Labor Considering Options To Protect ABC And SBS From Funding Cuts

Sydney, Australia - March 24, 2015: People entering and leaving the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Centre in Ultimo.

Communications minister Michelle Rowland has said that a review into the security of the ABC and SBS will examine ways to protect the public broadcasters from privatisation. 

Rowland told an ABC Friends dinner that the review would consider options to support the independence of the ABC and the SBS. The review will also examine the appointment of ABC and SBS board members. 

“Under the former Liberal National government, the threat of privatisation was real, arbitrary funding cuts caused disruption and uncertainty, and there was scant regard for the independent merit-based selection process for ABC board members,” Rowland said on Thursday evening.

“The fact is that the past decade was a tumultuous time for the ABC.”

Labor legislated a nomination panel in 2012 to prevent political appointments but only half of its 10 recommended candidates were taken up by the government. 

Despite promising no cuts to the ABC and the SBS, the Abbott government reduced funding to the ABC in its first budget in 2014. 

Labor has already introduced five-year funding terms, which started this financial year, and restored $83.7m in funding cuts to the ABC.

Budget cuts have hit the ABC hard and diminished services. For example, eight state-based 7pm Sunday news bulletins were recently abolished and 120 jobs have been axed since Labor was elected. The job cuts included 41 in the news division, comprising journalists, editors, camera and sound operators. 

The review will not focus on funding levels but instead will identify a potential mechanism to implement and maintain five-year funding terms. 

This follows news that more than 80 per cent of the viewers for the bulletin are over the age of 55, with two-thirds of viewers over 65.

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