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March 1954, The Sun, Sydney - Greenhouse to save us from looming Ice Age

UPDATED - James Dibble to designer vaginas - 60 years of @ABCNews

Last night I published the two photos below.  Overnight I've thought about the issue they represent.  My update follows.

5 November 1956

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26 November 2016

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No one thought to include a news bulletin in the plans for ABC television's opening night.  After hearing from everyone who played a part in bringing you the news there was no time left to report it.

Newspapers editors tell their stories using as many pages as sales let them have.  The term slow news day reflects the speed of newsprint chew-through at the presses.

Broadcasters go at 60 minutes per hour fixed.  

The ABC's 1956 management had plans for those priceless few hours on opening night.  

Proven, time-honoured plans, honed by successful public servants dating back to Roman Times.  

Their opening night was dedicated to the cause of sucking up to politicians..  

On 1 July 1932 Conrad Charlton introduced PM Joseph Lyons for the inaugural ABC radio broadcast.

On 5 November 1956 his son Michael Charlton carried on the family tradition, introducing a planned night of "aren't we great" from the Prime Minister Robert Menzies down.


Hard news and gutsy editors changed that at the last minute. The decision made at the ABC that night set much of the tone for the broadcaster's next 30 years.

The ABC can thank a young newsreader for making the powerful first impression that stuck right through Channel Two's life for the next 30 years.

The late James Edward Dibble AM MBE.

Careerists might have been miffed, but we were spared forgettable political waffle and self-important opinions as the ABC cleared the soft stuff out of the way because there was news to report.

The BBC's On This Day for 4 November 1956 gives context to the decision to put the news on that night.  

Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave Soviet satellite countries like Poland and Hungary new hope of democratic freedom. This prompted mass anti-Soviet demonstrations in October 1956.

In Hungary the protests became a full-scale revolt. Ordinary Hungarians battled with Soviet troops and the hated state security police.

Thousands of political prisoners were freed and the Central Committee elected the popular Imre Nagy as prime minister. He began to dismantle the one-party state.

Encouraged by an apparent promise of help, Nagy appealed to the UN and Western governments for protection. But with the Suez crisis in full swing and no real appetite for fighting the USSR over a crisis in Eastern Europe, the West did not respond.

The Soviet military's response was swift and devastating. Some 30,000 people were killed in Budapest alone and about 200,000 Hungarians sought political asylum in the West.

Over the next five years, thousands were executed or imprisoned under Janos Kadar's puppet regime.

Nagy and others involved in the revolution were secretly tried and executed in June 1958.

Soviet troops finally withdrew from Hungary in 1991.

That situation bears some similarities to the position the world is in today.  Moscow is expansionist and Russian aircraft are bombing cities. Australians were killed when a Russian missile brought down a Malaysian civilian airliner.  There is talk of a 2nd Cuban-style Missile crisis looming.

But the news today isn't treated like the news was when James Dibble delivered it.

60 years ago James Dibble had no video clips, no audio and no autocue.  Just a script with just the right words and no more.

That night Mr Dibble set the tone for the ABC's next 30 years.

James Dibble broke into the talking head gabfest because his editors thought it more important that Australians should hear about this (reconstructed from ABC news sources including the BBC):

This is the ABC News for Monday the 5th of November, 1956, read by James Dibble. 

The Soviet air force has bombed part of the Hungarian capital, Budapest, and Russian troops have poured into the city in a massive dawn offensive.

At least 1,000 Soviet tanks are reported to have entered Budapest and troops deployed throughout the country are battling with Hungarian forces for strategic positions.

The Soviet invasion is a response to the national uprising led by Prime Minister Imre Nagy, who has promised the Hungarian people independence and political freedom.

Mr Nagy's anti-Soviet policies, which include withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact, have been worrying Eastern Bloc countries and Moscow has demanded his government's capitulation.

Despite an apparent withdrawal only last week, Soviet troops deployed outside Budapest swept back into the capital with Russian and Romanian reinforcements between 0400 and 0800 local time.

