The Australian Democrats have called for adequate funding for the ABC in the lead up to the 9 October election, saying the Corporation is our most important cultural institution and an integral part of our democracy.
Democrat Communications spokesperson, John Cherry, says the ABC provides informed current affairs reporting, vital contributions to Australian culture and content, and is a lifeline to regional Australia.
“It is essential that the ABC is adequately funded and independent of political and commercial pressure. Since 1985, ABC funding has fallen 30%, under Labor and Coalition governments, with the biggest cut in the first Budget of the Howard Government.
“The Democrats support a return in real terms to ABC pre-1985 funding, and call on both major parties to commit to this. This Government has received windfalls to the amount of $260 million through the sale of commercial radio licences and none of this has gone toward adequately funding the ABC.
“Priority should be given to expand the ABC radio network. More than a million Australians in regional areas do not have access to the national networks, Triple J and NewsRadio.”
Senator Cherry says funding is also needed to halt the continuing decline in the production of Australian drama and comedy (now drastically depleted) and to support digital platform.
“Politicisation of the ABC – starting under Labor and continuing under the Howard Government – has also been a disconcerting trend. This was highlighted only recently when ABC management refused a document maker access to file footage which had already been in the public domain.
“The Democrats have continuously called for merit based appointments to the ABC Board. We are the only party with legislation in Parliament which seeks to establish a mechanism to promote appointments on merit. We have put up amendments 25 times to enshrine appointments on merit in various acts, including the ABC and, 25 times, the ALP and Government have rejected them and have the cheek to talk about truth in politics.
“Our democracy depends on diversity of opinion and the questioning of Government that the ABC provides. The Democrats call on the major parties to restore its funding and de-politicise its board,” Senator Cherry concluded.