Almost immediately after the Federal Budget was delivered last night ABC Managing Director Michelle Guthrie decried the fact that ABC operational funding would be frozen from 2019-22 in an email to ABC staff. This will result in the ABC receiving $83.7 million less from the federal government, it’s total funding over that 3 year period would still be $3.16 billion.
Guthrie said she was “very disappointed and concerned” about what she termed substantial budget cuts which would make it “very difficult for the ABC to meet its charter requirements and audience expectations”.
Today ABC News Director Gaven Morris in a staff memo claimed that $43 million was also being cut from its enhanced news gathering initiative and threatened to cut a substantial number of news bureaus and units such as “regional newsgathering resources and suburban news bureaus in Geelong, Ipswich, Gosford and Parramatta, the ABC Investigations team, the Specialist Reporting Team, the RMIT ABC Fact Check unit”.
This $43 million news division cut was repeated by other mainstream media outlets which resulted in Communications Minister Mitch Fifield taking to Facebook to call it fake news, claiming no decision has been made on funding for enhanced news services in 2019-22 because the ABC has not applied for the funding to be renewed.
When the ABC has its funding frozen or is asked to make an efficiency dividend the ABC never tries to cut waste but threatens to cut what most Australians would consider its most vital service: news and current affairs. Last year it axed news program Lateline yet has just renewed its ABC Comedy program Tonightly, despite the show being involved in a number of controversies and accusations of bias.
While many critics of the ABC celebrated this funding freeze in this year’s budget at the same time the federal government increased funding to the nation’s other public broadcaster SBS by $14.6 million over 2 years. The reason for this is to replace revenue that could not be raised by further advertising flexibility as legislation to allow it was not passed by the Parliament.
Also in the budget was an increase in funding for Australia’s film and creative industry worth $140 million over four years beginning in 2019-20. The funding is in the form of a Location Incentive for film producers designed to attract large budget international productions to Australia.
The federal government predicts that the Location Incentive will bring in over $260 million in new foreign investment, create over 3,000 jobs in the local film industry and have a flow on effect of supporting 6,000 local businesses in film location areas. The Location Incentive will result in the current Location Offset incentive for film producers increasing from 16.5 percent to 30 percent for eligible large budget international production beginning July 1, 2018.
Mitch Fifield was certainly excited about this budget measure announcing it at Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast with Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Ciobo and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. He spoke highly of our film industry employees in this Facebook video.
So despite the news cycle being dominated by so-called cuts to the ABC, the Turnbull Government in this year’s budget overall increased funding to the news and entertainment industry during the period of 2019-22. While many of the right question the benefit of subsidizing the arts it is much preferable that government funding goes to film production (which is not all Hollywood social justice propaganda) rather than what the ABC has produced of late.