One of the major talking points from the Liberal Federal Council meeting yesterday was the motion passed by delegates by a margin of 2 to 1 to privatise the ABC except in regional areas. The motion stated, “That federal council calls for the full privatisation of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, except for services into regional areas that are not commercially viable.”
It was sponsored by federal vice president of the Young Liberals Mitchell Collier who argued that “Privatising it would save the federal budget $1 billion a year, could pay off debt and would enhance, not diminish, the Australian media landscape” and the fact that it has been part of Australian culture for so long shouldn’t be taken into account “High sentimentality is no justification for preserving the status quo”.
Collier proposed several ways the ABC could be sold off “we could sell it to a media mogul, a media organisation, the government could sell it on the stock market”.
Motions at Federal Council are not binding on the parliamentary Liberal Party and Treasurer Scott Morrison quashed the idea of privatising the ABC within hours of the motion being passed “The Government has no plans to privatise the ABC”. The motion was also opposed by Communications Minister Mitch Fifield who despite his recent runs with the ABC over the bias of its programming said that privatizing the ABC would not be government policy.
Despite this pledge of support for the ABC from Morrison and Fifield the ABC and their friends have called the Turnbull Government enemies of public broadcasting. The ABC and the Labor Party attacked the freezing of ABC funding increases over a three year period announced in the federal government which will see it receive $83.7 million less during the 2019-22 financial cycle.
Bill Shorten before he went on the ABC’s flagship program Q&A announced that a Shorten Labor Government would reserve Turnbull’s unfair cuts to the ABC and Labor launched a campaign website on the issue savetheabc.org.au.
Labor thinks they are onto a winner with this issue as all Labor MPs bounced on the motion passed at the Liberal Federal Council by claiming by only voting for Labor Government would the ABC be saved.
The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance which is the peak union for the creative industries have already created a Facebook frame stating ‘Hands off our ABC’ along with their own campaign website.
Despite ABC Television and Radio always lagging behind in the ratings, privatisation of the ABC and its sister station SBS as always been opposed by voters when asked in polls. An Essential Poll in 2014 found that only 21% supported privatization while 64% opposed.
While full privatization may be too difficult to sell to the electorate certainly there is a strong case for a slimmed down ABC and to have it only provide essential services to the Australian public. It should not cost taxpayers’$1 billion a year and despite the claims of ABC Management there are plenty of areas to cut. The ABC currently with 4 television stations and 5 national radio networks is certainly too big and crowding out private media and stifling innovation.
Do we need an ABC Comedy channel? Based on the comedy programs it puts on the answer is clearly no, the comics it promotes as the next generation is a case of government picking winners and losers rather than letting consumers decided which comedy they want to enjoy. The same can be said of Triple J and the effect it has on who succeeds in the Australian music industry. Commerical comedy channels and music stations have been around for decades.
Even the ABC’s production and broadcast of children’s programming cannot be justified, especially given the social justice propaganda it has been putting out. Disney and Nickelodeon have found it financially viable to produce quality children’s programming.
That would leave the ABC with three essential functions: news and current affairs, regional news and programming and emergency broadcasts for fires and other natural disasters. Despite the bias of its news coverage at times commercial networks do not produce news programs like 7.30, Four Corners, Landline and Catalyst.
Also in the age of the internet paywall, it can be argued that all Australians should be allowed access to current news free of charge. To do this you could simply have one ABC News and Current Affairs TV channel and one ABC Local Radio Network. It would be a workable compromise which would remove the current excesses and largesses at the ABC while still delivering services the Australia public still value.
Should the ABC be simply slimmed down or can it no longer be trusted to deliver any services free from bias and would the private sector do a better job? Have your say in our poll.