You can look at the ABC from two angles. The first being that, as our public broadcaster, is one of the most trusted news sources in the country. The second is that that trust is being slowly undermined and whittled away as the ABC becomes a tool for the Coalition to bat away or play down stories detrimental to the government. It is very clear that, if the Coalition are allowed to retain their position after the election, the ABC will be a shell of its former self.
As someone who defends the ABC and adamantly opposes any government interference in its editorial independence, I find there are issues with the broadcaster that all lead to the same conclusion. Gutted funding, restrictive and/or scripted reporting, a board stacked with private interests – some of whom do not have any media background – it’s little wonder that the ABC has slowly diminished over the last six years. As with all public assets, privatisation is obviously the end goal of the Coalition’s plan for the ABC, and they’ve done very well to bow down to the commercial stations and to Murdoch’s media empire.
From $30 million given to Foxtel without any known reason in 2017 to the $17.1 million being given to commercial networks to spread into the Pacific region, announced by Morrison last week in Fiji, we appear to be paying quite a substantial sum to private interests. The irony of the $17.1 million push overseas is that this is replacing the $220 million deal that spread the ABC across the islands, a deal cast aside by the Coalition in 2014. It is absolutely astounding that people dare say the ABC follows a ‘left wing’ narrative when it clearly does not. As if the scandal with Guthrie and Milne last year wasn’t proof enough, the top candidate for the next ABC Chair is likely to be the former CEO of Fairfax, Gregory Hywood. When set alongside the current holders, this is not a man we want making decisions for our public broadcaster. The downfall of Fairfax as a respectable news outlet was under his ‘leadership’, bringing mass unemployment due to ‘budget cuts’, setting up the merger with trash-TV Channel Nine, and jumping ship with an $8.2 million redundancy. Good for him, I guess, in the private sector, but such practices have no place in the ABC, and that he may get the job should terrify anyone who is concerned about the wretched state of Australian media.
In a fully functioning democracy, the public broadcaster should remain public and in the hands of the people, fully independent from any government or private concerns. For some time this has not been the case, and unless the Coalition is voted out in May, the ABC may not survive the next 4 years.
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