the Labour Party position, from my local member : LUSENET : Friends of the ABC : One Thread

Hi, I wrote to my local federal member to see what committments were being made about the ABC. See what you think. I plan to find the future Liberal candidate for the electorate and ask the same questions.

To: Richards, Shona (C. Sciacca, MP) Subject: ABC

Dear Sir, thankyou very much for your comprehensive reply to my email. It is indeed heartening to hear your explicit statement of concerns - they coincide pretty well with those of the Friends of the ABC, of which I am a member. May I post your letter on our website messageboard ( Tony Hedemann ----- Original Message ----- From: Richards, Shona (C. Sciacca, MP) To: '' Sent: Friday, 16 February 2001 8:16 Subject: ABC

16th February 2001

Dear Mr Hedemann

Thank you for your e-mail expressing concerns about the future of the ABC. The Australian Labor Party shares your concerns at what is happening to our independent national public broadcaster.

The Howard Government has placed the ABC under sustained political and financial pressure since it came to office in 1996. This pressure has made it very difficult for the Corporation to live up to its Charter and to give full service to the community.

In 1996 and 1997, the Howard Government cut $66 million per year from the ABC’s budget. This was in direct breach of an election promise made by the Prime Minister in January 1996. In the May 2000 Budget the Howard Government failed to adequately fund the cost for the ABC to convert to digital broadcasting.

These cuts have lead to a loss of both talent and skills from the national broadcaster, which are vital to ensure the ABC's standing as a unique broadcasting and cultural institution. These funding cuts have also created limitations on the reach of the Radio Australia, Radio National and the Triple J networks. It demonstrates the drive and dedication of the staff of the ABC that they continue to produce high-quality programming with limited resources.

The inadequacy of the ABC’s current funding was highlighted by the ABC Board’s request in December 2000 for $40 million in immediate additional funding. The Howard Government has ruled out any consideration of this proposal prior to the May 2001 Budget.

Labor is also concerned that, despite many opportunities to do so, the Howard Government has refused to rule out its support for the privatisation of any part of the ABC, particularly JJJ, ABC On-line and the ABC Shops. Labor opposes the privatisation of part or all of the ABC.

Recently, the ABC Board and senior management, including the new Managing Director Jonathan Shier have made a number of decisions that have caused great concern in the community. These include:

(a) The decision to cut a headline $3.7 million for the funding for News and Current Affairs in 2000-01;

(b) The decision to reduce in-house production capacity;

(c) The decision to close the ABC TV Science Unit;

(d) The circumstances in which it was decided not to renew the contract of Media Watch presenter Mr Paul Barry; and

(e) Consideration of the Bales Report, which recommended the extension of the ABC’s commercial activities in ways that would breach the ABC’s Act and Charter

These, and other decisions, have seen a growing perception in the community, and among ABC staff in particular, that the ABC Board’s and Mr Shier’s management of the ABC is consistent with the Howard Government’s agenda to marginalise the ABC and intrude upon its independence. The Labor Party is deeply concerned at these developments.

We fear that the perception is now afoot that in these matters Managing Director Jonathan Shier is acting advertently or inadvertently as an agent of the Government.

Despite repeated calls to do so, neither the Board nor Mr Shier have fully articulated their strategy for the ABC, nor have they sufficiently involved staff or the Australian community in a dialogue about their proposals for the future of our independent national public broadcaster.

As a result, an environment now seems to have been created in which almost every decision made by the Board or management is interpreted adversely as an attack on the very raison d’etre of the ABC.

To date, ABC Board Chairman, Mr Donald McDonald, and Mr Shier have rejected such suggestions. They say that their decisions are being interpreted out of context and without a view to the improvements they believe the changes will bring to the ABC.

The community is clearly a long way from being convinced.

The Labor Party understands the very deep reservations that many people now have about the future of the ABC. We too worry that the proposed changes may not be in the best interests of the ABC or the Australian community.

Labor wants the ABC to continue as an independent, balanced and truly national broadcasting network enhancing media diversity and providing high-quality services to the entire spectrum of the community.

Labor fully supports statutory protection of the independence of the ABC. We want to ensure that the ABC will be free from politically or ideologically motivated attack by governments of any political persuasion.

We also recognise the need for the ABC to be adequately funded so that it can meet its community service obligations and fully embrace the opportunities offered by the introduction of new technologies.

The Australian Labor Party will set out our express financial commitment to the ABC prior to the next Federal election. While we acknowledge that some would like us to give an express commitment sooner, we simply do not know what condition the ABC will be at the time of the next election and therefore what level of funding will be appropriate.

Thank you for drawing my attention to your concerns on this important issue. It is vital that as many Australians as possible speak out to ensure the future of the ABC.

yours sincerely


Member for Bowman

-- Anonymous, March 01, 2001

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