This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s coronavirus coronaviruses program, but the story of how that first program began is as much about the journey ahead as the arrival of the pandemic.
In 1956, the ABC’s then-current executive producer, Robert McCrum, had just graduated from university.
The coronaviral crisis had broken out in Australia and many of its most talented minds were struggling to make sense of it all.
But McCrum was determined to make a contribution, and his first assignment was to look at the ABCs new television and radio production program, The Conversation.
As McCrum describes it in his book, The Age, “We were not very good at making a television program.
There were a lot of things we needed to get right before the program started.
And there were some things we couldn’t quite get right.”
The show was set up at the beginning of the program’s second season, and it soon became an instant hit.
But it was also the start of something very different.
“The first year we were on air was very challenging, for all of us,” says McCrum.
“It was a very tough time, because the world was going through something very similar to what we were going through.
So you have this new world, and this new generation of people coming in, and you’ve got a lot to work with.
And we have no control over how long it takes us to get that right.” “
We’re all going to have to get our heads around that fact that we have to take the time to get the story right.
And we have no control over how long it takes us to get that right.”
At the same time, the program was also becoming a political vehicle.
“What was happening at the time was that we were trying to do a political show, and we were also trying to make an impact on politics,” says Mr McCrum now.
“So, as we were making The Conversation, we were all really interested in how people thought about politics.
And so we were quite happy with that.” “
There was this sense that The Conversation was a good platform for us to go on the air and say what we thought.
And so we were quite happy with that.”
But by the time the show aired, the world had changed.
The war in Vietnam had begun, and the Cold War had been entering its final days.
“And I think they were right. “
It was a great time.” “
And I think they were right.
It was a great time.”
McCrum and his team took the ABC to task for its lack of political reporting in Australia during the late 1960s.
“In those days, the news was all about war and peace,” says he.
“If you had an Australian story to tell, you’d have to tell it in war.
And then you’d be in trouble if you did it in peace.”
The ABC’s program in particular was a target.
“They were very keen on us doing the job that they were demanding of us.
They wanted us to do our job well and not to give a single bit of information that could be used against us,” he says.
“That’s the thing that really bothered me, because I think that they didn’t see us as a public service at all.”
The next challenge was to produce the program that would give the public the best understanding of the news in the most accurate and balanced way.
“Our job was to get to grips with the public, to put in a story that could really be believed and that could give a good, honest account of what was going on,” he recalls.
“Then we had to put the story together and make sure that we had the right tone for that story.”
McCrums says the ABC did a good job.
But “it wasn’t the best program we’d ever done.”
He recalls an episode where the ABC had a piece on a group of people who had just been diagnosed with lung cancer.
It focused on a few of the people’s stories, but not the overall story.
The ABC was unable to show the full story, and had to pull the story off the air.
“I think the reason why it was so hard to get away from that was because it was an internal story,” he remembers.
“But when it got to the public eye, the story just wasn’t there.”
McCums’ experience in dealing with the ABC made him a leader in the fight against political bias.
“When we were talking about politics, we knew that people who worked in the newsrooms of the ABC were trying their best to get their stories right,” he said.
People in those newspapers and