What’s next for the ABC (and Friends)?

We are already moving from the warm glow of relief to growing and unrealistic expectations of the new federal government. They have hit the ground running, but the ground is moving underneath them, including with the ABC.

It would be hard for the new government to have a worse attitude towards the ABC than its predecessor. We will probably not see the levels of budget cuts, political interference, and intimidating reporting under the new ALP government. The new Communications Minister has some background in the portfolio (see piece in this newsletter here) and the election campaign promises of the ALP on the ABC were (marginally) better that than those of the Coalition. Not as good as the Greens or the Teal Independents, but at least better than the Coalition.

It may take some time for the ABC to recover from the battering of the past few years. It has lost good people, good programs, and has lost some of the feisty independence which should characterise a national public broadcaster. It is time for repair and renewal, and we all have a role to play in helping the ABC recover. The scrutiny that goes with being a public service applies to the ABC as well as the government.

As the election results are finalised it seems that the new parliament will have a clear majority of pro-ABC members. Barry Jones’ summary of the election results can be found here. This presents a golden opportunity for parliament to shore up the ABC’s independence and security with appropriate legislation for 5 year full funding, independent Board appointments, and reliable rural and regional services (including secure transmission). The fewer elements of the ABC that are vulnerable to political whimsy the better.

Role of ABC friends

The enemies of the ABC are not going to go away. News Ltd may not have got the election result they demanded (see piece in this newsletter on Murdoch’s impotence here) but they will continue to try to attack and undermine the ABC at every opportunity. The Institute for Public Affairs (IPA) is dedicated to privatisation of the ABC. And the Federal Council of the Liberal Party still has a policy to privatise the ABC. One election loss will not diminish their anti-ABC ideology.

The task of ABC Friends is now threefold:

  1. We need to continue our defence and support of the ABC (as a critical friend) at every opportunity. Every government has occasions when they are unhappy with being held to account and they will try to curb the ABC. We need to be vigilant and constantly alert.
  2. We need expand our reach into new communities with new Groups. The Teal Independents are part of a rise in community cohesion building, including new community media (PS Media is coming – watch this space) and ABC Friends needs to be part of the movement, and
  3. We need to attract the next generation to understand and support the need for publically funded media (including the ABC). This is a long term educational and awareness raising challenge, and we need to be better at the social media channels on which young people depend.

These are all big jobs for the next few years, and we hope you will stay the course with us.