The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is facing tougher fiscal times following the release of the Australian Federal Government’s 2018 Budget which will see the Government freeze the ABC’s indexation from July 2019. According to the national broadcaster, this will effectively cost the broadcaster AUD$84 million over three years. The decision comes at a critical time for the ABC as it commences triennial funding negotiations with the Government and comes on top of a cumulative $254 million in cuts imposed since 2014.
ABC Managing Director Michelle Guthrie (pictured) said the impact of the decision could not be absorbed by efficiency measures alone, as the ABC had already achieved significant productivity gains in response to past budget cuts.
“The ABC is now more important than ever given the impact of overseas players in the local media industry and the critical role the ABC plays as Australia’s most trusted source of news, analysis and investigative journalism,” Ms Guthrie said. “Our talented and dedicated content makers consistently deliver award winning public interest journalism, regional services and critically acclaimed original Australian programs and content.
“Stable, adequate funding is essential if we are to continue to deliver for Australian audiences.”
The ABC’s long-term strategy published at an Annual Public Meeting in February 2018 outlines the broadcaster’s plan to respond to changing audience expectations, and to remain as relevant in the future as it always has been in the past.
The ABC will continue to negotiate its funding requirements with the Government to ensure it can deliver on this commitment to a future which ensures the ABC remains relevant in the digital age.
Ms Guthrie also rejected as unnecessary the proposed efficiency review given efficiency programs introduced by the ABC in recent years.
SBS, Australia’s other state-owned broadcaster, meanwhile has been allocated AUD$14.6 million in funding to be provided over two years from 2018-19. This funding relates to the funding reduction SBS received in 2015 when it was expected that the SBS Advertising Flexibility Bill would give the organisation the opportunity to generate further additional own-source revenue, which has now been withdrawn.
The budget cuts to the ABC follow the Australian Government’s establishment of a panel to conduct an Inquiry into the competitive neutrality of the national broadcasters. The Inquiry will examine whether Australia’s national broadcasters – the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) – are operating in a manner consistent with the principles of competitive neutrality. Competitive neutrality principles provide that government business activities should not enjoy net competitive advantages simply by virtue of their public sector ownership.