be the wrong way to characterise what people generally do with political propaganda that finds its way into our letterboxes, forest-by-forest during a political campaign. This may well be a good thing as limited letterbox drops equal less spending on material most people don’t read.

Another feature found to be lacking during the council election campaigns has been the “boots on the ground” campaigning in the ‘burbs by party volunteers and operatives sitting close to the signage of their party’s candidate so as to not breach electoral law. These people appear to have been nowhere near as visible as they were during the recent state campaign nor any other in recent electoral history in Queensland.

Even speeches by the two major players, Lord Mayor Quirk and Ray Smith seem to have been few and far between, although, judging by media releases of announcements by the candidates, perhaps  they have been a victim of a weariness toward political lobbying for votes so recently after the endurance race that was Queensland Votes 2012. Though local media did host one of these events today, just 5 days out from voting day.

These circumstances combined scream out that the population of Queensland are weary of elections, that having one so soon after the state voted to oust the ALP Government, people for the most part just will not care for having more politics thrown at them after having en masse delivered the ALP in Queensland absolute mass devastation.

The lack of seriously vigorous and visible campaigning also points to the result not being a good one again for the Labor Party in Queensland. There just doesn’t appear to be that energy for change in City Hall, that thirst for delivering the reins of council to an alternative power.

Surely too, the recent electoral tsunami across the state has had a strong role in dissuading a struggling Labor brand to commit to fighting a very hard, energetic and tangible campaign.

Party finances so soon too after a highly publicised campaign in the state election have also led to the party coffers for both sides of politics to be drained sufficiently to render any real media blitz severely dehydrated.

Though it may be easy, given the lack of attention, don’t forget to vote in this hide and seek poll in reverse where the winner will be the one that didn’t end up hiding very well from the spotlight. Oh, it could also be the incumbent in situations like this.

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