The Guardian • Issue #2058

Fill up the ABC tank!

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2058

There is not a lot left in the tank at the our national broadcaster, either financially or morally.

Financially, the Albanese government has not reversed the funding cuts of a previous near-decade of Liberal governments that seemed to hate the ABC for existing at all. Under the Liberals a funding freeze that amounted to a cut of $84 million forced the ABC to slash jobs and cut back programming last year. A total of $783 million was removed from ABC funding between 2014 and 2022. It was estimated that without change, the ABC’s accumulated lost funding from 2014 to 2024 would reach $1201 billion. Labor has slowed the decrease, but has not reversed the cuts.

Morally, the ABC’s independence faced sustained pressure from Liberal governments, also not properly reversed by an ALP that is also afraid of being too left-wing. Appointing far right hacks to the board resulted in pressure to promote right-wing voices far above their actual significance or representation in the population at large.

More insidiously, this pressure has had an effect on other ABC staff. People respond to pressure from the organisation they work for, and ABC staff are no exception. Star interviewer Sarah Ferguson devoted an entire program to interviewing white nationalist and Trump advisor Steve Bannon, assuring him that he wasn’t racist (Spoiler: Bannon is racist), while on the Triple J “Hack” program Tom Tilley platformed an Australian Nazi. The pressure also manifests less openly in a willingness of ABC programs to “both sides” an issue, placing a false equivalence between two positions just because they are two opposed positions and the program-maker, like the ABC doesn’t want to appear too “left-wing.”

The latest news on the ABC is not good. 120 roles are being made redundant, 41 of them are in news.  Naturally management is selling this as a positive. Managing Director David Anderson is pitching the redundancies as part of  an “integrated digital operation,” arguing that future audience engagement will  “predominantly be through our digital products.”  Digital is obviously important (that’s why this paper has a podcast), and the ABC has done a heroic job with digital given its’ meagre resources.

In a sign of the times, former Netflix executive, Chris Oliver-Taylor has been appointed to the new role of Chief Content Officer. Oliver-Taylor has gone from a start at the ABC to success with NBC and Fremantle Asia Pacific. The Managing Director of the ABC has described him as a “content leader.”

ABC news and the ABC are not just content. We don’t say this out of any Luddite-Boomer opposition to change. Communists appreciate the power of change, and are not about pointless nostalgia.

But anything on a screen can be “content.” If all the ABC did was provide more content, there wouldn’t be much point to it. Large companies already exist that fill our screens with content that passes the time.

The ABC should be something more. The ABC is there to inform Australians. It exists in order to help us see the world as it is. The ABC should be something more. The ABC is there to inform Australians. It exists in order to help us see the world as it is. The ABC charter talks about contributing to a sense of national identity.

The Communist Party of Australia’s Political Resolution of 2022 calls for “objective, dispassionate reporting and investigation” and for a “democratically controlled anti-monopoly and anti-imperialist media infrastructure.” When the ABC is good, it comes close to this.

Our national broadcaster should not have to choose between journalism and being a digital content provider. A properly resourced national broadcaster could add to Australia’s actual independence – maybe that’s why the American controlled NewsCorp hates it so much. A fully funded ABC could enhance all areas of our culture.

Fund the ABC!

The Guardian can also be viewed/downloaded in PDF format. View More