It appeared everyone was a winner in the Budget last night, although it’s hard to decide if that included the ABC.
After what can only be described as a tumultuous 12 months for the public broadcaster, last night the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, left its funding unchanged.
Aunty’s base funding will remain at $3.16 billion for the next three years.
The government has also agreed to continue funding the ABC’s “enhanced news measure,” at $44 million over three years. Since it was first introduced six years ago, the funds have been used to enhance the ABC’s news gathering capabilities, with a particular focus on regional areas.
Presently, the ABC employs 4,180 people and its been reported that the federal government regards those numbers as too high and would like to see around 50 lopped off the monthly pay roll.
And it would appear that Labor is set to make the ABC a big issue at the coming election.
Labor has already pledged to restore the $83.7 million of funding removed by the Coalition if it wins the next election.
Two senior Labor politicians – Michelle Rowland and Kristina Keneally – have lashed the government’s treatment of the ABC saying it had stripped its budgets (when it promised it wouldn’t) and had repeatedly interfered in management and programming decisions.
In a joint statement yesterday, Rowland and Keneally said: “They’ve [the government] ripped hundreds of millions of dollars out of the ABC, meddled in its affairs and launched relentless ideological attacks on public broadcasting,” the statement said.
“Whatever the government may announce for the ABC in the last six weeks before the election, they can’t erase what they’ve done to the ABC over the last six years.
“The evidence is clear: you can have a strong and independent ABC, or a Liberal government. You can’t have both.”
However, Coalition senator Eric Abetz countered the claims saying the ABC needed to get over its internal squabbles and concentrate on better programming.
The ABC should spend “less time navel-gazing and more time delivering value for the more than a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money they get every year,” Abetz told today’s The Australian.