It is hard to understand why the Communications Minister, Paul Fletcher, can find $50 million for the regional commercial broadcasters, yet ignore the gross decline in ABC Funding.
While it is good to see the Minister recognise the challenges for the commercial broadcasting sector, it is hard to comprehend his reasoning for singling out only this sector but not providing matching funding to the public broadcaster, which has extensive outreach services to communities throughout the country.
The ABC is ever present in the homes of remote, rural and regional Australia. It was recently recognised by Minister Paul Fletcher as an "essential service", yet ongoing budget constraints place an enormous burden on all its management and staff.
ABC Friends understand the very difficult decisions government must make in the current climate to assist all Australians. However, yesterday’s ministerial announcement does require further explanation.
Will relaxation of local content rules be closely monitored so that regional audiences can in fact rely on news and programming that is primarily focussed on Australia and their local area?
Will the Department of Communications maintain a watching brief to protect the employment of local journalists and staff?
Is the minister planning to offer a comparable package to the ABC, especially to extend its excellent information and analysis response to the health crisis, as well as new initiatives, particularly educational support for home schooling?
The unprecedented impact of COVID-19 has demonstrated just how important government leadership is in protecting communities. We all understand that Australia faces many economic challenges in the future, but clearly a strong public sector is essential in maintaining well being and stability for our community.
ABC Friends requests the Minister urgently respond to all those Australians who rely on the ABC on a daily basis as they expect government to value and support the ABC in these unprecedented times.
ABC Friends National
Ph: 0447 735 156