There has been a lot of heat in the discussion over funding for public broadcasters over the last week- let’s look at the facts of the situation.
1. The ABC will continue to receive $5.1 billion dollars in funding over the next 5 years. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is a large organisation receiving more than a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money every year. It is an expensive organisation to run, in part because of its extensive reach. However it is ludicrous to claim that the ABC would be unable to deliver an excellent broadcast with over one billion dollars every year.
It is the Government’s responsibility to consider this expenditure in context. How many aged care beds would this supply? How many roads could be built, improved, made safer? How many Disability Support Pensions would this cover? The Government continues to pay $1 billion in interest every month on the debt racked up under Labor. If this debt hadn’t reached such heights, because of the wasteful and irresponsible spending by Labor, the funding decrease would not be necessary.
2. The ABC will continue to be an important part of the media landscape through broadcast, emergency, local content, and other programming services on offer. We all value the role that the ABC plays. They go into places where the commercial operators often fail. We turn to the ABC in times of emergency and the ABC does an incredible job of keeping up to date information available to the public in those times. No one knows this better than the regional people who have experienced bushfires and widespread flooding.
3. Programming decisions are in the hands of ABC Management. Whilst the Federal Government does decide how much of the taxpayers’ money the ABC will receive, they are not able to dictate specific programming. There have been disappointing signs that some members of ABC management have been keen to use specific popular programs to blackmail the Government. Our job is to look at the facts – and there is no sign that popular shows like Peppa Pig will not continue to be broadcast by the ABC. The Lewis Report has established that all of the savings the ABC needs to make could be done through back of house changes rather than attacking programming.
4. I absolutely support the ABC Local Radio. ABC Central West, ABC Western Plains, and ABC New England North West all play a vital role in our communities in the Parkes Electorate. They have hardworking, dedicated and talented staff. They are an intrinsic part of our communities and they are incredibly trusted by local residents. The local content that they provide is a very accurate reflection of the ABC’s charter. In saying that, I do believe that all services should be reviewed to ensure that they are meeting the charter, are continuing to provide balanced news coverage and are keeping in line with changes to population.
5. The truth is that the management of ABC are using this as an opportunity. They have recognised – as have other media outlets – that they will need to modernise their business model in the digital age. There have been substantial cutbacks to staff in other media organisations because of the way that people are now engaging with the media. ABC’s Mark Scott has said “the ABC have had to adapt to new technology, new competition and new audience trends”. Funding will always in part dictate what the ABC can do, but unfortunately there is no never-ending bucket of money. The money comes from hardworking taxpayers and must be accounted for.
Much of the debate has centred over whether the cuts should be considered efficiency dividends or cuts. Prior to being elected the Coalition was very clear. Where there is waste, it will be eliminated. The ABC is not immune to this. As the Member for Parkes, I look at what is important for my region, and ABC Local Radio and Emergency broadcasts are important. The members of the Government must also consider the overall financial position in which the Government finds itself.
If we fail to find significant savings within the Budget, Government spending will continue to spiral out of control. We want to return our Budget to a sustainable position and tough decisions have been made across the board. These are often unpopular and contested. It is the Government’s job to do what is right, not what is easy.
I understand the close connection that regional people have with the ABC because I feel that connection as well. It is still early days. ABC staff and management will continue to work through their new structure. The ABC will continue to produce great programs, broadcasts and emergency updates in the future.