The Meeting Place

Turmoil at the ABC

What a very grim year it has been for the ABC. There have been relentless attacks from Mitch Fifield, Minister for Communications, and other Ministers. There has been daily sniping from the Australian, Daily Telegraph and other organs of News Corporation. This year has seen the announcement of more swingeing budget cuts, on top of the devastating $254 million cut in 2014. The ABC reported recently that more than a thousand jobs had been lost. We have all witnessed the impact on Radio National, Classic FM and ABC television.

This year has seen a string of government inquiries designed to weaken and undermine the national broadcaster. If there were any doubts about the federal government’s intentions then these were blown away when the Liberal Party’s National Council voted overwhelmingly in June to sell-off the ABC. Immediate reassurance from Mitch Fifield, that the ABC would not be sold, did little to reassure. This was the Party that promised that there would “be no cuts to the ABC or SBS”.

The government’s appetite for attacking the ABC is surprising in one obvious sense. The ABC remains among Australia’s most trusted and valued institutions. Independent polls confirm this. The very latest poll, conducted by Roy Morgan in May, found the ABC to be in the top four Australian brands, across all product and service organisations. The ABC emerged as easily the most trusted media organisation; daylight second. Does it make political sense for a major political party, not highly trusted according to polled research, to persist with its assaults on the ABC? A lesson from the five by-elections held in July was that hostility towards the ABC played very badly for the federal government and was a factor in their failure to win any of the seats on offer.

And now more turmoil for the ABC with the very public sacking of Managing Director, Michelle Guthrie, half-way through her five-year term and the resignation of ABC Chair, Justin Milne. ABC Friends regret that the ABC is plunged into more controversy, which must be distracting for the organisation’s managers and staff. Our sympathy goes out to Ms Guthrie as she faces the humiliation and distress of such a public dismissal. ABC Friends always found her to be courteous, helpful and keen to attend our conferences and other events.

Much of the commentary in papers and on radio and television stressed that Ms Guthrie faced an impossible task. She took up her role in mid-2016 and had to deal with the repercussions of the massive budget cuts announced in 2014. She then faced the relentless barrage of attacks described above. Several reports suggested that she did not have the political skills required for the role. She is said to have been ineffective in her dealings with government and she clearly did not carry her Board with her. Further, she appears to have failed to have won over ABC staff. A significant proportion of ABC’s committed audience will associate her term with a perceived dumbing down of programs such as the 7 pm television news and the 7.30 Report.

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald (26 September 2018) stated that ABC Chair, Justin Milne, had received strong pressure from then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to discipline Emma Alberici, chief economics correspondent, following her critical commentary on the government’s proposed company tax cuts. Milne appears to have demanded that Alberici be sacked; Guthrie resisted. Once public, pressure mounted for Milne’s head and his resignation came swiftly. His position was untenable. Friends’ over-riding concern is that the ABC must be independent; its Chair, MD, managers and staff must stand up to government attempts to influence staffing and content on the national broadcaster.

The role of the Board has come in for scrutiny. Staff, staff unions and media have demanded to know who knew what and when. There has been widespread concern that too few Board members had relevant experience. Numerous commentators have stressed that the process for selecting the Chair and Board must be based on merit. Media reports suggest that three of the current six Directors were simply picked by Mitch Fifield, Minister for Communications. He appears to have ignored the recommendations of the independent selection panel established to advise the Minister on suitable candidates.

ABC Friends will look forward to working closely with the Acting MD, David Anderson, and we wish him well in this most important role; important for the ABC’s staff, its audience and indeed for all Australians. Our public broadcaster is integral to Australia’s democracy.

I wish to thank all Friends for your support, your donations and your engagement. While this has been a very challenging year, it has been heartening to see a large increase in membership, a surge in donations and the magnificent response of our members to the Sydney Rally and other events. We are sending a strong message to all political parties: Australians demand a well-funded and independent ABC.

 

Emeritus Professor Ed Davis AM
President, ABC Friends NSW & ACT

 

You can join the Friends and/or donate to our campaign here: www.abcfriends.org.au

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35 comments

Since 2008, the average salary of ABC’s staff has risen 25% from $86,908 to $108,408. Total staff numbers have risen from 4499 to 4769. Therefore salaries as a percentage of the ABC revenues have risen from 37.1% of the budget to 50%...

Which begs the question why is the SBS able to operate at 31% of the budget in salaries while the ABC is at 50%? Surely the ABC’s economies of scale should work in its favour? ...

Australia’s largest commercial terrestrial station, Nine Network, has 3,100 employees against revenues of $1.237bn. So to put that into context, Nine can generate c. A$400,000 per employee whereas the ABC generates A$217,236 in tax dollars per employee.

https://www.heraldsun.com.au/blogs/andrew-bolt/more-abc-staff-less-value/news-story/e6f8bc5271a1f93606b916a39bddd1b8

An article by Andrew Bolt, talking about bias - oh the irony.  LOL

Leonie,

Are you saying those numbers are wrong?  Most would be surprised by the average salary of $108,408 and wondering how high some must be to drag the average up that high. 

