November 19, 2014

Horse 1791 - The Daily Telegraph's Argumentum ad Ignorantiam

On day in which it was expected that Malcolm Turnbull would announce "savings" to the ABC budget, the Daily Telegraph and Courier Mail as expected did their usual range of howling; not even all the dog whistling in the world could keep them quiet.

More intriguing though was the Tele's subtle use of ignorance. Usually I'd say that this sort of thing was a case of Argumentum ad ignorantiam (argument from ignorance) but this is more a case of Argumentum ad ignorantiam ab ignorantibus; quia ignorat (argument from ignorance, by the ignorant; for the ignorant)

To wit:
The Daily Telegraph can reveal the federal government was advised the property at Lanceley Place is used primarily to park outside broadcast vans and trucks, and house storage facilities for costume hire.
Government efficiency documents have revealed the Artarmon property should be sold off to improve capital and reduce the number of program and job casualties when funding cuts are announced today. The property has been valued at between $18 million and $23 million.
The ABC would not confirm what the property was used for.
- Daily Telegraph, 19th Nov 2014

Okay Daily Telegraph, you "can reveal the federal government was advised" anything you like but who revealed it? Maintain the confidentiality of any sources you like but unless you provide substantive links, how do we know that this wasn't just made up?
"Government efficiency documents?" Government efficiency documents? Do you mean a white paper? Do you mean an internal procedure review? There is no mention of where they came from, which department published them and no link on the website to confirm their existence.

The thing I really find bewildering is this:
The ABC would not confirm what the property was used for.

Allow me.

That big red and white sticky up and down sort of thing is a transmission tower. ABC Tower 221 transmits television and radio and according to ACMA has a power of 200kW, which is pretty powerful. 
The tower was erected in the 1950s and the very first thing transmitted from it was the ABC News Bulletin with James Dibble reading the news of the Soviet intervention on November 5, 1956.

To miss something that's been in the same spot and can be seen from the top of the hill near my house, some 28.01km away. How is it even possible to miss something which is 170m tall and was deliberately put there because FM transmission (which is what television was carried on) works best with straight line transmission. Within digital TV and Radio, the same tower is used. 

Twenty years ago the ABC famously promoted itself as costing 8c a day. This figure is now estimated to be 23c a day.

Guess what? We have one of those adverts:

This advert is from 1988 which is not twenty years ago but twenty-six years ago. If you allow 5% for inflation, which doesn't even keep pace with AWOTE figues then that 8 cents would be worth 28.44 cents now.
This means to say that the ABC is marginally cheaper in 2014 than it was in 1988 but it now delivers content in more numerous way than it did then.

The "$20 million property in Sydney used to park trucks and store costumes" is also used to transmit television and radio, which given the title of The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is probably part of its remit, don't you think?
I think that its scandalous enough that the ABC is attacked because of an ideological bent by unelected people tilting the government's hand but when their mouthpiece publishes something which is so easily unpickable, it makes me wonder what the alternative will be if the ABC is smashed to bits as they would wish. 
If the quality of journalism is anything to go by, maybe some of us would be happier if we were ignorant.

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