News of the attack came at 0515 local time on Radio Budapest in an urgent appeal by Mr Nagy himself for help from the West.

The Times newspaper reports that artillery units pounded Budapest from the surrounding hills as Soviet MIG fighters bombarded the capital from the air.

Sources say Soviet infantry units stormed the Parliament building, a key strategic and symbolic target, early this morning.

Reports that Mr Nagy and other members of his cabinet were captured in the attack have not been confirmed.

But in an unscheduled newscast on Moscow radio shortly after 1200GMT, Russia claimed to have "crushed the forces of reactionary conspiracy against the Hungarian people".

We were prepared when James Dibble told us about the next and most serious flash point in the Cold War, the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.  

On July 1962 Fidel Castro met with Khrushchev and asked for Soviet help to protect Cuba from the US forces of reactionary conspiracy 90 miles away in Florida.  The USSR was already concerned about US missile bases in Turkey and Italy and its interests were served by nuclear war heads within spitting distance of the US mainland. 

President Kennedy was concerned about intelligence reports. He ordered U2 "spy planes" painted in USAF colours to fly high over Cuba and bring back evidence.  When he saw the photos he ordered a naval blockade cutting off Castro's Cuba and escalating an already dangerous cold war.

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And on 22 October he shared that photo when he shared his fears and said, 

“It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the western hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.”

Australians understood the context for the stand off that followed as US Forces went to DEFCON 2, one step below all out war.

When a Russian Surface to Air missile shot down a USAF U2 and killed Major Rudy Anderson near Guantanamo Bay it looked like the trigger for armageddon.

The same tone of authority that frightened the daylights out of us calmed our fears when the ABC and James Dibble reported Khrushchev had ordered the missiles be dismantled and returned home on Soviet ships.

The next year James Dibble told us that the young President who sent Khrushchev packing had been shot and killed in Dallas.

I remember my family turning to Dibble's ABC for news on Prime Minister Harold Holt (1967), the Apollo 11 Moon landing (1969), the lost mission of Apollo 13 and the destruction of Darwin by Cyclone Tracy (1974).

On 1 March 1975 the ABC brought us colour TV.  James Dibble brought the same no nonsense manner to that announcement as he did to every piece of unvarnished news he told us about. 

Later that year Mr Dibble told us that Prime Minister Whitlam's government had been dismissed.

The editorial authority and tone never shifted.   We trusted James Dibble and the editorial standards which were embedded in the culture he started that first night in November 60 years ago.

That culture was still dominant in 1983 when Mr Dibble retired.

Like the late Mr Dibble, it lingered in the corridors and internal symbols of the ABC until the early 90s and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

On the 40th anniversary of that first broadcast Mr Dibble spoke about the changes he'd seen in the 40 years to 1996.

He spoke of his pride in being a news reader.  Implicit in what he said was the notion that a newsreader should know what he's talking about.  He also spoke of the difference between news-reading and the coiffed personalities in the age of the auto-cue who present segments.

"I had to read what people said in the news because there often wasn't any sound, and describe people and places, so I could be speaking all the time from 7pm to 7.25pm. Now they're only there for a fraction of the time," he said.

In 2006 Mr Dibble was at the ABC's Sydney studios at Ultimo.  He stood perhaps a little wistfully for this photo in front of one of the last commemorations of the culture that owed so much to him.

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He's not with us for the 60th anniversary of ABC News's first night on television.   Nor is the culture he stood for.

And the ABC hasn't reported a word about the anniversary.

The late James Dibble died on 13 December 2010.

If he'd been watching ABC breakfast television in November 2010, he would have caught the moment that the ABC culture breathed its last and died on our screens.

Neil Mitchell in the guise of Tracey Grimshaw made this commentary about Virginia Trioli in the guise of Michael Rowland.


Virginia Trioli tested the culture for signs of life that morning.  Mark Scott killed it by keeping her on.

