ABC and SBS must be protected

The CPSU has warned against rushing to merge or otherwise radically change Australia’s indispensable public broadcasters, ABC and SBS.

Union members working at the broadcasters have been anxiously monitoring discussion on the topic, including comments made by outgoing ABC Managing Director Mark Scott and a report from The Australia Institute.

The CPSU’s ABC Section Secretary Sinddy Ealy said: “The ABC and SBS, including NITV, are absolutely crucial parts of Australia’s cultural and political landscape. They each fill unique and distinctive roles, as is reflected in their service charters, and those need to be recognised and protected at all costs.”

“The hardworking staff at ABC and SBS are incredibly proud and protective of the distinctive local and specialist content they provide across news, current affairs, drama, comedy and music. They know from bitter experience how poorly major changes have been handled in the past and the impact that has had on programs and the people who make them.”

“Experience has also taught our members that painful cost cutting rarely benefits the ABC, SBS or their audiences. The Coalition has a long history of slashing public broadcasting, and Malcolm Turnbull continued that tradition when he was Communications Minister by commissioning the Lewis Report. The result was a further centralising of ABC operations and a reduction in local content, with the Government pocketing the proceeds rather than reinvesting them in ABC services.”

“It appears that Mark Scott may be trying to divert attention as his tenure with the ABC comes to an end. It’s an unfortunate reality that under Mr Scott the ABC has become more Sydney-centric and less representative of all Australians, which is at the core of the corporation’s charter.”

“We have serious concerns about the potential repercussions of a partial or complete merger of SBS with the ABC, particularly given the ABC’s recent poor track record in fulfilling its obligations to regional Australia and beyond.”

“Both the ABC and SBS are widely valued and supported by the Australian public. Would a merged entity mean advertising on the ABC? Would the ABC end up cannibalising the budgets of SBS and NITV for other purposes?”

“There needs to be a clear and unbiased appraisal of what’s at stake here. Both ABC and SBS are extremely cost-effective and efficient organisations, so radical change just for the sake of cost cutting is unlikely to be in the interests of either staff or the Australian people.”