Some explanation is needed for the salary rises (25%) and for the difference between the ABC and SBS.

Has the ABC responded I wonder?

 

 

 

Advertisements are where the commercial stations make their money, duh.

The reason that all free-to-air commercial stations are losing money now is because we record everything & then skip through the ads. I do it with the AFL - I start watching it 40 minutes after the start of the telecast, so I'm watching it "live" for the last quarter & the final siren. I'm not much of a drinker & I certainly can't bear to watch all those betting ads, as I believe they are demeaning & ghoulish for people prone to addictions.

It would be a conflict of interest for the ABC (Govt funded) to host betting ads, as the Govt. gets a cut of the revenue raised. That's why so many people were upset about the horse race ad on the Opera House sails - it promotes gambling which destroys many families. I'm not saying gambling should be banned, but I am saying the money raised should be allocated to the families destroyed by crippling,  gambling addictions. Those who have lost their families & home should be forced into re-hab. Unfortunately, many are overcome with guilt & take their own lives. Some even murder their own families as well. They are mentally ill & should be given serious help.

WHat a load of rubbish hoohoo

You are enjoying commercial tv but not wanting to "pay" for it by avoiding the ads. What a hypocrite 

As for your ridiculous views on gambling and funelling money to addicts families - how about also using taxpayer money to fund families of alcoholics, thieves, rapists, con artists etc etc

Snowflakes like you should emigrate to Russia or China. Unfortunately for you, the new Russia and China wont have you 

Unlike the commercial stations the ABC has to transmit a certain percentage of local content, it can't increase revenue by advertising and it doesn't produce infomercials and try and pass them off as current afairs programs.  Since the production of drama, comedy and documentaries costs a fortune, the only way to ensure local content is to employ people to do interview and local interest stories, maybe that is why the staffing levels are so high.  

I would much prefer to go back to a licensing system and have the acces gained by use of a password.  If I am going to pay for TV I prefer quality over mass produced foreign crap and the biased political crap produced by foreign business moguls who want to control the political coverage of a country that he chose to leave.

Of all the social problems this country has gambling would have to be the worst, it can be done anywhere and at any time and not only effects the individual but those around them.  

Well said, exPS.

olbaid, I suppose you turn up the volume during the adverts, to prove you are the furthest thing from a hypocrite? What a stupid thing to equate hypocracy with watching ads on commercial TV!

I worked in an advertising agency when I was young, so let me tell you this - I have paid my dues.

In a free world, it is well within my rights to switch ads off, even if idiots like yourself call it hypocritcal behaviour. I don't care what you think, olbaid, because you're a jerk.

I don't waste money on Pay TV.

"It's a given that white males are from the advantaged group, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve representation or that white men don't suffer life's turmoil or that they don't need help sometimes. I just want it fair for everyone." - Hoohoo.

Hoohoo, I'm sorry but I'm going to dissapoint you. For a start Santa and the tooth fairy are ficticious. Yes!

Now that your mind is in a state of shock I'm going to lay another truth on you.

The only fair thing in this world is that pain and suffering is issued indiscriminately. 

Heaven help us if we as a society decide that it is fair to issue pain and suffering to others, based on race, religion, sex, sexual preference, hair colour, eye colour et cetera. Our focus should be on the comfort of those afflicted with pain and suffering not the distribution of pain and suffering to those not afflicted.

 

 

 

You haven't disappointed me, Adrianus. Your ridiculous accusation that I want everyone to experience pain equally doesn't even surprise me.

I think our focus should be on trying to avoid anyone from being afflicted with pain. We are ALL on the same team, so we ALL benefit when we care for each other. I'm recovering from two cancer surgeries but I still think I'm lucky & rich (despite my dwindling bank balance). I have so many blessings, including a loving partner who just happens to be white & male.

Poor people suffer more than rich people, regardless of gender & colour. For a start, they can't choose their surgeon when they need surgery - they have to go on a public waiting list.

 

Hoohoo,

Most sorry to hear of your two major surgeries. 

 

Hoohoo, I'm saddened to hear of your decline in health. I too am recovering from 5 operations as a result of terminal cancer. My bank account is also dwindling due to Surgery, Lawyers and accountants etc. I also have a very loving , understanding partner (female). But I dont see what any of that has to do with identity politics and people's idea of fairness? If ever we, as a nation, isolate a group based on skin colour and sex, as having more benefits than the rest of society and needing to be pulled back a peg, then I say this is a start of a fascist movement. And to follow such a movement is no different to any which have gone before in our global history. How can fairness mean "I've identified a racial group which appears to be well off and I want more of what they have."

Its not unfair that you and I are suffering, but it is unfair to seek fairness based on greed and racism. In my opinion.

