Friends watching ABC’s back

Watchdog group ‘ Friends of the ABC’ has complained about a recent incident of creeping commercialism to ABC Chairman Donald McDonald. The Victorian ‘Friends’ group recently wrote this letter about the ABC Shop promo for a book called ‘Fix-Your-Back’ which aired on ABC Radio:

Dear Donald,

Members of FABC have expressed surprise and concern about a constantly repeated advertisement for a book on Radio National and Melbourne 774. ‘Fix your back – and fix it for good!’ is the promotion used to encourage listeners to buy the book from ABC shops or on-line.

On programming matters, FABC would usually write directly to ABC management. However, the ‘fix your back’ book advertisement, as reported to FABC, raises important issues for which we believe the Board is responsible.

It is doubtful the presenters and specialists on ABC health and science programs would vouch for the questionable assertion that there is a single remedy for every kind of back pain. This promotion undermines the ABC’s integrity, exposing it to ridicule and claims of deceptive advertising. What has happened to the ABC’s judgment and quality control to allow this to occur?

Secondly, why is the ABC promoting a book that appears to have no direct connection with its programs? To listeners, this suggests advertising for the sake of selling books. That crosses the already sensitive boundary between programming according to the Charter, and earning income from spin-offs from programs. Those within and outside the ABC who claim that the public broadcaster is increasingly scheduling programs, especially on television, that create profitable spin-offs (such as cooking and gardening programs) will no doubt view this latest radio ‘puff’ as further evidence.

We seek your urgent attention to this matter and response to the issues we have raised.

Yours sincerely,
Terry Laidler, President