The Guardian May 30, 2001

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."

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