 

Thanks for your kind thoughts, LJ & Adrianus, & I'm very sorry to hear about your suffering & poor health, Adrianus. I'm very lucky to have been given the all clear from both surgeries.

My point was that despite setbacks, my measure of wealth is the love I have in my life & my optimism for the future (that we can have a caring society). How lucky are we to live in such a wonderful place such as Australia?

So can we call a truce? We can agree to disagree. I'm sure some of the toxic language we've all used here is not helping anyone's health, neither the author's or the recipient's.

 

 

Glad you're doing well Hoohoo :)


Adrianus...

Image result for be careful what you wish for you may just get it

 

There should be no "turmoil" at the ABC. Merge ABC and SBS and charge a licence fee.

Why do that???

 

 

That's seems to be the idea being bandied about Micha..have to say I am not against that concept.

With so many ridiculous programmes presently on both ABC and SBS..a merger might be of advantage as long as they vet the shows to ensure quality and not quantity..who needs a weekend of "Rage" on the ABC? I don't even enjoy one minute of it!

I don't know if the licence is a good idea though because many people including those with a tight budget rely on these channels for entertainment..


Sophie, why not switch over to channel 22 & catch some comedy repeats or an old black & white movie?

Rage, repeats & these old movies cost the ABC very little to telecast as they are just old footage, not something created from scratch.

I watch or record Rage sometimes, if the topic is of interest to me, but the thing is that it caters for many musical tastes, from the 1960's onwards. I've sometimes flicked over to Rage & have been delighted by music I've never heard of. I like that the ABC shows some obscure stuff. The commercial channels can't afford such a luxury because they're in a popularity contest. That said, there are a lot of old movies repeated on the secondary commercial channels, including some real classics, obscure gems & cult movies (all repeats, of course).

The independent movies regularly shown on SBS & VICE are amazing! Real, human stories about normal people. Yes, you often need to read subtitles but after a while, you don't even realise they are there. These movies are so much better than the majority of Hollywood formulaic rubbish.

I love the ABC and SBS and find them quite different. The ABC produces predominantly Oz and some good British content and SBS more international fare from wider Europe and other continents. If they were combined together something would have to go - there would be loss. Also, I don’t think we should have to pay for licenses to watch channels that we have already paid for with our taxes. Our governments pay $millions and $billions to so many different policy areas so why should they skimp on our public broadcasters that, in the main, mean a lot to a huge portion of our people? 

Why would anyone side with a government that wants to starve the ABC and SBS of funds or even sell them off? 

Merge them and allow the ABC to take advertising revenue, then sit back and watch the commercial stations complain that they have reduced revenue.  

Much rather have a " rediculus " new programme than the same old recycled trash and paid for comment so called current affairs shows available on most commercial channels.

Ex PS, you are being so naughty to suggest the ABC and SBS steal advertising money from Packer and Stokes. They will not cope....no they won’t....they will suffer the suffering of the greedy!

Don't fret Robi, Packer won't even notice the resulting loss of revenue, he makes most of his money these days from the gambling industry.  Might explain his enthuisastic support through his media enterprises for the gamblng industry.

I have no animosity for responsible gamblers, I make quite a good return on my few Crown shares, but problem gamblers need to be protected from themselves and the preditor industry that takes their and their families money.

 

Speaking of ads. Do you remember the days when it was 3 in a row max? Now it is about 10 and is a big turn off to watching commercial channels. 

Even worse are those commercial channels that try and pass of advertising as current affairs segments, advertising being passed of as news, truely disgusting behaviour.

Looks like the resident socialists comedy team are running hot this week 

Better to have "resident socialists"than a resident troll.

.... so why don't you leave then?

I agree ex PS, some of those so-called news segments are blatant advertisements, not even remotely disguised as anything else.  I seem to remember John Laws getting into hot water years ago over something similar, these days it's just par for the course.

I guess it's become the norm as a way to catch the people who record and then click through the ads, and oh yeah, I remember when that exercise used to be round about 5 or 6 clicks, now it's more like 10.

Guess I have arrived at the wrong Thread, didn't know this was the comedy Thread.

Comedy is a darn sight better than the nastiness from Olbaid and Foxy..don't you agree Celia?

Quote Hoohoo..."Sophie, why not switch over to channel 22 & catch some comedy repeats or an old black & white movie?"

Hi Hoohoo..I watched channel 22 for the first time last night..thanks for telling me about it..I did enjoy the comedy..some I've seen before but it's much nicer than some of the rubbish on the other stations. I hope they show Fawlty Towers at some point..one of my favourites!



Good on you, Sophie. I think there were only 10 or 12 episodes made of Fawlty Towers. Such classics! A shame there weren't any more made. Amazing that the one series was made, considering the break up of Connie Booth's & John Cleese's marriage.

DID anyone watch the 4 part series that was on ABC,     APPLE TREE LANE, ?   a very good show,    and where has the actor BEN CHAPLIN     been hiding,  ?eye candy,  for sure,  

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