Lateline: Turnbull shifts blame back onto ABC

2014-08-13_0129There’s a bit of a blame game going on at the moment over possible programming cuts to the ABC.

While viewers are set to protest today at ABC’s Ultimo headquarters, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is putting ABC management back in the firing line with Lateline in its crosshairs.

On his website, Turnbull says it’s up to ABC management whether to cut programmes or save costs in its ‘back office and administrative costs’:

Following the completion of the efficiency study the ABC board and management know that there is ample capacity to achieve substantial savings without cutting the resources available for programming.

However it is always going to be a matter for the ABC itself to determine whether programmes should be continued or not. Everyone will have an opinion, as many do on the apparently foreshadowed changes to Lateline. After all, as Bruce Gyngell told me many years ago, everybody thinks they’re a programmer.

All broadcasters will make changes to their schedule from time to time and the ABC is no different.

But it is wrong to attempt to draw a link between budget cuts, back office savings and decisions made by management about programming. 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. The ABC may choose to cut programming rather than tackle back office and administrative costs – but that’s the ABC’s call.

In May headlines about Peppa Pig facing the chop attracted plenty of attention to ABC cuts, but avoided genuine debate about the loss of Australian productions. Since then ABC has confirmed The Time of our Lives would not be returning.

ABC is yet to confirm a final figure for its budget cuts under the government.

Guardian Australia, Fairfax and News Corp have all filed on Turnbull’s blog post.


  1. I know it’d require federal legislation to be passed, but why can’t ABC’s 3 other channels – ABC24, ABC2, ABC3, be allowed to run ads as they should be doing, especially since SBS1 and SBS2 both can.

  2. @Maev…..Sydney – you are wrong there as it is the ABC not Malcolm Turnbull, ABC had an option to save cuts elsewhere but no they decided to cut bits of the news service when they could have axed ABC3 to save costs as they already have ABC2. We are lagging behind everybody else as the plan is to get everybody to pay for content as well as move to online TV

  3. Both the Dept’s Lewis Report and the ABC’s PwC report found back office reforms and cuts to fund the possible cuts.

    Scott is using that a basis for reform of the News and Current Affairs dept. He wants support ABC 24 and retain younger viewers so the ABC has viewers in the future. The $70m p.a. the ABC to improve the state coverage of news and current affairs and depth was swallowed without having much impact.

    The cut has been from $1,050,000,000 p.a. to $1,040,000,000 so far. What Turnbull talked about last we was around $1,000,000,000 p.a. ABC’s management modelling 5%, 10% and 15% cuts to every dept. seem to be more designed to shake things up than anything.

  4. The place still has way too many managers that would rather protect their empires at the expense of program production. I think this is what Malcolm Turnbull is trying to break. If Australia Network which closed over the past weekend was funded by DFAT funding, is interesting 80 people lost their jobs. But Australia Network now continues in a limited form as Australia Plus. Where does the ‘new’ money for this come from when there was no previous recurrent funding prior to Australia Network for an international TV service? So when DFAT funding for Australia Network expired which killed off the workers, was the empire that was left rebranded as Australia Plus to save management from losing their jobs?

  5. Maev....Sydney

    Mr Turnbull can waffle all he wants…we all know where to point the finger…If not for the severe budget cuts…we would not even be having this conversation.

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