Publish the secret plans for cuts: ABC House Committee

ABC on-air and production staff have signed an open letter to the ABC board calling for greater transparency and engagement with staff in the wake of news that ABC funding could be cut by more than $100 million in the next year.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull would not confirm the exact figure that the Lewis Review into ABC and SBS efficiency had put forward but indicated it would be ‘substantial.’

Insiders believe the cuts will dramatically exceed the cuts of $120 million over four years announced on May 13 in the Federal Government’s budget. ABC program makers say they are “ready, willing and able to play a constructive role in shaping the ABC’s future.”

The letter reads:


We the undersigned, express our grave concern at the ABC’s conduct through its secret consideration of a radical transformation of ABC operations, in a pre-emptive response to government funding cuts.

These cuts, now expected to be punitive and beyond plausible explanation as ‘efficiency savings’, will be in addition to the $120million already announced over four years (1% cut announced in the May 13 Federal Budget plus the $22million – recurrent – through the termination of the Australia Network contract).

The secrecy surrounding the ABC’s future is a breach of the ABC’s professed corporate values of honesty, fairness, independence and respect.

We take issue with the Managing Director’s vision that a future ABC will be structured and re-shaped primarily on audience demographic objectives by reallocating resources. A plan constructed in secret and imposed as a fait accompli can only be destructive.

ABC program makers are ready, willing and able to play a constructive role in shaping the ABC’s future. A future ABC must deliver quality, distinctive and specialist Australian content across the genres and all delivery platforms to sustain its relevance in the digital age. To do this the ABC Board has a duty and an obligation to engage the public whose trust in the institution, built over 82 years, has been fundamental to the ABC’s survival through any hostility.

We call on the Board to take decisive action in support of the ABC:

1. Publishing all plans, reviews and strategic papers for consideration by all stakeholders.

2. Engage in a public debate about the benefits of public broadcasting and the ABC.

3. Adopt transparency measures such as publication of ABC and executive board minutes and accept the legitimate role of the staff elected director to engage staff directly as a best practice measure in managing change.

The BBC has implemented openness and transparency measures in which executive level information is published online. ABC management is failing the transparency test, a deficiency made more critical now that hundreds of committed program makers are facing the axe.

Read our earlier report foreshadowing the action here.


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