RANALD MACDONALD. Defending the ABC

The ABC is not perfect but this country desperately needs an ABC able financially and committed to fulfilling its Charter requirements for all Australians. And for it to be free of political interference.

Saturday, July 1 marks the 85th birthday of the ABC. First the Australian Broadcasting Commission and then in 1983 it became the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Never in its existence has it been under greater threat.

ABC Friends nationally is leading a fight back against rapacious competitors and critics (of which the Murdoch Media Empire is by far the greatest) and of political opponents, plus the Institute of Public Affairs and various vitriolic right wing commentators.

Make no mistake about it, the right generally would like to see the ABC weakened or privatized or destroyed.  Rupert Murdoch and his cheer squad seek to benefit financially and in political influence if the ABC no longer ceases to exist or be able to compete.

The Coalition’s media law ‘reforms'( note the term as it really means  changes to benefit big media players) is yet another example with changes proposed to ownership to  allow access to high profile/rating events . This results from governments kowtowing to media proprietors.

ABC Friends is mounting a national campaign under the heading of ABC Defenders both in print and online which starts off with opinion leaders Julian Burnside, Rosie Batty, Fr. Bob Maguire and Marcia Langton saying why they have chosen to join the initiative – why they believe a strong and independent ABC is vital for democratic Australia.

The print ad featuring the First Defenders will be published in the Saturday Paper on July 1 – and then online and Facebook etc.

Others will join The Four as Defenders in what Friends hope is a campaign which will gain momentum leading into its national October Conference. There feedback will be provided to the ABC Board and Management on what Australians seek from their national broadcaster.

This weekend on Sunday, July 2 in Federation Square in Melbourne, Victorian Friends will meet to hear former Four Corners presenter Kerry O’Brien discuss his concerns over leadership nationally and internationally in these difficult times. (2.p.m. at Deakin Edge and all welcome).

Further, National ABC Friends President (Margaret Reynolds) will release a Vision Statement for public analysis and discussion over what we expect of our ABC.

A tribute will be made to the late and remarkable satirist John Clarke and also children’s’ television programming will be subject of analysis.

Put simply – the ABC has suffered funding cuts of $100 million a year since 2014 and also been subject to personal, unwarranted and ideologically driven attacks. Much of that criticism has come from the News Limited organization and a raft of commentators. Further, the Abbott government cancelled funding for the Australia Network one year into a ten year contract, thus restricting the ABC’s ability to report from Asia and the Pacific and for our Australian voice to be heard throughout the region.

So.  The objective of ABC Friends is to defend the ABC from its enemies – hence the Defenders Campaign – while, at the same time, seeking feedback from Australians everywhere on what they want from their ABC.

The next three months will be important for the ABC’s future direction and its level of support as we head towards the Friends’ Sydney meeting on October 7/8.  There, the results of the public consultation will be analyzed, compiled, published and passed on to the ABC and to the government.

Our message is simple.

The ABC is not perfect, but this country desperately needs an ABC able financially and committed to fulfilling its Charter requirements for all Australians.  And, for it to be free of political interference.

 

Ranald Macdonald is a former Managing Director and Editor in Chief of The Age newspaper. He is an ABC 3LO morning presenter  and Friend of the ABC.

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5 Responses to RANALD MACDONALD. Defending the ABC

  1. The ABC is under attack because the country has a political system based on single-member-electoral districts in the lower houses. This makes it possible for a faction of one party, currently the conservative faction of the Liberal Party to control the Government even tough it represents no more than 30% of the voters, possible less than 25%. This passes for democracy but it isn’t. Australia should adopt the Proportional Representation – Open Party List system common in many countries but NOT known here. It generally results in majority Government and representation of the large middle ground that is now completely missing out. 86 countries in the world have this system (yes 86). The only Anglo country that has it is New Zealand, since 1996. The other problem that needs to be addressed is the Westminster practice of appointing Governments only from ELECTED MPs, from these two major parties resulting in functional amateurism at the very top. Given that the membership of these two major parties is very, very small many Ministers simply do not have the capacity required to be effective.

  2. Wayne J McMillan says:

    An independent public broadcaster is an essential in any democracy.

  3. Jaquix says:

    Very pleased to hear about this marshalling of People Power to protect the ABC from political (and competitor) interference and cuts in funding. Otherwise its going to become a shadow of its former self. The value of Four Corners alone is inestimable. The recent one exposing the shameful dark side of the “retirement village” industry being one. Every one of the Four Corners programs are excellent and go where no commercial operator would bother, or want to go. During the last election campaign this time last year, I did feel that the editors/presenters were favouring the Coalition. They gave endless hours to Turnbull’s repetitious announcements of a funding of sporting fields and the like, and his Jobs and Growth slogan (though I note yesterday he claimed he “wasnt into political slogans”. Bill Shorten on the other hand was cut short at every opportunity. That is something they need to beware of. Chris Uhlmann for instance is an unashamed Coalition supporter, and he is the Political Editor! Lateline is excellent – I find it one of the best and its on late at night. If there was no ABC (or almost worse, advertising on it!) I would have no use for TV at all. SBS has been ruined by being allowed to have more advertising. The ABC is a wonderful resource for all Australians, and must be protected from the vandals who would love to see it axed.

  4. Peter Monie says:

    Ranald’s comments and genuine support for the ABC in its current predicament are timely. All the polls about the ABC, including Newspoll, confirm 85% support for our foremost national cultural institution.

    Everyone should become an ABC Defender.

  5. I was stunned about the Australia Network cut, in a time of radical changes in Asian countries. Understanding each other, trading, cultural exchanges are in all our interests.
    I would love to see ABC have learning Asian languages
    In that revived network. The States are woefully inadequate in providing teachers of Mandarin etc

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