A few weeks after he'd administered the coup de grace, Mark Scott spoke about Mr Dibble's time with the ABC. 

What came out was a Twitter grab from PR, "James Dibble was 'the face and voice of the ABC' for generations of Australians".

The same man who had just promoted Trioli spoke of Dibble "He was the figure of trust that we all turned to at 7 o'clock every night, bringing the great events of the world and the great events of Australia."

Not a moment of reflection on why we trusted him.  Nor when we stopped trusting the ABC.

Just after Mr Dibble died, the ABC radio presenter John Cleary told us about a part of James Dibble's make up that jarred with me.  The man who was front and central in telling me the stories that framed my conservative outlook was a trade union leader.

 "James Dibble was a trade unionist and a strong supporter of his colleagues.  He was president of the ABC staff association when it amalgamated with the public sector union" said Mr Cleary.

Dibble attended St Brigid's Primary School and De La Salle College in Marrickville, Sydney. He joined the air force at the beginning of World War II and served in the Pacific.

Blokes who trusted each other with their lives were a different style of trade unionist from the people like Thomson, Ludwig and Gillard who sold them out.

As John Cleary said, "He was a good trade unionist".

He was also a fortunate trade unionist, spared the pain of watching the movement's death throes as people like him were replaced with Craig Thomson and friends.

This month the ABC TV News turned 60.

It didn't run a single story about its milestone.  It was as if an iron curtain had descended on its history.

What started with a man reading us the news over the table is now this.

ABC News
ABC News Australia.png
Division of: Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Founded: 1956
Headquarters: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Area served: Australia/New Zealand
Broadcast programs: ABC News Breakfast
Weekend Breakfast
ABC News Mornings
ABC News at Noon
ABC News Afternoons
ABC News — Early Edition
Four Corners
Behind the News
One Plus One
The Business
The Drum
The Quarters
The World
State to State
Capital Hill

Not one of those programs ran any research or told today's bright young things about how the ABC came to be hosting their commentary on social media.

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It's not that the ABC thinks 60 year milestones unworthy news.

Penu the Orangutan's special Indonesian fruit on the occasion of his 60th wore the ABC News Brand.

The 60th anniversary of Darwin's first backyard swimming pool got a run too.

So did some hard news milestones from 60 years ago - framed with an ABC of today editorial approach - like the Suez crisis and the Maralinga nuclear tests.

But despite the platorms, the programs, the staff and more webspace than the world has newsprint, there are still some things the ABC never finds time to investigate. Like the search warrant executed on the former office of the Prime Minister whose generosity with taxpayer money worked so well for her at the Clinton Foundation.   Which is another story the ABC finds difficulty talking about.

The ABC news of the Dibble Culture ploughed on with the news regardless of considerations like those that so clearly affect the laissez faire editorial policy at the ABC today.

Vale James Dibble AM MBE

I'm glad you were not here this month for the 60th anniversary of that first night you read us the news.

Yesterday Fidel Castro died. I'm writing this now because one ABC news report told us Castro's death marked the passing of "a visionary who stood up to US domination of Latin America, brought healthcare and education to the poor, and inspired socialist movements across the world".

They wouldn't understand Jim.  I wouldn't bother trying.

There's as much chance of them changing as there is of hearing,

"This is the ABC News, read by James Dibble.

"How does your lady garden grow?

"Is a designer vagina the same as female genital mutilation?

That is the word coming out of the UK this week as prosecutors consider whether doctors who allegedly performed the procedure on three adult women should face criminal charges under laws banning female genital mutilation (FGM).

"So-called designer vagina surgery is classed as FGM when it comes to rules on mandatory reporting," a source told the Evening Standard. "The question is whether it is in the public interest to prosecute."


So that's the question arising out of that story, is it?

Why should the prosecutors cop it when we no longer question whether it's in the public interest to let the self-publishing ABC continue on its merry way into la la land.

Thanks for your service Jim.

Happy 60th Birthday ABC, long may you relive the first 40 or so.