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Minister defends ABC funding freeze and efficiency reviews

The communications minister, Mitch Fifield has defended the government’s ABC funding freeze yesterday saying the year’s notice will enable the national broadcaster to identify efficiencies in the organisation.

Speaking to Sheridan Stewart on the ABC’s Queensland Statewide radio show yesterday, Senator Fifield justified another efficiency review into the national broadcaster as four years – the time since the last one – was “an eternity” in the media industry.

Communications Minister, Mitch Fified: “Four years is an

“The last efficiency review into the ABC was about four years ago; and in the fast-evolving world of media, that is an eternity,” Fifield said.

“So we think that it’s prudent and good practice to have an indexation pause, and to pair that with an efficiency review of the ABC, to make sure that it is doing the best it possibly can with taxpayers’ dollars.”

The ABC’s funding freeze, to take effect at the beginning of the next three year funding cycle next year, was announced by federal treasurer Scott Morrison, in the government’s 2018 budget. Shortly after the announcement, ABC head of news Gaven Morris warned there was no more fat left to be cut in the organisation.

Fifield rejected Morris’ concerns, and claimed the freeze should not affect the broadcaster’s services: “There’s absolutely no reason why the ABC shouldn’t be able to continue to support and deliver the 54 local radio stations around the nation; which do great work and are very close to their communities.

“The ABC has four national radio networks; no reason why those shouldn’t go from strength to strength. And the ABC obviously has its TV and online operations. It performs important work for the community and we will always ensure that the ABC is well-resourced so that it can fulfil those functions.”

Fifield also defended the government’s competitive neutrality inquiry that was part of the media reform deal with Parliamentary cross benchers last year, saying: “A number of commercial media organisations have said that they believe that there are areas where the ABC competes unfairly with them.

“So what I’ve done is to institute what we’re calling a competitive neutrality inquiry, which is really just a way of saying, that we’re going to have a mechanism so that the ABC can put their views forward, the SBS can put their views forward, commercial media can put their views forward on the subject of: are the public broadcasters competing in ways that are not fair with the commercial broadcasters? Let’s see the evidence, let everyone put their case forward.

“But what will never change is the important role that the ABC plays in being one of the underpinnings of media diversity in the nation. And being one of the critical underpinnings of civic journalism.”

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