ABC Friends News

Ita — Political Interference with the ABC

The Chairperson of the ABC Board, Ita Buttrose, has accused the Federal Government of political interference in the ABC.

Ms. Buttrose may have been hand-picked by the government, but she continues to illustrate she’s not one to roll over.

She is now calling on the Senate to pass a motion to halt a new inquiry into the ABC’s complaints handling process which she says is attempting to intimidate and control the public broadcaster.

The ABC recently launched its own independent review of its complaints handling process, but a Senate Committee chaired by Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg has announced its own investigation.

In the statement, Ms. Buttrose said:

The inquiry into the ABC’s complaints handling process announced by Senate Communications Committee Chair, Senator Andrew Bragg, appears to be a blatant attempt to usurp the role of the ABC Board and undermine the operational independence of the ABC.

This is an act of political interference designed to intimidate the ABC and mute its role as this country’s most trusted source of public interest journalism. If politicians determine the operation of the national broadcaster’s complaints system, they can influence what is reported by the ABC.

READ THE FULL ITA BUTTROSE STATEMENT

The salvo follows another recent shot at the government which can be found in her foreword to this year’s ABC Annual Report.

 Referring to government policy to lift Australian content quotas for the commercial networks, Ita Buttrose wrote:

Last year, the Australian Government, seeking to lower the cost burden on Australias commercial free-to-air broadcasters, suspended quotas for Australian content. The aim was to bolster the free-to-air playerscompetitiveness against the international giants. Australians should be aware of these developments and what they mean for Australian stories and creativity.

 Strongly acknowledging the ABC’s astonishing accomplishments, as well as its staff’s adaptability during the pandemic, Ita Buttrose trumpeted the demonstrable success of the ABC over multiple channels.

THE FULL ANNUAL REPORT IS INCLUDED BELOW

 Ita Buttrose said:

The ABCs commitment to serving regional Australia and connecting all parts of the nation is unmatched by any other media organisation. In recent months, many local media and news providers have either withdrawn from regional Australia or closed down altogether, so much so that some places are at risk of becoming news deserts. There has been growing pressure on the ABC to fill the gap. 

The ABC recently signed letters of intent with both Google and Facebook for payments under the news media bargaining code that will enable the ABC to make new and significant investment to support public interest journalism in regional Australia. We are excited at the prospect of being able to do this and anticipate these agreements will be in place by the end of this year.

The ABCs commitment to Australian storytelling and public discussion is more vital now than it has ever been. We provide a safe space for Australians to consider and debate the issues that confront them, the perspectives they may not have considered, and what being Australian might mean. This helps Australians come together as a nation and strengthens us for the challenges and the opportunities ahead. 

Ita Buttrose is speaking at the ABC Friends Victoria Annual General Meeting, which is taking place online on Wednesday the 24th of November from 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm.