ABC stop-gap funding an election ploy
In a carefully targeted election tactic, last week's Federal Budget announced an additional $71.2 million of funding to the ABC over the next four years. This amounts to $17.8 million per year. The Friends of the ABC (FABC) pointed out that such opportunistic means of funding the national broadcaster has a destabilising effect and does not address the fundamental issue of the need for proper, ongoing funding. "The Federal Government has realised that the ABC is an election issue", said FABC national spokesperson, Darce Cassidy. "In the short term an additional $17.8 million for the ABC is welcome. But in the long term this on-and-off funding destabilises the ABC." Mr Cassidy recalled that before the 1996 election — when the Howard Government first came to office — it promised to maintain ABC funding. Following the election it cut the ABC's yearly funding base by $66 million. "Responding to public pressure they have now restored $17.8 million, but only for four years. At the end of that time the funding see-saw will hit the bottom with a thud." The ABC's triennial funding submission for 2000-2003 requested $194 million so as to provide content for existing services and to begin production of programs for its digital television services. There was also a request for an additional $37 million to fund new program initiatives, mostly for regional areas. The FABC asks, if these initiatives now proceed, what will happen when the funds dry up in four years? Will they be abandoned, or will other areas of the ABC's output be cut to make up for the loss of the $17.8 million? "The ABC does not need this kind of stop-go funding", said Mr Cassidy. "All the political parties now realise that the ABC is an election issue. In the lead up to the election the FABC will be mobilising our 14,000 members. "We will seek a commitment from all parties that the ABC funding base will be restored to pre-1996 levels, on an ongoing basis, and that a mechanism will be developed to de-politicise the ABC Board."