Our Public Broadcaster Under Threat – Again
At the Liberal Party Conference yesterday, members urged the Turnbull government to privatise the ABC, a move one Crossbench Senator said is confirmation of the government’s “secret plan” to sell off the public broadcaster.
I don’t believe their plan has ever been secret – it has been on their wish-list for years – especially after that IPA conference in 2012, emceed by Andrew Bolt with keynote speakers: Tony Abbott MP, Gina Rinehart and Rupert Murdoch!!
Abbott and his ilk are nothing but consistent idealogues and persistent.
The 2:1 vote among 100 MPs and Liberal Party members and the fact NOT ONE party member (including the sitting MPs) spoke in opposition to the motion speaks volumes about the Coalition’s goal to break-up and sell this important PUBLIC asset.
The Victorian Branch of the Liberal Party proposed the sale of the ABC as policy in 2013 and if the Coalition is elected again (state or federally), it looks as if they’ll get their wish.
The ABC has a charter, which states they are to inform, entertain and educate. They are funded by our taxes and are answerable to taxpayers. Commercial broadcasters exist to make a profit for their shareholders.
In Australia commercial media is mainly Murdoch media.
In 2013, when the Coalition were bleating about left-wing bias of the ABC there was a lot of research into the media in Australia:
“Rupert Murdoch controls 130 newspapers, owns 50% of 16 others, has digital media sites for most of them and publishes some 30 magazine titles throughout Australia. He also has interests in the news agency Australian Associated Press (AAP), FoxTel, Newspol, Festival Records, film production and distribution, DVD production and two National Rugby League teams. In Australia, control is exercised through News Limited, wholly owned by News Corporation Limited, an international media giant completely dominated by Murdoch. His son Lachlan is a non-executive chairman of Ten Network Holdings Limited, with TV stations in five State capital cities.”
Barry Tucker – Truth in Media blog
When Gina Rinehart bought into Fairfax, which owns the remaining newspapers, television and radio stations, it was no coincidence that the biggest debate in Australia at the time was over a price on carbon!
Mitchell Collier, the federal vice-president of the Young Liberals, who put up the motion yesterday, reportedly suggested the ABC could be sold to a “media mogul, a media organisation”, or it could be floated on the stock market. No guesses needed as to who that would be!
Do we really have such short memories – what David McKnight said at the time still applies if we sell our national broadcaster!!
‘The traditional justification for journalism has been that it can act as a watchdog on powerful government and corporations. What is now occurring is that representatives of one of the most powerful sectors in Australian society, the mining industry, are seeking to dominate one of the important accountability mechanisms in a democracy.”
The current minister overseeing the ABC, Senator Fifield has already made budget cuts of $254 million with the loss of 1000 jobs and he remained silent at the conference!
We need An Independent Voice Reporting & Investigating The News
The media monopolies ensure the wealthy and powerful have ease of access to express their points of view. The ABC is a much needed independent voice because so far community radio and television are too weak and lack resources to make much of an impact.
The growth of social media has increased the number of voices heard but with terms such as fake news and its reality, we still need to have a trusted source with professional journalists.
The Coalition have been bleating about the left-wing bias of the ABC for years and use this as a reason for privatisation. But to them, left-wing bias translates as being critical of business, especially big business and ironically Labor Party supporters accuse the ABC of right-wing or pro-government bias!
The industry’s four largest players, News Australia, Fairfax Media, Seven West Media and APN News and Media, are estimated to account for over 90% of industry revenue in 2015-16. The Australian media landscape is one of the most concentrated in the world. An extremely small number of firms, most notably News Australia and Fairfax Media, publish content that reaches the large majority of Australians.
Investigative Journalism a Necessity
Investigative journalism can only be done if the money and funding are made available to pay for the weeks of necessary digging. The editors of the Guardian newspaper, which has years of quality investigative journalism to its credit expressed a concern about this issue when newspapers started to go online and readers expected their news for free.
In the last Labor Government, Federal Minister, Stephen Conroy made sure any appointments to the ABC board and chairmanship were at arm’s length from the government. A committee including Gonski and Fels provided shortlists and suggestions during the overhaul. Conroy introduced and increased triennial funding and reaffirmed there would be no adverts – although for online it was ‘no ads on principal websites’.
That all changed once Abbott was elected.
The ABC Board and chairperson Michelle Guthrie need to know we want the broadcaster to remain in public hands, and advert free. Remember it was John Howard who sold Radio Australia to a born-again Christian group.
The funding to the ABC is never enough to do quality Australian drama hence so many imports from the BBC, but in today’s world there are increasing co-productions and changing commercial partners. However, if we want outstanding Australian drama such as the current series Mystery Road, it is vital we have a broadcaster willing to fight for Australian stories, Australian settings, Australian actors!
