ABC Alumni and ABC Friends launch our first 2023 joint campaign leading up to the May budget and the coming ABC 5-year funding agreement. If you’ve been thinking recent funding increases are enough, they’re not. As you’ll see in our campaign report, the ABC is still at risk of going backwards.
NO, MINISTER – THE ABC’S FUNDING PROBLEM AIN’T FIXED … YET
By Jonathan Holmes, Chair, ABC Alumni
In its October mini-budget, the Albanese government found an extra $29 million per year for the ABC: $21 million per year over four years for the operating budget to make up for the money ‘lost’ when indexation was frozen in 2018; and $8 million per year extra for ABC International over the next four years.
Great. But a lot of people think that’s fixed the problem.
As our new campaign document REBUILDING THE ABC graphically shows, there’s an $86 million gap between the ABC’s current operating budget, and what it would have been if no cuts had been applied since 2014.
$86 million per year. That’s a lot of programs that can’t be made, staff who can’t be hired, places that can’t be travelled to, digital audiences that can’t be reached.
And in March last year, the coalition restored indexation. But as we pointed out back then, it was token – a mere 0.7% increase in 2022-3, when inflation was already running at 7%.
It is expected the ABC will receive more when the government announces the figures for the new 5-year funding plan. But how much more? What increases will indexation actually deliver? If we’re not careful, the ABC could be much worse off in real terms after 5 years than it is now.
These are the main points that we want to make before it’s too late in the budget cycle.
ABC Alumni directors Alan Sunderland and Quentin Dempster, with analysis from former ABC executive Michael Ward, started by drawing up a document called REBUILDING THE ABC, with input from other directors.
In early February, our Victorian director Gael Jennings and Alumni member Maxine McKew took that document and our main messages to independent MP Zoe Daniel in Goldstein.
She and her principal advisor, Jim Middleton, know a bit about the ABC. They told us to take the message to Canberra, which this week we did.
Quentin Dempster and I, representing ABC Alumni, teamed up with ABC Friends’ National President, Cassandra Parkinson (from NSW) and Vice-President Michael Henry (from Victoria). Thanks to Zoe Daniel and Jim Middleton, we met with four cross-bench lower house MPs – Zoe herself, Allegra Spender (Wentworth NSW), Dr Monique Ryan (Kooyong, Vic), and Rebekha Sharkie (Mayo, SA) – and advisors representing Andrew Wilkie (Denison, Tas) and several others.
Meeting with lower house independents. L-R: Rebekha Sharkie (Mayo, SA), Alumni’s Jonathan Holmes, Allegra Spender (Wentworth, NSW), Alumni’s Quentin Dempster, Zoe Daniel (Goldstein, Vic), ABC Friends’ Michael Henry and Cassandra Parkinson, and Dr Monique Ryan (Kooyong, Vic).
Quentin and I got in to see the ACT’s crucial cross-bench senator, independent David Pocock.
The Alumni’s Quentin Dempster and Jonathan Holmes with independent senator David Pocock.
The newly-appointed shadow minister for Communications, David Coleman, found time for all four of us.
Most importantly, we were able to bend the ear of the Minister, Michelle Rowland, who as well as responsibility for the ABC has a seat on the all-important Expenditure Review Committee.
The Alumni-Friends delegation with Communications Minister Michelle Rowland (centre). At left, Alumni director Quentin Dempster and Friends president Cassandra Parkinson, and right, Friends deputy president Michael Henry and Alumni chair Jonathan Holmes.
We believe all of them took on the message that ABC funding isn’t where it needs to be for the next 5 years. The Minister said she understood that the ABC’s operating budget is still $40 million less, going forward, than it would have been without the indexation freeze; undertook to look into whether an efficiency dividend would be demanded; and whether indexation would go near to matching the real inflation the ABC faces.
So it’s a good start. But we must not let up. Whether you are an ABC Alumni member, or an associate, or a general reader who values the ABC, please read REBUILDING THE ABC carefully. Take aboard the messages. Tweet or post the links on any platform you have a presence on. And write to or email your federal MP soon to tell them that at a time when the nation needs a trusted national broadcaster more than ever, the ABC is still in danger of going backwards.
We can’t let that happen!
See our Campaigns page here.
ABC Alumni is a public company limited by guarantee, and not part of the ABC. Our campaign and related documents represent our independent view.