National Broadcaster not arty enough says Friends of ABC

Funding cuts have diminished the ABC’s ability to meet its obligations to the arts community according to Friends of the ABC’s Terry Laidler.

Laidler told radioinfo:

“The ABC’s failure to meet its obligations to the community in championing the arts is one more example of the disastrous impact that government funding cuts have had on our world-class national broadcaster.”

Laidler’s comments follow the release of a report by UTS Professor of Communications Studies Liz Jacka that asserts arts programming on the ABC has been downgraded. She cites the demise of ‘The Listening Room’ as an example of where ABC Radio has let down the arts community.

The ABC’s Charter says the corporation must provide innovative and comprehensive broadcasting services; contribute to a sense of national identity; broadcast educational programs and encourage and promote the musical, dramatic and other performing arts in Australia.

“The ABC has an important responsibility and is uniquely placed to foster art and culture. Promoting arts is a key charter requirement of the ABC,” says Laidler.

The report confirms Friends of the ABC’s observations and what ABC audiences have been telling Friends over a period of time, that “quality arts programming on the ABC is suffering.”

Laidler says the report “reveals less original performance on ABC television and radio, the disappearance of specialist arts programming and a lack of innovation, particularly in areas well-placed to introduce young artists to its audience and young people to the arts. The ABC is not meeting its obligations to the community.”

Friends of the ABC believes quality arts coverage is declining as the result of insufficient funds and that ABC management mistakenly believes the solution “is to move to more lightweight, populist programming.”

“Private and public statements of ABC management reveal they increasingly judge programming success by the level of ratings – an inappropriate measure for a broadcaster with a responsibility to foster the arts and to deliver quality, diverse programming.

”Professor Jacka’s report reveals important ways in which the ABC is failing to meet its charter requirements in the area of the arts. In spite of the lack of cooperation of ABC management, it makes a terrific start in suggesting ways forward, especially the need to consult and work with Australian artists in developing a whole-of-ABC policy for the arts.”

Friends of the ABC is urging the ABC Board to respond to the report.

“It is time the ABC Board enunciated a strong vision and clear plan for the national broadcaster’s arts programming,” says Laidler.