Take action to protect our ABC

I support a strong, independent and publicly-funded ABC.

The ABC's funding must be restored to 2013 levels to enable it to meet its obligations under the ABC Charter Act


Our ABC is our most trusted source of news. It entertains us with the best local content. And it saves us from deadly disasters. Whether it's floods, bushfires or Covid, the ABC is there for all of us.

A strong public broadcaster is essential for a healthy democracy. But, since 2014 the ABC's funding has been slashed. Its independence has been threatened.

The ABC is a precious national asset. Please join us in guaranteeing its future.

 


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Ten Point Plan

Since 2014 the federal government has stripped more than $700 million from ABC funding.

That's more than $500 million in operational funding and nearly $200m from the ABC’s international service.

Numerous programs have disappeared. Others have been cut back. Hundreds of jobs have been lost, and programs and services run on the smell of an oily rag.

To enable the ABC to meet its charter obligations, the ABC’s operational budget must be restored to the level of funding it received before cuts were imposed in 2014.

Murdoch with hands in front of face in a triangle that looks like Mr Burns from the Simpsons

The ABC is currently funded on a triennial (three year) basis.

A five year funding cycle will enable the ABC to plan ahead. It will place ABC funding outside the electoral cycle and strengthen its independence. 

To improve funding certainty for the ABC, we call on government to introduce five-year funding agreements, with funding indexed annually to compensate for inflation.

The ABC has been a vitally important part of the fabric of our democracy for 90 years. In this era of fake news and disinformation, the need for a fearless public broadcaster has never been greater.

Australians trust the ABC more than any other news outlet and its independence is essential to that trust.

"The ABC Board carries the ultimate responsibility for the independence and integrity of the national broadcaster."               
         - Depoliticising the ABC Board and Appointment Process, Australia Institute, 2018

In 2013 ‘arm’s length, merit based’ reforms were legislated to depoliticise the ABC appointment process. But in the years since then, Ministers have breached these rules repeatedly. 

The ABC Board must be independent of government and commercial interests, with its members selected for their skills not their party political links. If that does not occur the ABC's independence and integrity could be undermined.

All ABC Board appointments should be made from a short-list selected on merit by an independent non-partisan nominations panel, as laid down in the ABC Act.

In times of crisis, Australians rely on ABC emergency broadcasts.

In a survey conducted after the 2020 bushfires in NSW, 60% of respondents said information provided by the ABC helped ensure their safety. About half of those surveyed relied upon the ABC as their main source of information during the crisis.

 “A few people always ask ‘why are you doing this?’ because of course people can just look up the information on the emergency services sites.

 “The first answer is … people lose power and mobile phone coverage and the only thing you’ve got left is a battery-operated transistor radio or a radio in the car.

 “And the second answer is that people can share information. It’s a really good spot for people to share information which they have very actively been doing.”

- Richard Glover, ABC presenter

Between 2017 and 2020 the need for emergency broadcasts more than doubled, but funding during this period went backwards.

The ABC is the only network able to deliver this critical service. It must be properly funded to do the job.

 "Just emerged from days of hell on sth coast, cannot believe attacks on ABC, It is the ONLY reliable source of info, everyone is tuned in, its real time broadcasting is saving lives, property and helping us understand our situation re fire threats, roads, petrol, food etc".

- Phillip Coorey (@PhillipCoorey) January 3, 2020

Privatisation is the transfer of assets from the public to the private sector.

The IPA and some politicians have called for the ABC to be privatised, and in 2018 the Liberal Party Council actually voted to privatise the ABC. That policy is still on the books.

Governments can privatise in many ways:

  • by starving the ABC's funding so programs are cut or quality declines.
  • by handing over functions to private operators as the federal government did when it gave $17.1m to Free TV to broadcast to the Pacific and $40m to Foxtel for women's sport.
  • by forcing the ABC to compete against private operators for public funds. 
  • by introducing subscription services and advertising. 

The ABC is owned by all Australians and we, the shareholders, need our parliament to protect this national asset.

ABC services must remain independent of government, free-to-air and free-to-access, and publicly funded from consolidated revenue.

Person voting with a piece of paper that says "No Privitsation of Our ABC"

 

Across Australia there has been a dramatic decline in local newspapers. Many have disappeared, while others have shrunk to a shadow of their former selves. The decline accelerated with the impact of Covid-19, leaving many communities without a local news service. It followed a reduction in the ABC's state-based TV programming, including state 7.30 reports.

And so, much local news remains unreported.

If Australians outside the major metropolitan centres are not to be left behind, the ABC will need to play the central role in filling the gap in regional and rural services. But after years of funding cuts, it has become difficult to provide this vital service.

Funding to the ABC must be fully restored to enable the ABC to meet its charter obligations to all Australians, regardless of where they live.

The Enhanced News Gathering Program for regional Australia should be incorporated permanently into the ABC’s operational base funding, so that the threat that it might be arbitrarily removed no longer inhibits the ABC’s long-term commitment to rural and regional services.

Sunset on a farm with the words "Who do you trust for local news and updates for your family?"

All families know how important it is for children and young people to have access to entertaining and educational programs that reflect their lives as Australians.

Local children's content has declined over recent years, a situation made worse when the federal government scrapped quotas for commercial broadcasters in 2020. The number of TV shows for Australian children halved from 14 in 2019-20 to seven in 2020-21.  (Screen Australia, annual drama report).

Of those seven programs, six were financed by the ABC.

Without the ABC there'd be almost no Australian content for our kids.

The ABC provides valuable education support for children and young people. During the coronavirus pandemic, the ABC's education experts worked with state education departments and teachers to create curriculum content for children learning at home. Wonderful initiatives like that can't be achieved without adequate funding.

We support the ABC's call for a funding boost to create more local dramas, children’s content and specialist programs.

A fuzzy cartoon dog jumps in front of parliament house with the workds "I'm voting to protect our ABC" on his chest

 

Since 2013 the ABC's drama production has been decimated. In 2013-14, the ABC produced 101 hours of first-run drama. By 2018-19, that number had halved, to 50 hours.

Australian content has been cut in other areas, too. New Australian documentaries have been halved and new Australian comedy has been reduced by nearly one-fifth (17%).

ABC television production was closed down in Brisbane, Hobart, Adelaide and Perth.  

With fewer original programs, the ABC has been forced to rely on repeats and imports.

Our public broadcaster should reflect who we are as a nation. Its priority should be to tell Australians' unique stories.

A bin in the desert. Written next to it is "There is too much american rubbish on TV.  We need more locally produced content"

Australia plays a major role as a responsible democratic partner in the Asia-Pacific.

"Through broadcast television and radio, websites and apps, ABC International tells Australian stories, reports fairly and fearlessly, teaches different generations to speak English, and delivers critical information in times of crisis, including throughout the COVID-19 pandemic."
       - Now More than Ever: Australia's ABC, David Anderson, 2022

But the service was severely curtailed when it was stripped of $200m in 2014.

Funding for ABC International should be restored and enhanced so it can resume its vital role as Australia’s trusted voice in the Asia-Pacific.

Kerry O'Brien

All Australians whether they live in urban, rural, regional or remote areas should have access to our national broadcaster. But in some parts of the country it is difficult, even impossible, to get a decent signal.

Pressure on transmission costs from organisations providing re-transmission of the ABC's TV and radio services has the potential to impact operational costs.

The ABC 's funding should be sufficient to guarantee that ABC radio and television broadcasts can be received throughout all parts of Australia.

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