ABC board criticises government for breaking election funding cut statements

abc-logoThe ABC board has criticised the federal government for breaching pre-election statements by Prime Minister Tony Abbott not to cut funding to the public broadcaster and declare that it is satisfied that the ABC provides “value for money to Australians”.

The unusually direct statement is included in the latest ABC annual report released by the public broadcaster and takes aim at recent funding cuts including a one per cent “down payment” cut to funding on top of the loss of the Australia Network which cost the ABC $223m over ten years.

“The Board was disappointed that, contrary to pre-election statements made by the Prime Minister, the 2014–15 Budget, handed down in May, included a 1 per cent reduction in the Corporation’s base funding. The Minister for Communications, the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, described this cut as a “down payment” on future funding reductions,” the board statement says. 

“In addition, the Government announced it would terminate the contract between the ABC and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for the operation of the Australia Network Service.”

It goes on to argue that over four years the impact of these cuts would be $120m, which is $30m a year, against what the documents show was a $1.03bn ABC budget in 2013.

The board says it is now looking at how best to implement these cuts, adding: “Together, the announced cuts will amount to a budget reduction of $120 million over the next four years. The ABC has commenced a detailed program of work to examine the best way of meeting these and anticipated further funding cuts, including a fundamental re-organisation of its international service.”

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The documents also provide a detailed breakdown of its funding with general appropriations from the federal government continuing to be the main source of funding.

ABC Commercial’s revenues are projected to grow from $111m this year to $120m in 2014-15, with $78.4m in income coming from merchandising and $27.3m in royalties.

At the end of the statement the board says it believes the Australian public gets “value for money” from the public broadcaster.

“The Board is satisfied that the ABC provides value for money to the Australian community. The full suite of services—radio, television and digital, both domestic and international—costs roughly $120 per household per year. This compares to a cost of $300 per household for the basic pay-TV package—even after that was cut in half just before this Report went to press—2.5 times more.”

Nic Christensen 


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