It had been a good start to the year for Channels Seven and Nines flag-ship current affairs programs Today Tonight and A Current Affair, but as viewers changed the networks pulled out the big guns.
Today Tonight Seven tell us is “Australia’s number one current affair program” and it seems they will do anything to protect that myth. They’d started the year well with consistent top ten appearances in the weekly ratings but by the time October had come around it had been months since they’d made the list. Of course it comes as no surprise that they took their tried and true hack journalism route to ratings glory. “Dole Bludgers” can be an easy target although in these troubled economic times that might mean too many viewers are, well, on the dole. “Muslim Extremists” are another classic target for TT and ACA but with the Arab spring being given favourable publicity around the world it was best avoided for now. Say hello to the political football any grubby journalist can make a pay cheque from, Asylum Seekers.
So it came as no surprise that on October 10th after months of struggling to climb the ratings top ten, Kylie Gillies opened up the week with this:-
Kylie Gillies: First tonight our investigation into how the Government is putting out the welcome mat for refugees. We’ve gone inside the so called ‘refugee resort’ where there’s no wire fencing, there’s no bars, and the inmates live in four star luxury…
Two weeks later ABC’s Media Watch would prove that virtually everything in the report was false, fabricated or used to mislead viewers. http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s3346987.htm
Not to be outdone two weeks later Tracy Grimshaw fronted Nines ACA with “Asylum Seeker Heaven – Taxpayers footed a bill of nearly $800 million for detention centres last financial year, so A Current Affair investigated just why the system is costing us so much. In the process we discovered not only huge medical and security costs, but also luxuries like plasma TVs and internet cafes.”
More half truths and innuendo dressed up as journalism was trotted out pitching ill informed local residents against asylum seekers and using the created outrage to package together a nice report for a ratings win. Good news stories can sell but not on a nightly basis and when advertisers want ratings TT and ACA are all too willing to climb to the bottom of the barrel, fabricate a story and peddle fear to make a dollar.
It worked, TTs ratings for the Monday were the best they’d had for quite a while and the damage they had done to the community, the asylum seekers and the political debate would be lost in the joy of keeping their advertisers happy. One participant of the TT story who had been duped by the reporter went from outrage at asylum seekers to concern for them when told the real facts. The reality with any controversial debate is that the community is best served by the facts and not filled with fear by journalists and producers trying to make a buck out of the misery of others.
For too long ACA and TT have gotten away with being called “current affairs programs”, they are not! They are just the same as the sly and unethical journalists who brought the Murdoch empire to its knees in the UK. They will stop at nothing, obey no standard and break every rule in their attempt for ratings and the dollar grab. Such was the outrage in the UK over the behaviour of News of the World that it was forced to shut its door. The British public are better for it and their democracy better served by the closing of unethical hackers at News. The time has come for the same to happen to TT and ACA. And that starts with you!
The only way ACA and TT stay alive is by you watching. Even if you are doing so to see what hate they are peddling today you are helping their cause, lining their pockets and increasing the fear. Vote with your remote, when ACA and TT time comes around in your house change the channel. And in doing so be part of changing the tone of the debate that needs facts and responsible journalism to inform a solution that benefits us all.
If Monday nights 4 Corners on the ABC shocked you at the treatment of Asylum Seekers then not only should you write to your local MP, call the Immigration Minister and get involved in the debate. You should switch off ACA and TT and ensure that lies and fear are not the ratings winners of Australian democracy.