RANALD MACDONALD. The threat to public broadcasting in this country becomes more menacing by the day.

Those who say that the ABC will be around for years to come have their heads truly in a world of denial.

On top of the Government’s huge cuts to funding, with 1000 less employed today than four years ago, continual harassment and criticism, now the Federal Liberal Council meeting in Sydney (June 16) has, on a 2 to 1 vote, sought the selling off of the ABC.  

Oh what a happy world it must for commercial media rivals with the Government ensuring that the ABC is less able to perform to the highest standards – and how great the expectation of widespread editorial approval must be from Cabinet.

Yet, perhaps the public might have the final say with its concern about fake news, the potential loss of the range of programs the ABC is offering, and the domination of Murdoch and his loyal minions on what we are being presented as news.

There is the importance of ensuring a diversity of news sources available in our (currently) robust democracy.

It is interesting that after 125 pages in their IPA sponsored book Against Public Broadcasting (just released) promoting selling off of the ABC, the authors come to their conclusion that “the single largest impediment to privatising the ABC is public opinion”.

Brilliant.

But, what about the loss of an independent and courageous broadcaster? One that provides alternative radio and television programs for all Australians in the public interest – not just those that make a profit.

The decision to support selling off of the ABC, sadly promoted by the Young Liberals (not small ‘l’), is of real concern.

In the last report by the EU Commissioner for Human Rights, he states “that countries that have popular, well-funded public service broadcasters encounter less right wing extremism and corruption and have more press freedom……..

However, independence is the key”

Communications Minister Senator Fifield rightly says the Government is not bound by decisions of the peak Federal body of Liberal Party delegates, and others will obviously distance themselves from the vote

But, and, But again.

The vote was 66% of over 100 delegates from all round Australia and it continues the trend of the IPA and other right wing critics in trying to bully the ABC into submission with the astonishingly united support from News Limited journalists and committed commentators.

As well, Senator Mitch keeps saying that all the inquiries and proposed legislation are just “good housekeeping”, and that the ABC funding will be “adequate”.

Some signs for ABC Friends defending the ABC, while strongly encouraging it to do better, are promising in that very recent surveys conducted by the Australia Institute indicate the public wants an ABC, which can do its job i.e. more funding and less political interference

The Friends will be holding rallies all round Australia in July to indicate to the Government and the ABC’s critics they are playing with fire, with potentially dire consequences. Also, being non-political, to support the ALP in its “back the ABC” stance and reminding other parties and individual politicians unhappy with their own party leadership that those who support the ABC have a vote!

AND can get our vote.

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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