For more than 30 years, one of the smallest programmes in the ABC suite has been punching well above its weight.
Media Watch, a 15-minute programme first launched in 1989, continues to have a disproportionately large impact on Australia, its media landscape, and politics.
An excellent example of this influence was on display recently, when a letter from Media Watch resulted in a video conversation between Sky News presenter Alan Jones and controversial former Liberal MP, now independent, Craig Kelly being pulled from the internet.
Jones and Kelly had told their Sky News audience that scientists and governments were wrong and that the Delta variant of COVID-19 was far less dangerous than the initial Alpha variant, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Even though Sydney radio shock-jock Ray Hadley had pointed out the dangerous claims were wrong to his own audience, it was not until Media Watch wrote to Sky News management that Sky issued a correction to the madness, and deleted the irresponsible exchange from its website.
Of course, it’s not the first time Media Watch has had an impact, and certainly not the first time it has tackled Alan Jones, who is one of the ABC’s most vocal detractors.
It is now 22 years since the programme revealed the extraordinary behaviour of Jones and his fellow shock-jock John Laws in the so-called “cash for comment affair,” which became the subject of an investigation by the then Australian Broadcasting Authority.
Media Watch exposed the fact Jones and Laws were being paid to make favourable on-air comments about some major companies, without disclosing the payments to listeners.
The “cash for comments” stories won two Walkley awards, including the Gold Walkley.
This is just one of the episodes of Media Watch that exposed the deception:
There are far too many instances of Media Watch uncovering the truth to mention here, but one other notable example came in 2002, when the late 60 Minutes reporter Richard Carleton (formerly of the ABC) sued the ABC over allegations he had plagiarised a BBC documentary about the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
During the case, ABC lawyers forced Carleton to admit he had deceived viewers.
The judge in the action ruled that, even though the Media Watch program did defame Carleton and two colleagues, it was fair comment and so no damages were awarded.
In this era of disinformation and concentrated media ownership, Media Watch remains as crucial as it has ever been, and a champion of truth.