It’s our ABC, but it’s his government: what will Turnbull do?

Written by admin on 06/07/2018 Categories: 南京夜网

Ranald Macdonald: impact on programming clear to see. Photo: Greg Noakes

Ranald Macdonald: impact on programming clear to see. Photo: Greg Noakes

Ranald Macdonald: impact on programming clear to see. Photo: Greg Noakes

Ranald Macdonald: impact on programming clear to see. Photo: Greg Noakes

The federal government is under renewed pressure to redress hefty funding cuts to the ABC in a national media campaign launched on Saturday.

Buoyed by a renewed optimism since the ascension of former communications minister Malcolm Turnbull to the prime ministership, ABC Friends has placed advertisements in Fairfax newspapers calling for the national broadcaster’s funding to be restored.

“Damage to the ABC during the Abbott government years (and, of course, while Malcolm Turnbull was communications minister) has been extensive,” the advertisement reads. “Despite pre-election promises, cuts to the ABC have resulted in some 500 talented employees being lost to us, plus hundreds of millions of dollars taken from operational and programming budgets, yet the ABC must be able to compete in the rapidly changing media world.”

Late last year the Abbott government announced a $254 million cut to the ABC’s funding over five years, a cut of 4.6 per cent to its budget. At the time, Mr Turnbull, in his role as communications minister, insisted that the cuts could be made to operations rather than programming.

But Ranald Macdonald, a former ABC radio morning presenter and managing director of The Age who is now a member of ABC Friends Victoria, said the impact on programming had been “clear for everyone to see”. He particularly lamented the Australia Network, the loss of which, he argued, had made the broadcaster more Sydney-centric and hindered its ability to fulfil its charter obligations to rural and regional Australians. He believed the loss had been “a really serious blow to Australia”.

Moreover, he said the national broadcaster needed to be funded in such a way that would allow it to compete in the new media landscape.

“Democratic Australia needs an alternative to the increased impact of the Murdoch empire and we believe, therefore, that the ABC needs a strong independent voice,” Mr Macdonald said.

The ABC has an important few months ahead. It must appoint a new managing director, as incumbent Mark Scott has announced that he will step down in the middle of next year. And negotiations are underway for the ABC’s new triennial funding agreement, which will be announced in next year’s federal budget.

Mr Macdonald said he hoped that Mr Turnbull would “return to his small ‘l’ liberal ideals” and restore the lost funding, although given that the ABC has shed over 500 jobs and had to cut services to meet its tightened budget, “much of the damage has already been done”.

He likened the ABC’s situation to cuts that have been inflicted on the BBC by David Cameron’s conservative UK government, which Mr Macdonald argued had been done to appease the Murdoch media empire.

Relations between the Abbott government and the ABC were particularly strained, perhaps reaching their nadir when ministers were temporarily banned from appearing on panel show Q&A. The then-prime minister was its most strident critic, accusing it of being biased and even unpatriotic.

“A lot of people feel at the moment that the ABC instinctively takes everyone’s side but Australia’s,” he told Ray Hadley on Sydney radio station 2GB early last year.

Mr Macdonald said that even though he was a “friend” of the ABC, he also readily conceded that there were areas in which the broadcaster could improve.

“Of course there are so many things that can be done better,” he said. “But the term ‘friends’ means that you defend but also means that you give some constructive advice as to how to improve.”

But media analyst Steve Allen of Fusion Strategy said the cuts to the ABC’s budget that had already been implemented had not had a deleterious effect on programming or ratings; the broadcaster is having “quite an OK year” for ratings and, compared with commercial channels Seven and Nine, was actually having a good year. Given that, he believed that if the government were to go back on the funding cuts already announced, it would be a serious folly.

A spokesperson for Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said: “The government appreciates the significant relationship the ABC has with Australians, particularly in rural and regional areas, and is committed to appropriately resourcing the public broadcasters to efficiently use taxpayer resources.”

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