ABC Friends News


The ABC has complained to the Morrison government about a plan to give $17 million to commercial television networks, according to a story published today in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The article, written by Jennifer Duke and Broede Carmody says the public broadcaster is arguing that it should receive the handout, announced by Scott Morrison last year, to broadcast Australian content into the Pacific region.

It says the government is already negotiating with the FreeTV Australia group of commercial broadcasters about how to spend the money. The group had not sought the funding.

The article says:

ABC boss David Anderson believes the ABC is better placed to service the Pacific region over Australian commercial networks.

The Communications Department’s incoming government brief, which was drafted during the caretaker period and publicly released on Friday, reveals the ABC “wrote to the department in February expressing concern regarding the program”.

The program, called ‘Amplifying Australia’s Voice’, aims to bring 1000 hours a year of television content until 2020 to broadcasters in the South Pacific to “promote Australia and our values and help balance an increasing regional media presence of other nations in our region”.

The television shows that will be included have not been decided yet, sources said.

ABC Managing Director David Anderson is quoted as saying:  “We think it should be us … We think we’re best placed to expand any of those services through the Pacific region.”

The article continues:

The ABC, which has part of its $1 billion annual budget frozen by the government, argues that providing programming to the Pacific Islands falls within its charter obligations.

The ABC Charter specifically refers to transmitting to countries outside of Australia with news, current affairs, entertainment and cultural shows.

This is to “encourage awareness of Australia and an international understanding of Australian attitudes on world affairs” and enable citizens living overseas to access the content, the charter says.

Another concern, according to the handover documents, is that the program “pre-empts the outcomes of two reviews focusing on soft power and Australia’s media services in the Asia Pacific”. The ABC pushed for more funding in these reviews.

Last month, ABC managing director David Anderson told staff his preference was for the public broadcaster to expand its services into the Pacific region. The managing director said the government’s position was “up in the air”.

The Turnbull government’s 2018 budget imposed an indexation freeze, meaning there would be $84 million less funding than expected for the ABC under a forecast 3 per cent inflation rate.

Mr Anderson has previously warned the freeze would result in “inevitable” cuts and puts pressure on the public broadcaster’s staff and programming.

ABC Friends Victoria is campaigning to return full radio and television services in the Pacific and Asian regions so as to ensure Australia’s national interests are best served in a part of the world so crucial to our economic and geopolitical security.