FABC letter to ABC Chairman 23 October 2000

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Friends of the ABC GPO Box 4065MM Melbourne, Vic, 3001 23 October 2000

Mr Donald McDonald Chairman Australian Broadcasing Corporation GPO Box 9994 Sydney, NSW, 2001

Dear Donald,

Thank you for letter of 5 October. You mentIon in that letter the Board is yet to consider the Issue of advertising on ABC Online. Does this mean the Board plans to reconsider its position? You will recall the ABC's then acting head of Corporate Planning and Communications, Dr Julianne Schulz, In evidence before the Senate Inquiry into ABC online said: "The (ABC) Board has consistently taken the view that ABC Online should be treated as every other network -that is, that it has not allowed advertising to appear on the online service."

FABC supports the Board's policy on advertising which was enunciated by Dr Schultz. In our view a reversal of this policy would seriously undermine the independence of the ABC.

In your reply, you expressed concern that FABC's previous letter was reported in the media. I am sorry that the substance of it was published in the press before you received it. but FABC believes its operations should be transparent. Much of its significant correspondence is published on our website, and on occasion drawn to the attention of journalists.

We agree with your comment that our reaction to the restructure of the ABC has been based largely on information reported in the media. This was a matter which we raIsed in our earlier letter and the reason we seek information from you.

FABC appreciated the opportunity to meet with Mr Shier in June. We look forward to Mr Shier's address to the Friends of the ABC in Melbourne.

In a previous letter FABC sought your assurance that ABC current affairs will not be downgraded. Since our letter, there have been further worrying media reports that there will be severe cuts to the ABC's news and current affairs budget. As, to the best of our knowledge, there have been no recent cuts to the overall budget, we would like to know the reason cuts to this critical area are being considered. Will the board prevent a reduction in current affairs broadcast hours, current affairs being rescheduled to less accessed time-slots, and its content and style being changed in a way which results in it being less probing on important political and social issues?

PublIc concern is reflected in the growing number of phone calls and letters FABC receives. The community wants to know where the Board wants to take the ABC. While there have been some positive assurances in general terms, we would appreciate further information on the matters raised in our letter of 19 September. FABC would like to know how the Board's commitment to an independent and quality ABC will be demonstrated in practice.

We reiterate our strong belief that the nature of Australia's independent national broadcaster should not be changed without extensive community consultation. We strongly urge the Board to prohibit the depletion of current affairs.

Yours sincerely,

Darce Cassidy National Spokesperson

-- Anonymous, November 02, 2000

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