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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John Laurence Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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