Ranald Macdonald. The ABC and SBS are under attack.

Oct 25, 2015

Now is the time to support the ABC and SBS and the reasons are clear for all to see.

Our new Prime Minister has the chance of reversing decisions made during the Abbott leadership – but with him as the Communications Minister.

Public broadcasting is under attack in many countries. The BBC has been particularly targeted by the Murdoch media in the UK to devastating effect by a grateful Conservative Government. In the USA support has been cut by Republican State leaderships and here in Australia – surprise, surprise – the ‘Murdoch factor’ has resulted in the ABC and SBS pondering a lean and restricted future.

The Friends of the ABC has launched a National Campaign to ensure it has the funds to both defend the ABC and to lobby for an ABC which serves all Australians as required under its Charter.

Already, by capricious decision of Foreign Minister Bishop who broke the Australia Network contract, the ABC has lost its ability to both report Asia and the Pacific and also to project an Australian voice to our Northern neighbours.

The result – less of our outstanding foreign correspondents, a dismembered Radio Australia and 500 jobs lost, plus hundreds of millions of dollars in funding.

Australians deserve better – and we are calling on both the new PM and the Labor Opposition to right the wrongs – though Malcolm Turnbull introduced the cuts and arm-twisting of the ABC  took place.

NO CUTS, Abbott trumpeted before the election – and our new PM now has the opportunity to rectify the situation.

The BBC is a fascinating case study for us here in Australia . PM David Cameron rewarded the Murdoch Empire (which just happens to dominate BSkyB and wants total control of it)  with a first raft of cuts immediately he reached Number 10. With his Murdoch-supported re-election, further cuts introduced of some 20% (with more in the wings) will ensure a lesser competitive corporation. (I have just returned from the UK and the pressure on the BBC is palpable).

The parallels with Australia are obvious. In both countries, the international reporting and penetration has been heavily affected, with the suggestion from Government Ministers that the new media should be left to ‘Private Enterprise’. In other words, slow down public broadcasting with a view to its demise, while News Limited flourishes.

Yet Russia, China and Al Jazeera are upping their television budgets – and our neighbors in New Zealand are rushing to fill the broadcasting gap left in South East Asia and the Pacific by the forced retreat of the ABC.

That is why the National Campaign by the ABC Friends – explained in half page ads in the SMH and The Melbourne Age on next Saturday, October 31 – is crucial for democracy and for all Australians who want independent, properly resourced national broadcasting producing quality programs for everyone– children, rural and provincial, those interested in the arts, drama, sport, documentaries and who seek in-depth and authoritative news coverage and analysis.

Once we weaken or lose our independent public broadcasters and the economic rationalists take control, we will mourn the passing of a vital part of democratic Australia. Both the ABC and SBS serve Australia’s interests.

The battle is ideological, political and also very much driven by those who would benefit from less competition.

Ranald Macdonald is a Friend of the ABC. He was formerly Managing Director of David Syme, the publisher of The Age.   .


For those who miss the Friends ad. On Saturday – Join the Friends State organisations, Donate to the National Fighting Fund and become Supporters of the ABC NOW – through the website www.abcfriends.org.au, or by calling any hour on 0498 111 258, 0498 111 259 or 0498 111 261 and talk to friendly volunteers.


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