If you only read The Australian, or any Murdoch media listen to the views of some politicians, or 2GB you would think that the ABC is struggling to provide fair coverage of events, is biased in its politics and its science, and that it is wasting tax-payers’ dollars. Have you noticed that journalists critical of the ABC Andrew Bolt for one have started to call it “the taxpayer-funded ABC with it’s leftist bias.
Well Andrew Bolt, what do taxpayers actually think about “their ABC”? Over 84% of Australians believe that the national broadcaster provides a valuable service to the community. Moreover, 84% believe that its reporting is accurate and fair; 80% think that it does a good job on country and regional issues and 78% that ABC TV is of high quality. Does Newscorp rate nearly as well?
How much does it cost and what do we get for that? It is interesting to compare the ABC budgets from almost 30 years ago to now in terms of real funding.
In 1986, with $906.3M the ABC employed 6092 fulltime equivalent staff, had one analog television channel, 38 radio sites, Radio National and ABC Classic FM with 90% coverage, and 2JJ, as it was known then, servicing only Sydney.
Last financial year, with $825.7 million, the ABC had 4,679 staff with four major digital TV channels (ABC1, ABC2/ABC4Kids, ABC3 and ABC News 24) and an incredibly successful online catch-up service. The average audience reach varies from nearly 10 million for ABC1 to just over 3 million for ABC3, with an astonishing 20 million plays a month for iView. There are 60 local radio sites, nationwide RN, Triple J and Classic FM, plus ABC podcasts downloaded 71 million times. ABC online has 19.5 million visits per month and there are now over 25 smart phone and tablet apps.
News corp couldn’t begin to dream of that value for money. Any wonder you would love to see it privatised. Murdoch would snap it up in a second and proceed to tarnish it beyond recognition.
What about quality? The Board receives regular data on how citizens value ABC content and we continue to be impressed by these reviews. As a scientist, I believe there is ample evidence to support the conclusion that the ABC is fulfilling its charter to help Australians to participate more fully as informed citizens in a democracy. The ABC is crucial because we are poorly served by other parts of the media. Too often, problems become politicised, the science is discarded and rational debate and decision-making go out the window.
For instance the ABC’s reporting accurately reflects the science on coal and CSG and the lower environmental impact of renewable, (particularly with regard to the emission of greenhouse gas. The requirement for ‘balance’ does not mean that bad science should be reported with the same emphasis as good science.
We are now in a situation where a major commercial news organisation Newscorp is denigrating the ABC with a vicious, sustained campaign which is extremely damaging to our public broadcaster and to the nation. The ABC has already had to make compromises: the Government has cut the Australia Network so the Charter obligation to broadcast news and entertainment to countries outside Australia has to be fulfilled by making cuts elsewhere. We have lost some of our top journalists in this process. Further cuts have been announced and these are just the beginning. Tony Abbott talks National Security but has handed Pacific Nation Broadcasting to China on a platter. Newscorp attacks the ABC for being left bias what then is China Mr Bolt.
Australians must realise what implications there are for the nation’s capacity to be a well-informed and therefore a competent country and it’s not by reading,listening or watching The Bolt Report or Bolt Blog that’s for certain.