Looking over a period of a year (June 2011 – June 2012), I have analysed how many times a representative from a think tank has guested on ABC TV’s The Drum. Out of the 9 think tanks appearing in that period, the results showed an overwhelming representation of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA). It took a staggering 42% of the media exposure. The next highest was the Centre for Independent Studies at 18%; followed by Per Capita and the Centre for Policy Development at 16% and 10% respectively.
The IPA averaged 3 appearances a month, a substantial number that was bolstered by a record high of 5 appearances in January 2012. Third overall and highest represented progressive think tank, Per Capita, averaged just 1 appearance a month.
The combined total of all progressive think tank appearances came to 27, leaving them still well behind the 39 made by IPA. The other two conservative think tanks, Centre for Independent Studies and the Menzies Research Centre, chalked up 17 and 5 guest spots respectively. These additional appearances brought the total conservative appearances to 61, compared to 27 from progressives, and 5 from independents.
4.2 Present a diversity of perspectives so that, over time, no significant strand of thought or belief within the community is knowingly excluded or disproportionately represented.
4.5 Do not unduly favour one perspective over another.
Additional to IPA’s presence on The Drum television show, there is The Drum online where the Institute’s Chris Berg churns out pieces on a weekly basis. Fellow stable mates Tim Wilson and James Paterson get regularly published as well. Independent Australia‘s Managing Editor, David Donovan, wrote an in-depth analysis of the guest spots on the popular ABC program QandA, and in his data the IPA is overrepresented there too.
Instead of The Drum (and the ABC in general) giving valuable media time to partisan think tanks — of any political persuasion — they should give viewers a real cross-section of civil society. Organisations such as the Community Council for Australia, Australian Council of Social Services, or St James Ethics Centre would enrich discussion and likely give commentary divorced of politicisation, corporate interests and that media know-it-all self-importance .
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