Former Family Court Chief Justice, Alastair Nicholson, says Australians concerned about an independent media should be wary of attempts to privatise the ABC.
Speaking at a meeting of the Friends of the ABC in Melbourne, Nicholson says privatisation of the Corporation is not unthinkable, but it is more likely to be commercialised first and then sold to private interests.
He says some within Government want to destroy the ABC, which he describes as the last bastion of truly independent media in Australia.
Nicholson says the sale of the ABC into private hands is a truly appalling prospect and its destruction would be a blow for democracy.
“From a purely political point of view, the Howard Government would regard itself as advantaged by the demise of the ABC.
“That would remove, at one stroke, the most significant source of independent comment about the performance of the Government in Australia.
“It would enable the Government to exercise unparalleled dominance over the electronic media and effectively silence criticism without acting overtly to do so. The consequences for democracy in this country would be catastrophic.”
With the Howard Government re-elected, Nicholson expects there will be more ‘compliant’ appointments to the ABC Board.
He says supporters of the ABC could also expect “a continuation of the sort of financial attrition that has occurred since 1996”.
Nicholson has called on the Government to clarify its intentions for the ABC, urging supporters to lobby individual MPs.
He says control of the Senate has given the Government the power to act as it pleases to ‘reform’ the ABC.
Nicholson has also expressed despair for the future of the commercial print and electronic media, saying they have become concentrated in the hands of too few proprietors.