John Menadue. Malcolm Turnbull and rebuilding the ABC

Our new prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull has a chance to repair the damage that was done to the ABC when he was the minister in charge. Malcolm Turnbull was unable to stop Tony Abbott’s cultural war on the ABC which was aided and abetted by Rupert Murdoch.

Today, Friends of the ABC published an advertisement in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald calling on the public to ‘support the rebuilding of the ABC (and protect SBS)’. This advertisement highlights the recent damage that has been done to the ABC

  • Severe cuts to the budget.
  • Terminating the ten year contract between the ABC’s Australian Network and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to run the Asia Pacific Television Service. As a result Australia’s voice in the region has been muted and our engagement set back.
  • Over 500 staff have been retrenched. There will be less in-depth programs and more reliance on overseas news services, reduced rural coverage and centralisation of programs in Sydney.

Rebuilding is necessary because the ABC plays a vital role in this country. What a barren media landscape we would have without the ABC and SBS. Our public broadcasters are unique and important, even if Murdoch would like to get rid of them and give his organisation even more media dominance.

Australians trust the ABC.

Essential Research in January this year asked Australians what trust they had in some key institutions. The research showed that the ABC and the High Court topped the list of the most trusted institutions with 53%, followed by the Reserve Bank at 48%. Newspapers well down the list at 30% and the ‘news media’ at 25%.

Looking specifically at the media. Essential Research found ’a lot or some trust in the media’ as follows:

ABC TV news and current affairs                               70%
ABC radio news and current affairs                           63%
ABC talk-back programs                                              46%
Commercial news and current affairs                       38%
News and opinion in daily newspapers                    48%
Commercial TV news and current affairs                 41%
Commercial radio talk-back                                        31%

For ‘a lot or some trust’ in particular newspapers rankings were as follows:

Melbourne Age (Victoria only)                                    68%
The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW only)                 64%
The Australian                                                                64%
Courier Mail (Queensland only)                                  59%
Herald Sun (Victoria only)                                            48%
The Daily Telegraph (NSW only)                                 41%

One unfortunate feature of Australian media with it’s under resourced journalists is its heavy reliance on information and propaganda put out by vested interests. The Australian Centre for Independent Journalism at UTS Sydney found in a survey of major metropolitan newspapers published in Australia in 2010 that 55% of content was driven by public relations handouts from lobbyists and their associated public relations arms and 24% of the content of those metropolitan newspapers had no significant journalistic input whatsoever … relying heavily on public relations handouts.

Rebuilding the ABC and repairing recent damage is urgent. No media does it better than the ABC but it is under increasing pressure and attack.

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