ABC supporters protest outside ABC board meeting, as Turnbull and board duel over cuts

Supporters of the ABC today protested outside the public broadcaster’s headquarters in Ultimo, ahead of board meeting where director of the broadcaster were consider cutting key programs such as Lateline.

Jonathan Holmes speaking at the ABC rally. Source: Get Up

Jonathan Holmes speaking at the ABC rally. Source: Get Up

The rally was attended by more than 300 supporters and staff from the broadcaster, with the ABC’s Quentin Dempster telling the audience about the importance of the Lateline program, and Jonathan Holmes speaking about his online petition, which garnered 57,000 signatures in less than 48 hours.

Holmes also attempted to present the board with the petition urging the not to cut Lateline or any other current affairs programming, but was not allowed into the board meeting.

The cuts are being made after the government slashed the broadcaster’s budget in May, and the protest comes just a day after the Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull took aim at suggestions the board might seek to cut key programs like Lateline or children’s program Peppa Pig. 

“It is wrong to draw a link between budget cuts, back office savings and the ABC’s potential axing of Lateline. Those programming decisions are for the ABC board, not the Government,” wrote Turnbull in a piece on the Drum and his personal blog.

“Suggestions that popular programmes or services are at risk because of budget savings are not credible. The savings sought from the ABC are not of a scale that will require reductions in programme expenditure.”

In response the ABC issued a statement saying: “The ABC board has an obligation to ensure the corporation runs efficiently and effectively but also to reinvest in its future. In the past, the ABC has used efficiency savings to fund its new digital initiatives like iView and a string of other mobile and online services.

“Government cuts mean efficiency savings will now go to Canberra, and reinvestment funds will have to come from somewhere else. The investment in news has enhanced ABC news coverage, particularly in regional areas.”

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), which represents many ABC employees, also issued a statement this afternoon urging the government to reveal the size and extent of the proposed ABC cuts.

“Malcolm Turnbull needs to put his cards on the table and tell the ABC and the public the size of the cuts that his Government is planning to inflict on the Corporation,” said Michael Tull, national president of the CPSU.

“He can’t keep reassuring us that the ABC’s programming and quality will not suffer unless he is prepared to reveal just how much of a cut the broadcaster is going to have to absorb.

“The ABC can’t plan for the future if it doesn’t know the size of its budget. Staff are also adamant that any savings that the ABC makes should be used to reinvest back into areas such as programming or innovations, as has happened in the past.”

Nic Christensen 


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