The ABC is still complaining about its funding freeze that was announced in the federal budget. The ABC will receive $83.7 million less over the 2019-22 period however it’s total funding during that period will still be $3.16 billion. ABC Managing Director Michelle Guthrie immediately after the budget wrote to ABC staff claiming that the funding freeze would make it “very difficult for the ABC to meet its charter requirements and audience expectations”.
ABC News Director Gaven Morris threatened to close 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 claiming that there “is no more fat left to cut” and any further reductions in funding would “cut into the muscle of the organisation”.
However a story by News Corp this week revealed the ABC rewarded 189 of its employees on executive pay grades more than $2.2 million in bonuses and 200 non-executive employees $384,989 in bonuses. The ABC’s 2016-17 annual report also showed it spent more than $10 million in market research and promotion and more than $1.5 million on consultancy firms.
The ABC always claims it is not concerned with ratings, rather just producing content in the public interest. Therefore expenditure on marketing and promotion would appear hard to justify. The only time it might be appropriate would be when the ABC is trying to onsell its programming to international broadcasters, selling its DVDs (which are becoming obsolete) or programming merchandise. It would be difficult to argue that promoting those products costs $10 million.
It has previously been revealed the ABC is controversially engaging in search engine marketing where it aims to push its commercial media counterparts out of search engine results using services such as Google AdWords. The ABC defended using taxpayer money for this arguing “This is normal marketing behaviour in the digital space and is critical to ensuring audiences find relevant content”. The ABC is again paying for rankings in web searches for the royal wedding this weekend.
The above expenditures would reveal there is plenty of fat to cut at the ABC, but of course, when faced with funding freezes or efficiency reviews the ABC threatens to cut its most valued services such as news and current affairs. It is not just its left-wing bias that conservatives have a problem with but also that it is far too big and provides news and entertainment services that could easily be provided by the private sector more cost-effectively and at a higher quality.
The ABC has four television stations and five radio networks. It’s local radio stations people from all political persuasions would agree are essential services, especially in regional areas and that is reflected in their strong ratings. However its national networks ABC Radio National and ABC News Radio both rate poorly and are some of the worst examples of left-wing bias. They could easily be merged without any diminishing of essential content production.
Two of its television stations ABC Comedy and ABC ME have been strongly criticised for its poor content and left-wing bias. ABC Comedy has not only been criticised for the abuse of conservative that its flagship program Tonightly broadcasts but comedians it is promoting as the next generation of comedy are just not funny and is stifling other forms of comedy by picking and choosing winners. It often shows reruns of commercially produced comedies and could be an easy source of savings.
ABC ME its children’s channel aimed at tweens and young teenagers and recently deleted its Facebook page after the backlash to its Privilege Bridge video and its attempts to indoctrinate children into the LGBT lifestyle. It could easily be merged with the ABC Kids channel which so far has been free from such influence.
ABC programming as a whole is known for the vast amount of producers it employees (serving on just that one program) when commercial rivals such as Sky News operate daily programming from the one office with the same production team.
This is only a short list of suggested areas to cut. The ABC could still continue with its news and current affairs function, its regional content, culture and documentary production and proper educational children’s programming with a reduced budget. The main barrier to ABC reform, however, is the ABC has legislated independence from the federal government and cannot direct how the ABC spends its budget. It basically writes the ABC a blank cheque to do what it wishes.
Until the ABC has management which actually looks at ways to save money rather than spend it these examples of ABC extravegance and waste will continue.