The largest and most powerful TV news network in the United States, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, has paid the ABC’s Four Corners a massive compliment.
By writing a 27-page complaint to the ABC Chairwoman and Managing Director about two Four Corners episodes, the news giant has acknowledged just how powerfully a relatively minuscule programme can punch above its weight.
Australia should be grateful that the ABC is being acknowledged in such a way — why else would such a behemoth take action against a documentary programme in a faraway land that would be unlikely to be seen by Fox’s own audience?
Newspapers are reporting that Fox executives are demanding an independent inquiry into the two-part Four Corners series Fox News and the Big Lie, which is presented by reporter Sarah Ferguson and written and produced by Tony Jones.
The programmes are a forensic study of how Fox News buckled under pressure from Donald Trump and his supporters and assisted him in propagating the unsubstantiated claim that last year’s presidential election was rigged against him.
The ABC has responded by saying it will handle the complaint as it would any other.
It follows what was a startling attack on the programme, and the ABC, by Murdoch’s Australian mastheads.
It was an attack that will no doubt worsen the polarisation taking part in Australian public discourse.
Watch Fox News and the Big Lie:
Even before the first Four Corners episode was broadcast, Fox lawyers sent a letter to the ABC threatening legal action if it went to air.
What followed was an extraordinary onslaught against the ABC executed by editors and columnists in News Limited mastheads across the country, even though this was simply an exploration of a foreign news service and its relationship with a foreign politician.
The Guardian Australia reported that Rupert Murdoch’s publications printed no fewer than 45 attacks on the ABC in its Australian mastheads in just two days.
The Australian published a front-page editorial headlined: “The ABC’s big lie and the madness of Four Corners.”
The article said the report was a: “conspiracy-laden and error-ridden ‘expose’ into Fox News”.
Whether the readers of News Limited newspapers would actually be interested in such coverage is unknown, but such a broad and sustained attack from one media organisation against another is unprecedented and has worrying implications for both media freedom and democratic discourse in our country.
By undertaking such media warfare, News Limited is seeking to polarise Australia’s population just as Fox has done in the USA, and will serve to reinforce the national policy of the Liberal Party to privatise the national public broadcaster.
It may also chip away at the great public support for the ABC, which is the only truly independent and unbiased media outlet left in this country.
The Guardian’s Amanda Meade wrote that the fact Lachlan Murdoch is living in Australia at the moment may have had something to do with the level of vitriol on display in the Murdoch press.
In response to the critics, Sarah Ferguson used an interview with Virginia Trioli on ABC Melbourne to point out that Four Corners wasn’t afraid of anything.
“I rest very comfortably knowing this is very important…and to attack Four Corners and the brave editorial stance…just seems to be way off the mark.
As the attacks continue, it is our job, as defenders of the ABC, to do everything we can to advocate for our precious public broadcaster, and to take this fight up to the next federal election and beyond.