Communist Party of Australia  


The Guardian

Current Issue

PDF Archive

Web Archive

Pete's Corner


Press Fund


About Us

Why you should ...

CPA introduction

Contact Us

facebook, twitter

Major Issues





Climate Change



What's On






Books, T-shirts, CDs/DVDs, Badges, Misc


Issue #1664      November 12, 2014

Conservatives campaign for abolition of ABC services

Last year federal MPs Cory Bernardi and Bronwyn Bishop were applauded by fellow-Liberals when they declared that the ABC should only provide news and current affairs broadcasts for rural and regional areas, and should abandon digital programming.

Earlier this year a government review team led by a former Seven West broadcasting executive claimed the ABC could eliminate many “non-core” expenditure areas. Accordingly, the May budget slashed ABC funding by $35.5 million over four years.

The report concluded ominously, albeit inaccurately, that media convergence, (the availability of news, audio and video programs on the internet) “is increasingly eliminating the traditional arguments for public broadcasting”.

The view from the right

An independent review committee recently concluded that “[ABC] material broadcast was well-balanced”, but conservative politicians and media corporations, particularly The Australian, have made unceasing allegations of ABC bias.

This year The Australian also accused the ABC of mediocre news and current affairs coverage, “product placement” appearances, unjust treatment of Attorney-General George Brandis, unethical exploitation of a military tragedy, domination of digital media services, unforgivable bias against coal mining, and failure to cover important news!

In a recent editorial it described ABC news and current affairs coverage as “… a world where [federal Greens MP] Sarah Hanson-Young is the go-to voice on refugees, Tim Flannery is the oracle on climate, Wayne Swan is the world’s greatest treasurer, middle class western jihadists are victims of social injustice and Pauline Hansen speaks for suburbia. This is not reality and it is not a sensible place for the ABC to inhabit.”

In fact, it’s not a place the ABC “inhabits” at all. However, the editorial does clearly define areas of ABC news coverage with which The Australian most bitterly disagrees, especially the Abbott government’s vicious treatment of asylum seekers, and above all its climate change policies.

The Australian has fiercely defended the fossil fuel industries, and as the ABC’s powerful mini program MediaWatch has pointed out, it has consistently scorned the very idea that the climate is undergoing significant change.

Two weeks ago commentator Nick Cater reflected The Australian’s viewpoint when he argued that a recent ABC Catalyst program proved “the planet hasn’t warmed since 1998”.

Cater observed triumphantly: “Perhaps we can carry on mining coal after all and help bring electricity to the 300 million Indians squatting in the darkness. Plastic bags could be restored to South Australian supermarket checkouts and the ugly word sustainability could be removed from the lexicon.”

But surface temperatures are still rising. The Catalyst program certainly stated this isn’t happening as fast as predicted, but this is because the extra solar energy is now being absorbed by the oceans.

Cater cynically dismissed this as irrelevant and claimed that “greenhouse forecasts had been vastly exaggerated”.

But that’s nonsense. The absorbed heat will cause sea levels to rise and increase the polar ice melting rate. If climate change isn’t mitigated, population centres in low-lying islands and countries like Bangladesh, as well as parts of many Australian state capitals and coastal towns, will almost certainly disappear beneath the rising sea within 80 years.

The conservatives’ ABC “program”

The conservative parties and the commercial mass media want the ABC to cease criticising and competing with them – especially in digital media, to which increasing numbers of Australians are now turning for news and entertainment.

But why would a viewer pay for digital commercial news broadcasts when they can get it free from the ABC? The ABC’s own cost-cutting measures have allowed it to introduce on-line news and program websites, the iview catch up service, two new digital TV channels, new digital radio channels and new podcast and vodcast Radio National broadcasts.

But all of that is now threatened by the funding cuts, and ABC management has hinted it may have to axe the TV current affairs programs Lateline and 7.30 Friday. The government wants the funding reductions to force the ABC to quit digital media, leaving the field free for commercial operators, and it claims that savings could be made immediately by trimming “back room” expenditure, rather than axing programs.

However, ABC management says that many of the review committee’s recommendations are impractical, and those that are viable would take years to implement, whereas the funding cuts are immediate.

Moreover, for each new iview service the ABC has to pay commercial firms for increased server capacity. The previous Labor government provided extra funds for this, but the Abbott government won’t.

The ABC has entered into cooperative agreements with the British based Guardian Australia and the Fairfax press. But cooperation with the ABC certainly wouldn’t suit The Australian.

Its incessant attacks on the ABC have had some effect on public opinion, but not enough for the government. Since 2008/2009 the proportion of respondents who thought the ABC provides a valuable service has fallen, but only by 4 points to 85 percent, while those who thought the ABC provides a balanced and even-handed news coverage has also fallen, but only by 5 points to 78 percent.

The government therefore decided to cut ABC funding by $35.5 million over four years. Several weeks ago it also terminated the ABC’s Australia Network, which broadcast to dozens of countries in the Asia/Pacific region.

Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News Australia immediately announced it was organising an overseas broadcasting service, the Australia Channel, which The Australian declared would “champion Australia’s business, trade and investment interests.”

The government may now deliver an annual “statement of expectations” to the ABC, and issue budget directions to the ABC and SBS, requiring them to stipulate further expenditure cuts. This would in effect violate the national broadcaster’s independence, and diminish its annual funding level.

Glenys Stradijot from the community group Friends of the ABC described the situation as alarming and said: “[The ABC’s] affairs must be managed by an independent board, and its accountability must remain to the Parliament, not to the government of the day”.

The Friends and other concerned organisations and individuals are campaigning to defeat the government’s plans for the ABC. They must succeed, because if they don’t the government will split the national broadcaster into a few small, isolated and impotent broadcasting units, and that will in effect bring to an end a crucial Australian public institution.

Next article – Poverty on rise: report

Back to index page

Go to What's On Go to Shop at CPA Go to Australian Marxist Review Go to Join the CPA Go to Subscribe to the Guardian Go to the CPA Maritime Branch website Go to the Resources section of our web site Go to the PDF of the Hot Earth booklet go to the World Federation of Trade Unions web site go to the Solidnet  web site Go to Find out more about the CPA