The ABC Alumni organisation, which has been steadily growing over the past five years, held an important national meeting recently and resolved to join the political fight to preserve the public broadcaster.
Some of the biggest names in ABC broadcasting decided to conduct their own marginal seats campaign ahead of the next election to highlight concerns about the Liberal Party, which has a national policy of privatising the ABC.
The former presenter of ABC TV’s Media Watch, Jonathan Holmes, has been elected as the new chairperson of the Alumni, replacing journalist Matt Peacock.
Jonathan, who has also spent time as Executive Producer of Four Corners, Head of ABC Documentaries, and Executive Producer of Foreign Correspondent and The 7.30 Report, has kindly written a letter to members of ABC Friends Victoria, outlining how the Alumni aims to cooperate closely with us.
Jonathan Holmes writes:
Some five years ago Matt Peacock retired from the ABC, where he had been a veteran investigative reporter, and the staff-elected Director on the ABC Board.
Matt didn’t put his feet up. With former Australian Story producer Helen Grasswill and long-serving foreign correspondent Greg Wilesmith, he set up ABC Alumni to harness the skills and enthusiasm of others who had left the ABC. The goal: to help in any way they could to keep the national broadcaster vibrant, skilled and above all well-funded.
Within months, ABC Alumni had hundreds of members. Matt used his contacts and deep knowledge of the ABC to build trust and allies inside the Corporation, and in Canberra. Just two weeks ago, Managing Director David Anderson took part in an hour-long conversation with Alumni director Quentin Dempster, streamed live to Alumni members.
After years of hard work, Matt has decided to vacate the chair of ABC Alumni, and his fellow directors have elected me to step into his shoes. But Matt remains one of our six directors, and ABC Alumni’s goals haven’t changed.
Like ABC Friends, we are fervent supporters of the ABC.
Like the Friends, we’re not bound by the restrictions that surround the Corporation.
Like the Friends, at election time we’ll be out there in at least a few targeted electorates, trying to swing votes towards candidates, of whatever party, who support a well-funded public broadcaster – and against those who don’t.
We don’t have the numbers that the Friends can put into the field, but we do have some big names. Together, we can make a difference. I’m sure you all agree with me that in this age of disinformation; of collapse in the viability of ‘legacy’ commercial media, especially in the regions; of a Pacific in which the influence of China is steadily growing; of giant, mostly foreign-owned streaming services that are not required to produce more than a trickle of Australian-made drama, comedy and documentary; a well-funded ABC is more important than ever.
The ABC is the most trusted news brand in Australia, and its digital news service the most popular. Unfortunately – I wish it were not so – support for, or opposition to, the national broadcaster has become a party-political issue, at least inside the Canberra bubble.
But we at ABC Alumni believe that plenty of folk who vote for the Coalition, from Toorak to Tallangatta, agree that a billion taxpayer dollars a year for the national broadcaster is a bargain – and that the extra half billion a year that would be needed to restore the ABC’s funding to where it was before Tony Abbott won office in 2013 would be money well spent.
Better spent than the $700 million allocated for the 47 commuter car parks the government promised to build before the last election – more than half of them to be sited in coalition-held Victorian electorates.
Our job – ABC Alumni’s, and ABC Friends’ – is to make the ABC an issue, in as many electorates as we can, in every state and territory in the commonwealth.
— Jonathan Holmes, Chairperson, ABC Alumni
ABC Friends Victoria is certainly looking forward to drawing on the talent and experience at the ABC Alumni as part of a grand alliance of groups assembling to preserve our ABC.