ABC Friends lead submissions in ABC Senate inquiry

ABC Friends has lodged a submission with the Senate Committee inquiring into the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Amendment (Local Content) Bill 2014.

The submission warns against the corporation becoming too Sydney-Centric and champions the importance of a strong public broadcaster to balance the “unhealthy lack of diversity” in the Australian commercial media.

ABC  Friends  supports  the  intent  of  the  proposed  amendment  to  ensure  the  ABC  has  a  strong  local  production presence  in  all  states  and  territories.  The lobby group believes  the  ABC  Charter  “should  be  amended  so  that  the  national  broadcaster  is  more  clearly  committed  to  produce  local  content  in  each  state  and  territory.”   

The Friends’ submission also, unsurprisingly, recommends more funding for the ABC and wants the Chairman of the ABC Board to front the Senate Inquiry. It also wants the ABC to consult with the community about changes it is making and for public disclosure of the findings of the Senate review.

Click here to view the full submission.

With submissions now closed, a range of other organisations’ opinions about the ABC have now been posted on the Senate Committee’s Inquiry page.

A submission from the Queensland University of Technology’s Brian McNair and Ben Goldsmith echoed similar sentiments, saying: 

For a relatively small cost the ABC provides key cultural services to Australia, in particular: 

• politically impartial, well-resourced news and current affairs, at national, regional and local levels. 

• technological innovation – the ABC’s iView is an example of the corporation pioneering a form of content distribution which the commercial sector has lagged in. 

The ABC’s services are popular. In 2013, following a Ministerial direction to investigate the operation, effectiveness and potential extension of section 43A of the Broadcasting Services Act, the Australian Communications and Media Authority commissioned Newspoll to conduct quantitative community research in to “awareness, use of, perceived importance and preferred source/s for accessing local content in regional areas of Australia”. The headline findings of this research were: 

• 91% of those surveyed said access to local content was important or very important to them; 

• 91% of those surveyed said they had access to all of the local content they would like; 

• 95% of those surveyed said they accessed some kind of local information or content available in their local area; 

• Multiple sources of local content are available; 

• 63% of those surveyed accessed local content on local ABC radio at least weekly; 

• Younger people were more likely to use and prefer online sources than their older counterparts. 

The UTS Communications Law Centre submission said:

The CLC submits that the provision of local content is essential for participatory democracy, particularly in rural and regional communities throughout Australia. Legislation and regulation should continue to support local content and production on radio and television (and radio and television like) services. The ABC’s Charter obligations require the ABC to provide high quality local content to the public, even in the absence of regulated quotas. 

A submission from the CPSU union made the following recommendations:

1. That the Committee gives consideration to the reintroduction of a regional production funding initiative that is in addition to current funding arrangements. 

2. To remain relevant and meet Charter obligations, the importance of investing local radio and digital jobs in the future should be publicly acknowledged by government and funding provided to reflect that recognition. 

3. That redundancies in Adelaide be halted to allow this Inquiry to be completed and its final report considered before any further action taken regarding closing production facilities in Adelaide. 

4. The ABC should be funded to a level that allows it to maintain existing services whilst developing further digital platforms and content. 

The ABC’s own very detailed submission can be viewed in full here.

All submissions can be downloaded here.