‘Without the ABC we would have a balkanised and parochial bunch of broadcasters’: Ita Buttrose speaks out after cuts

After criticism that she was quiet during the massive cuts across the public broadcaster last week, ABC chair Ita Buttrose has lashed out at the state of the Australian media landscape in a post titled ‘What would Australia look like without the ABC?’

“It’s about democracy. Without the ABC we would have a balkanised and parochial bunch of broadcasters that are in danger of being compromised by profit and more intent on dividing than unifying,” Buttrose said in the piece, which went on to detail the budget pressures which have forced the public broadcaster to undergo job losses of up to 250 staffers.

Buttrose has broken her silence on the ABC cuts with a scathing post about the future of the media landscape without the ABC

“The ABC, funded by all of us, regardless of our creed – race, age, political beliefs – is us. It’s the way we build cross-cultural understanding, the way we help each other in times of need. It’s who we are collectively. Why would anyone want to diminish that and make us less than who we are?” Buttrose asks in the piece.

The ABC’s latest five-year plan includes the discontinuation of ABC Life, cuts across programming and the removal of the 7.45am radio bulletin. The broadcaster also announced plans to lease some of its Ultimo office space as content markers move away from the CBD.

“Let me clarify the cuts because there seems to be some confusion in Government circles about them. The 2018 Budget papers clearly state that the Government’s savings measures reduce funding to the ABC by $14.623 million in 2019-20, $27.842 million in 2020-21, and $41.284 million in 2021-22. This reduction totals $83.75 million on our operational base,” said Buttrose in the post. The budget reporting around the ABC has been heavily criticized, particularly by the Morrison Government and News Corp papers.

“It is true that over the three years the ABC budget does still increase but by a reduced amount, due to indexation on the fixed cost of transmission and distribution services. Previously, it was rising by a further $83.75 million over the same three years for indexation on our operational base. This is the funding that has been cut and considered a saving by the government,” said Buttrose.

“These funding cuts are unsustainable if we are to provide the media services that Australians expect of us. Indexation must be renewed.”

The latest round of job cuts at the broadcaster have reportedly seen chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici and national rural reporter Dominique Schwartz retrenched alongside a number of subs staff and 70+ roles across news reporting.

“The ABC is essential in generating and preserving Australia’s democratic culture. An independent, well-funded national broadcaster allows Australians, wherever they live, to connect. It is how we share our identity, how we tell our stories, how we listen to each other, how we ask for help and how we give it,” said Buttrose.


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