Ita Buttrose: “The ABC is us”

ABC Chair Ita Buttrose has issued a statement following a “devastating” week at the national broadcaster.

The ABC has not only helped shape Australia, we are the national voice that unites us.

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.

Imagine what it would be like during the bushfire season if we had to rely only on state-based or even regionally based media outlets. When we are in the middle of bushfires, don’t we want to know that they are being covered by a knowledgeable and experienced network of journalists with all the supporting infrastructure of a large national network?

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?

This has been a devastating week for the ABC. With unemployment at an all-time high to have to inform up to 250 people they no longer had a job has been an incredibly difficult task.

Cuts to services caused by the ongoing reduction in our budget forced this action upon us and although we knew what had to be done, our hearts were with our employees.

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.

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.

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

The strength of the ABC and its relationship with the nation comes from the very people who work for us. They are passionate about public broadcasting and are prepared to work for less than they would be paid by commercial media to deliver it. The creativity in the programs they produce, the dogged and independent journalism they pursue and the connection with communities everywhere they provide through conversations is at the very heart of what the ABC delivers to our audiences.

The ABC has a statutory requirement to operate as efficiently as possible. We have a strong track record in identifying savings and reinvesting them in services. This is how we created ABC News 24, ABC iview and a range of packages to boost services in rural and regional Australia.

There is no other authority better placed to manage the ABC than the ABC itself. We know our business and we are determined to honour our commitment to independence. All Australians expect this of us just as they expect the Government to provide the appropriate funds to allow us to do so.

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.

Ita Buttrose AC OBE

ABC Chair


  1. The problem with the ABC is that whenever there are cuts they axe their most popular programs in order to over-dramatise the situation and cause as much damage to the government as possible. For example Stateline and the state based AFL and rugby coverage. It’s always the stuff on the screen which is cut, never the senior bureaucrats, first assistant directors and other featherbedding and freeloaders. Also there are some decisions which were just absurd and made people less sympathetic to them. For example the changing of ABC 2 – the catchup channel which often showed historic programs – to ABC Comedy. Many people had complained about the comedy content on the ABC and they responded – not by redirecting money to more pertinent material – but by starting up a whole channel devoted to it. Clearly there needs to be a reordering of priorities at the ABC and more consideration of what…

  2. Ita writes “Let me clarify the cuts because there seems to be some confusion in Government circles about them” and then adds to the confusion by telling porkies because the 2018 Budget papers clearly state that the Government’s savings measures do not reduce funding to the ABC, but that they “pause indexation of the ABC’s operational funding” So the ABC does not get a “cut” nor does it get a “raise” it stays the same.

  3. The reason for this is fairly simple. The Government out out guidelines for the Federal Public service that in a time of low inflation and stagnant wages automatic wage increases with no productivity gains should not be given. They conducted an inquiry in the ABC’s increasing competition with commercial media (including newspapers which are struggling) and SBS, which their charter says they are not supposed to do and point out that the ABC is in danger of being concentrated in Ultimo.

    What the ABC did was continue to shut down State based news and current affairs to concentrate on playing Federal Politics and campaigning for the Greens and Steggle against the Government. They created a commercial Lifestyle business to drive sales at the ABC online Shop and started selling corporate news services in competition with commercial media. Then they gave themselves a large pay…

  4. In paragraphs 6 and 7 she claims there’s been a cut, but in paragraph 8 acknowledges there has not been a cut.

    The figures she quotes from the 2018 budget are based on a CPI estimate that is higher than the actual, and currently forecast, figures. She also leaves out the ‘enhanced news funding’ of $44 million per year.

    Note the ABC is not subject to the efficiency dividend that applies to other Government departments and agencies, such as Services Australia.

  5. The ABC has lost its way, it can’t even provide an unbiased reporting so Ita, no, the ABC does not represent all of us. And that’s basically the problem, it’s funded by all taxpayers and yet you only represent a segment and that of the left.
    I’ve left you a long time ago but unfortunately for me I can’t get a refund of my tax contribution to your operation.

    • Crash Matilda

      Even if the government are punishing them for being too “left”, a decrease in funding isn’t going to change that, if anything it’ll only result in more division and a worse quality of journalism. We still need a public non-commercial broadcaster; the amount the ABC does for regional areas attests to that. So surely there is a better solution than sacking people during an economic crisis

      • I have admiration for the ABC but resent the bias and political agendas. They really should be neutral and not be pushing political agendas. Maybe they could demonstrate an example of balance for an increase in funding instead of creating more division.

        • A recent example would be the indigenous voices and views on Sky News compared to the indigenous voices and views on the ABC. It does imply that Sky News is also biased, but ABC should know or be better being a public broadcaster.

      • The Drum…. When the most “conservative” one on there is Kerry Chikarovski, you have to question the wonder whether the ABC wants balanced discussion between left and right, or just everyone to agree with each other from the left point of view

        • A quick look indicates Jackie Kelly, Kerry Chikarovski, Lucy Turnbull, Ann Sudmalis, Stephen O’Doherty, Denis Napthine, Scott Yung, Katrina Hodgkinson, Ewen Jones all this month.

          • I don’t think anyone calls Lucy Turnbull “Conservative”, an ex-liberal party member yes, but not conservative.

            Mind you Q&A served up a classic reason why conservatives don’t watch/participate in the show last night when they didn’t disclose that a questioner,Marg D’Arcy,was the former Labor candidate for Kooyong in 2016 and Kew in 2018. This was relevant information that would explain her attack on the Coalition Government last night

          • Perhaps but Q&A is a debate forum there will always be robust disagreement. So no shows that don’t usually offer L&R representation.

          • It is funny but those who argue Qanda is a debate format ignore the fact that those on the right are the ones who always seem to be the victims of these “fails”. No wonder conservatives avoid Qanda.

            But then again the Guardian writers Lenore Taylor, Katherine Murphy and David Murphy never suffered anyway from failing to disclose on Insiders that Malcolm Turnbull helped set up the Guardian Australia and was involved in selecting them when they were supporting Turnbull and criticising Abbott and /or Morrison…

          • If Q&A isn’t a debate or forum, it must be scripted comedy. Guardian issues should be raised with them. Reckon we move on now, points well made.

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