Guardian Australia reports the Australia Network will close in 90 days, throwing 80 staff out of work but some staff may be deployed in other areas.
ABC Managing Director Mark Scott told The World program:
“I don’t know whether, in fact, decisions were made when the government was in opposition; whether commitments were made to others that this will be cut. But I haven’t felt that there has been really an open-minded genuine dialogue and discussion around the future of the network.
“I don’t know whether, in fact, decisions were made when the government was in opposition; whether commitments were made to others that this will be cut. But I haven’t felt that there has been really an open-minded genuine dialogue and discussion around the future of the network.”
Actors Equity wass relieved that the most extreme recommendations of the audit commission report – to halve Screen Australia’s funding and merge it with the Australia Council– have not been picked up but was concerned the arts has taken more than its fair share of pain.
Equity director Sue McCreadie said:
“The cuts to Screen Australia ($38m over four years) and the Australia Council ($28.2m) are well beyond what we would expect from an efficiency dividend.
“The extra funds provided in recent years to the ABC for drama production are no longer quarantined, leaving drama, comedy and children’s drama potentially vulnerable. We will be taking every opportunity to make the case that the efficiency cuts, by definition, should not affect ABC programming. Any cuts that make audiences the poorer should not proceed.”
Actor / Rake Producer Richard Roxburgh, said:
“Government support in the form of extra funds for ABC drama, the producer offset, and ongoing support for Screen Australia has really paid off. Our screen industries are currently thriving and this ongoing support has enabled Australian actors such as myself to work on great shows such as Rake in our home country.
“The cuts to Screen Australia funding are significant even if the most alarming predictions haven’t come to pass. It would be a great shame if this resulted in fewer projects being funded at a time when our Australian screen industry – particularly television drama – has found its stride and is making its mark internationally.”
Glenys Stradijot, ABC Friends national spokesperson said:
“The Liberal-National Coalition has broken its promise.
“Its cuts to the national broadcaster demonstrate a lack of respect for voters. They reveal a lack of support for the country’s foremost cultural institution.
“And the Government’s description of these cuts as a “down payment” on the review presently underway into the ABC’s operations is alarming. It sends a message that further cuts are ahead.
“The impact will be huge because the ABC was already seriously underfunded to do its job before the cuts were announced. Its operational funding has decreased in real terms by 22.5% since 1986.
“The May Budget cuts will undoubtedly lead to ABC staff numbers being slashed. This means more repeats, less investigative journalism and fewer enriching and in-depth programs.
“It is simply unbelievable that any government with the long-term interests of the nation at heart would shut down Australia Network. Other governments are vying for the influence that broadcasting affords in the Asia Pacific region. They appreciate its importance to building positive relations and trade with their country.
“The axing of Australia Network appears to be the first stage of a reward for Murdoch-owned media outlets having campaigned for the Coalition in the last election. The Government has already declared its interest to amend the legislation that presently prevents it from handing over Commonwealth-funded international broadcasting to the News Corp-backed Sky News service.
“Australians voted for a government that promised not to cut the ABC. ABC Friends will actively oppose the cuts. We are urging the Senate to block the Budget.”