Keeping Every Bastard Honest
We must remember the value and achievements of the ABC regarding investigative journalism:
Investigative journalism is a form of journalism in which reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, such as serious crimes, political corruption, or corporate wrongdoing. An investigative journalist may spend months or years researching and preparing a report. Practitioners sometimes use the terms “watchdog reporting” or “accountability reporting”.
- like Chris Masters investigations for Four Corners: Big League (1983) sent the chief magistrate of NSW to prison,
- Moonlight State (1987) exposed and ended the corrupt rule of Bjelke Petersen in Queensland, and
- French Connections revealed the French Government’s deliberate sinking of The Rainbow Warrior making headlines throughout the world.
- The consistent high quality of Four Corners and other ABC programmes whether it be exposing companies like Adani, the extent of domestic violence, the corruption within banks, the live-baiting in the greyhound racing industry, flaws of the investigations of key gangland murders in Victoria, underpayment of workers in 7-Eleven and other franchises, horrendous conditions in aged care, the neglect of those with a disability, the scandal of the Murray Darling rorts …. the list goes on.
The contribution of SBS has also informed and educated by broadcasts such as the amazing documentary about disastrous economic and ecological effects of the oil spill by BP in the Gulf of Mexico, which ruined towns and livelihoods. The documentary revealed BP’s long history of stuffing up:
2003 their cost cutting meant old machinery not replaced, 2005 machinery over 70 years old produced disaster at a Texas oil refinery, and a huge spill in Alaska in 2006. Workers were told to remain silent or they’d not get compensation.
Only publicly funded news provides this much detail.
Only the ABC published information about the effectiveness of a carbon tax in 17 areas including Scandinavian countries and large provinces in USA and Canada and quoted esteemed British scientist Steven Hopper that ‘to plant a tree is the biggest personal contribution anyone can make to alleviate climate change. Every street should be an avenue.’
A message you will not hear on commercial networks (televsion and radio) whose owners worked consistently to malign, undermine and oust Julia Gillard as Prime Minister.
Chief of CSIRO (1992-2002), Graham Pearman, an international expert on climate change left the CSIRO in 2004 because the Howard Government refused to listen to his concerns and make long range plans to cope with migrants from the flooded Pacific Islands.
We of course had members of the current government (Abbott, Dutton and Morrison) laugh at Pacific islanders getting their feet wet in 2015 because of rising sea levels!
Why do governments believe that selling off public service companies is in the interest of the public? There has not been a single case where privatisation of a public enterprise becomes a success in terms of providing a better and more cost effective service. (the communications, electricity industries, Commonwealth and State banks, and even Centrelink examples…)
If the Coalition gets their way a privatised ABC will no longer bring us important documentaries or news. There will be less accountability for government departments and politicians, less exposure of corruption, less in-depth analysis of world news and how it affects Australia.
What Can We Do?
- Donate to or join the Friends of the ABC and protect the public broadcaster.
- Telephone, write a letter or email your local member of parliament AND Senator Fifield explaining your concerns, requesting a COMMITMENT to properly funding and resourcing an independent ABC.
Here is what I wrote in 2008 – yes the battle has been going on for a long time – feel free to copy any of the wording!
Dear ABC & SBS Review Panel
This submission is to request that the ABC is rebuilt to an organisational strength to be a producer of high quality content, be commercial-free, accessible to all and that it is well-funded.
It is important that the funding is such that the ABC is independent of
Government and commercial influences. This is particularly true of the fast growing Internet. There is no place for advertising on any ABC network or website.
The ABC must not engage in business activities that risk damaging public trust in its integrity, or influencing content, including the placement of ABC content on commercial websites or alongside commercial advertising. On air announcements should be limited to the ABC’s own services.
We need a public broadcaster that provides a service to all Australians without fee regardless of delivery platform. In this time-poor world, online
Is an essential way to access the ABCE and its archival material records the history of our nation and should be freely accessible to all.
The ABC has a reputation to uphold producing programs of cultural value and intellectual integrity. It should be the foremost producer of innovative quality content without having to rely on outsourced production in any program areas.
Being Australia’s open university the ABC plays a necessary and great role as educator. It is well-resourced to be at the forefront of technological change offering quality content on all delivery platforms: radio television and online.
The national services broadcasting matters of national significance, the regional services linking rural Australia and local services in cities and towns are all so important informing local communities. But also very important is the international presence we have with Radio Australia, a much needed and respected link to so many in countries and this service desperately and urgently needs rebuilt and increased funding.
The ABC Charter must not be changed in any way, which will diminish the ABCE or compromise its independence.
The ABC and SBS should remain separate entities – they have their own distinct voice. The ABC is a comprehensive broadcaster reflecting the full spectrum of interests of the Australian community and SBS focussing on multiculturalism gives Australia its diversity in this global world, representing the nature of our population.
Please support and fund these important broadcasters to ensure Australia’s art and culture advances and the benefits of democracy are reaped by all Australians and our geographical neighbours.
Mairi Neil, Mordialloc 3195.
The campaign has begun… social media galvanised – time to defend and befriend!