ABC Board Chair Ita Buttrose has mounted a strong and public defence of the ABC and its funding – a development welcomed by ABC Friends Victoria.
But as she did so, more evidence emerged of the government’s determination to destroy our public broadcaster, in spite of its widespread public support.
Buttrose called out the government for not regarding an indexation freeze as resulting in a budget reduction.
“Let me clarify the cuts because there seems to be some confusion in government circles about them,” she said.
It has also emerged that Ita Buttrose wrote a stern letter to Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, accusing him of failing to provide data and modeling on potential savings at the public broadcaster for nine months.
Further evidence of the government’s ideological attack on the ABC, evidence emerged that the ABC offered to expand its regional coverage if the indexation freeze could be lifted.
THE SATURDAY PAPER reports that the government is paying for a secret anti-ABC study:
Two days before the ABC confirmed that up to 250 jobs will be cut across the organisation, the federal government finalised a $200,000 offer for consultants to prepare a report on news and media business models looking specifically at the impact of public broadcasters “on commercial operators”.
An approach to market for the report was closed on Monday, with the federal Communications Department under minister Paul Fletcher requesting the successful bidder evaluate failed, successful and emerging news media operating models from around the world.
As it happens, a key requirement of the research, due before the end of August, is also a hobby horse of the ABC’s commercial rivals.
The tender asks consultants to examine “the role of publicly-funded (non-commercial) media organisations in the production and dissemination of news and media content in the comparable jurisdictions, and the impacts and interactions of publicly-funded entities with commercial operators”.
This is the argument News Corp makes against the ABC: that it is cutting into the audiences of commercial enterprises such as Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers, websites and pay television business.
The Channel 9 newspapers also report that proposals for the ABC to expand regional coverage were both ignored, and kept secret from the Nationals in parliament.
THE AGE reported:
The ABC put forward two proposals offering to open more regional Australian studios, expand its coverage
of remote communities and hire more journalists in rural areas in return for the federal government
dumping its decision to freeze annual funding indexation.
Correspondence between ABC managing director David Anderson and Communications Minister Paul
Fletcher, seen by The Age, shows the national broadcaster was prepared to invest tens of millions of
dollars more outside capital city centres if the Morrison government was prepared to reverse its budget
In a proposal made after the devastating bushfires in January, ABC management told Mr Fletcher the
national broadcaster would be able to find $10 million a year to employ more regional journalists if
indexation was restored.
Mr Anderson’s letter, sent to Mr Fletcher on January 24, said he was writing to ask the government to
consider a reversal of the indexation pause, which is expected to cost the broadcaster up to $84 million
over three years, to safeguard the future sustainability of the ABC.
‘‘If indexation was restored, combined with savings and efficiencies that the ABC has identified in recent
months, the corporation would be in a position to commit an additional investment of up to $10 million per
annum to employ more journalists in regional Australia and generate more content from regions for the
local and national stories,’’ Mr Anderson wrote.
Several government sources have confirmed Mr Fletcher did not reply to the letter, nor did he
discuss the proposal with the ABC or his National Party colleagues, who have constantly raised
concerns over the future of regional media outlets, following a spate of natural disasters including
the summer fires.