Call for Inquiry into ABC

Lobby group Friends of the ABC has called for a public inquiry in the wake of widespread cuts to programmes and jobs yesterday.

It follows the Community and Public Sector Union criticising ABC management for generating more content via the independent production sector over ABC production staff.

Glenys Stradijot, a spokesperson for Friends of the ABC (Vic) said cuts to programming were an abrogation of the broadcaster’s charter responsibilities.

“The ABC was envisaged as a producer of programs of cultural value and intellectual integrity. Instead it is being transformed into a platform for carrying commercial content. This is privatisation by stealth,” she said.

“FABC regularly receives audience feedback that TV programming has become too populist and less innovative – the entertainment less stimulating, and factual programming more lightweight.

“ABC television programming is becoming less distinctive than commercial offerings. Hardly surprising, given that programming produced externally for the ABC is also being made with sales to commercial broadcasters and overseas outlets in mind.

“The essence of the ABC is being destroyed, and the people who head the ABC are ultimately taking the public broadcaster to irrelevancy.”

Yesterday ABC confirmed New Inventors, Art Nation and Collectors would not be renewed. It attributed the cuts to an increasingly competitive broadcasting environment and increasing financial pressures. In a statement to staff it said it must deliver maximum value to its audiences and the Australian taxpayer.

A new Tasmanian production, Auctions, would replace Collectors.

But Friends of the ABC fears the broadcaster will become a platform for content provided by external commercial providers and lose taxpayer support.

“Mr Scott and the ABC Board seem to have forgotten that they are caretakers of this great national institution which belongs to the people of Australia. They have no authority to commercialise it,” said Stradijot.

13 Comments:

  1. Pete says:
    August 3, 2011 at 11:38 am

    “Time for Mr Scott to be relieved of his duties me thinks ‚Ķ”

    Yes, Pete. I agree. Let’s set a date. I want him gone by next Wednesday. Followed by a full Senate inquiry, plus emails, regarding his performance and that of his underlings … the full can of worms. Plonked on the table for public scrutiny. Warning: You might vomit.

    Howard tried selling the ABC with the appointment of Shier. That was a disaster. Scott has managed to slip under the radar, but the target is the same. Destroy the ABC. He has, alas, almost succeeded.

    Yes, Pete, Mr Scott should be ejected from the building. A fair, non-partisan board should be appointed, by next Wodes Day, the latest by Thursday. IMHO.

    This rot must stop.

  2. We want our ABC back. It has been captured by privateers, barbarians from commercial television.

    The first to walk the plank must be Mark Scott, John Howard’s agent in place.

    Australia deserves a fair, accurate national broadcaster, not an off-shoot of News Limited.

    A full Senate inquiry is long overdue.

  3. @Bazza: I’m old enough to remember paying Licence Fees to the government (for ABC radio and tv services) until the early seventies. Originally these fees, in radio days went directly to the ABC, and later to the government who then granted funding back to the ABC. After the licence fees were abolished, the government grants have come from tax revenue. That’s how it still is today apart from the funding being based on a triennial basis.
    I admit that I’m not sure whether that funding includes plant and equipment – I believe that it may not. Anyway, I consider that I know enough about their funding over the years to make informed comment.

    The waste others refer to in earlier posts does exist both in staff / middle-management and facilities. I’ve seen it first-hand.

    Also, a senior ABC executive once told me of a huge purchase of (then state of the art SD) television digital broadcasting equipment in the early 2000s, spread across the capital cities. I asked where this funding was coming from and was told that it was “separate to the government grant that we all hear about in the press” because plant & equipment “came from another pot of government money”.
    I asked “why so much now?” and the answer was that there was a date by which P&E purchases for government had to be made before the start of the new financial year.
    Unless the purchase happened, then there was no guarantee that P&E in the next financial year would have the same level of funding.
    I asked: “what’s it all going to be used for?” and the answer was: “don’t know, don’t care, probably coverage of lawn bowls”.

  4. The ABC adopting a freelance model for some factual and all drama programs doesn’t mean that ABC editorial independence is being compromised as the Union or FABC claims. The commissioning editors have final cut on all programs and do exercise it. Frankly the quality of ABC programming lies with this group who report to the Head of Television and also to the network programmers who also are involved in commissioning. There is an issue across the slate as to whether this group are of the calibre required and the ABC has disappointed of late.

    But GB is right in saying that the ABC is flooded with a tier of middle managers and pen pushers unrelated to the actual creation of programs. They are costly and inefficient and waste money that could be spent on production. The ABC is hugely middle manager heavy compared to commercial networks. A succession of chief executives at the ABC has really failed to address this issue. It is up to Mark Scott now.

    There should be an independent and comprehensive inquiry into the management of the ABC with the intention to reduce the bureacracy and put the savings back into programming and to fulfill the ABC’s charter both efficiently and intelligently. Mr Conroy ring the ABC Chair and get it happening now.

  5. David from Melbourne

    The main problem is that a News orientated person is running the place rather than a Program person. ABC24 must cost the earth to maintain and does not really justify it’s existence.
    It is easy to outsource programs because then it is also easy to blame and sack if things go wrong. However in house personnel have a better understanding of the charter and guidelines and should be given the opportunities.
    The ABC has fingers in way too many pies at the expense of it’s core Primetime programming. ABC1 in particular has suffered as a result.

  6. Both FABC and CPSU calling for inquiries into the ABC – be careful what you wish for. The number of staff who actually Make programs in-house at the ABC is actually only a fraction compared to the floors upon floors of human resources, middle management paper pushers etc who, like many public servants, are there solely to perpetuate their own bloated existence. If there is an inquiry into “ABC cuts”, expect to see a lot More staff being made redundant as a result. Perhaps ABC should take a leaf from the books of current independent production houses, who have been working on minimal funds for years in the real world of TV production? It’s about time the ABC cut the rot.

  7. Seems like the villagers are carrying their torches to the library again….

    Good on the FABC, there’s very little being done to encourage variety, entertainment and interest in content these days. We don’t now, nor ever will, need another commercial broadcaster in this country.

    Oh and no, it’s not a choice between licence fee or commercialisation. Do a little research on the way the ABC has been funded over its entire history if you actually subscribe to this theory.

  8. It’s a shame to see Collectors and The New Inventors go. They are both unique shows and not one of the run of the mill ones that seem to proliferate the commercial networks.

  9. To Ms Stradijot and FABC: your time has passed – face up to it – in 2011, FABC, ABC and ABC staff are not here just for your elitist viewing and listening tastes. They are for all Australians of whatever ethnic and educational background or place in life.

    If the ABC doesn’t have the benefit of TV Licence Fees for it’s funding – as in the UK, then it at least has to be relevant to the wider Australian population who are forced to pay for it – like it or not – from their tax returns.

    Frankly, I agree that the ABC funding from government is too small – the dollars just don’t go as far as they did in the 60s to 80s.

    But that’s not an argument on my part to continue funding from taxpayers.
    2011 and beyond in all walks of life is the era of “user pays”.
    On that basis I’d be happy to contribute to the ABC’s funding via a TV Licence Fee.

    It’s either that or commercialise the ABC.

    Either way, my tax dollars will then go where it’s best used – to health services, education, research and infrastructure – not into the lounge rooms of Ms Stradijot and her FABC as they sit back with their cups of tea to watch dated, badly produced programming, viewed by few.

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