As an editor helping steer an independent publication, I understand the need for a strong, government-funded national broadcaster with independent editorial free rein in terms of the content it produces and airs.
Ok, I hear sniggers and cynical laughs from those who believe Aunty is as left as it comes, no matter who is in government, and to a degree I understand this – at times the ABC does feel more left-centric in the way and in terms of what it reports.
But you can stifle those sniggers because two independent audits have exonerated the ABC from any sense of bias.
Maybe this alleged left-leaning nature is more about what the ABC is set up to do – take a look at II (6) of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983:
(1) The functions of the Corporation are:
(a) to provide within Australia innovative and comprehensive broadcasting services of a high standard as part of the Australian broadcasting system consisting of national, commercial and community sectors and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, to provide:
(i) broadcasting programs that contribute to a sense of national identity and inform and entertain, and reflect the cultural diversity of, the Australian community; and
(ii) broadcasting programs of an educational nature;
(b) to transmit to countries outside Australia broadcasting programs of news, current affairs, entertainment and cultural enrichment that will:
(i) encourage awareness of Australia and an international understanding of Australian attitudes on world affairs; and
(ii) enable Australian citizens living or travelling outside Australia to obtain information about Australian affairs and Australian attitudes on world affairs; and
(ba) to provide digital media services; and
(c) to encourage and promote the musical, dramatic and other performing arts in Australia.
Pretty clear, even for boring legislative blahblah. Effectively – an “ABC for Australians, both in and out of Australia, with content quite often about Australians or Australia.”
Both sides of politics would say they support this set of core functions of the ABC, and yet dig a little deeper into the wording and it’s hard to deny that the charter seems somewhat more in alignment with a socially-progressive party (ie The ALP) whose core beliefs centre around a “commitment to fairness at work, access to quality education no matter what a person’s circumstances and a firm belief that we should all have the same opportunities in life underpin what we do” rather than a Coalition that holds that “wherever possible, government should not compete with an efficient private sector; and that businesses and individuals – not government – are the true creators of wealth and employment.”
Last weekend GetUp! organised small protests against ABC cuts in both Melbourne and Sydney, and today delivered a petition against ABC cuts in the upcoming budget – 250,000 signatures, hand delivered to the offices of 60 NSW MP’s, including Wentworth, the electorate of Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in an effort to show the groundswell of support the ABC has with those it serves – the Australian people.
And that’s the crux of it really – the ABC is to serve Australians, in they city and the bush, at home and abroad, one and all – not the political parties, and certainly NOT anyone in the private sector (sorry Uncle Rup’).
This is not to say that the ABC shouldn’t be run efficiently and within budget – we deserve bang for our buck. However, given the overt, ongoing antagonism between the ABC and the Coalition, any ABC cuts will only be seen as some form of admonition and punishment from the Abbott government for the perceived Left-bias the ABC has.
There will also be those who fear such cuts also stem from pressure from certain private interests (Ok, you know I mean the Murdoch empire, still bitter about the botched tendering process over the Australian Network, and whose press wildly support just about everything the right side of politics does), rather than being part of a series of belt-tightening cuts contained within Joe Hockey’s #emergencybudget.
What do you think?
(Also take a read of Karl Nicholas piece on #qandaprotest)