A Beached Az Thong, Stamping On A Human Face Forever

Today has seen a variety of submissions being made to the Senate committee inquiry into ABC television internal programming cuts that have… kinda… zzz… Wait, what? Did someone mention The Chaser?

Community and Public Sector Union ABC section secretary Graeme Thomson said on Monday there needed to be a full and open inquiry into the cutbacks of internal program at the broadcaster.

“It loses the ability for the new Chasers, the new Andrew Dentons to actually be found and actually be developed and I think that’s sad,” Mr Thomson said.

Cue snarky comment from us about exactly how sad it would be to lose a comedy team called “The New Chasers”. But while we’re here, lets hear a little from one of the old Chasers:

Most ABC television viewers cannot tell the difference between shows produced in-house and those made outside, the Chaser’s Julian Morrow says.

Morrow has told a parliamentary committee inquiring into ABC internal programming cuts that the use of independent production companies had not eroded the ABC as an institution.

Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he – after all, he is the executive producer of independent production company Giant Dwarf. In fact, he went on to say:

“In fact, working with external production companies is essential if the ABC is to remain a dynamic, creative, innovative public broadcaster of quality programming,” he said.

Wow, it’s like asking [generic sporting boss] whether [socially harmful activity that pours money into sporting codes coffers] is a bad thing. And you wonder why we never got a job offer from Good News World.

That’s not to say he’s actually wrong about any of this, mind you. When it comes to comedy, the ABC’s history of internal production has often been little more than a cavalcade of bizarre, willfully-obscure and audience-alienating productions combined with efforts that actually sounded good right up until the moment they were knocked back.

But our concern – and we do have one, thanks for asking – is that if the in-house production side of things is allowed to completely wither on the vine all the ABC will be left with is what production houses serve up to them. For all the reassuring talk like this-

Mr Morrow said external production did not undermine the ABC charter or ABC values, saying independent producers brought projects to the ABC because they believed in public broadcasting.

– you don’t have to be a math whiz to work out that if there’s three commercial networks to pitch to and one public broadcaster, you’re better off developing programs that will appeal to all four networks than to just one. And with three commercial networks versus one public broadcaster, the balance is always going to be tipped towards the more commercial end of the scale. Coming soon to the national broadcaster: a constant flood of bland panel chat shows! (this post (c) 2003).

The other worry is, if all that’s left at the ABC are business and programming executives rather than actual program makers, eventually you’ll end up with an organisation run by people focused on factors other than programming quality. Oh sure, they’ll still be interested in “quality”, but quality will be defined by factors such as ratings, revenue raised and “political balance”.

Put another way, if two comedy series seem to be of roughly equal value comedy-wise but one will bring in a whole bunch of merchandise while the other has limited marketing opportunities and there’s only one timeslot available, which one is going to get the green light? We’ve seen the future and it’s a Beached Az branded thong, stamping on a human face forever…

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