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The ABC will prosper with much less public funding

By Chris Lewis - posted Thursday, 21 May 2020

It is the same bias that exists in Australia given that most academics chose to criticise the Howard government's policy record, even though it won four successive elections, thus giving others an opportunity to defend the Howard government's record given its policies were actually in line with majority public opinion on many issues, including immigration and social welfare.

While some authors try very hard to be balanced, a task more likely to be achieved from extensive research of all perspectives, most will assess policy in accordance to one's interpretation of the facts and personal views and values.

For example, just as a 2013 Sunshine Coast University survey found that 41% of ABC journalists voted for the Greens, 32% for Labor and only 14% the Coalition, so a 2014 US survey found that conservatives represented a very small portion of the audience for its public broadcasting.


The simple solution is for all broadcasters to support any bias through their own funding in a battle for the hearts and minds of citizens with regard to different issues.

While the ABC only generated 4% of its total 2018-19 revenue from the sale of goods and services, 2015 data shows that 3.12 million subscribers contributed 28.7% of funds to all US public radio and television broadcasters with business providing a further 14.1%, foundations 8.7% and colleges/universities 9.8%.

With regard to the ABC attracting non-government revenue, SBS already upholds this possibility given that advertising alone generating a substantial proportion of the $144 million that came from the sale of goods and services in 2018-19 ($282 million from government).

Interestingly, SBS was the only free-to-air network during to increase its metropolitan ratings, reaching its all-time high of 7.7%.

The idea that public funded broadcasting is necessary to inform citizens on key policy issues is nonsense, as is the holy grail of hope that current affairs journalists will ever deliver balanced views to complex issues that please all.

Supporters of public broadcasting have nothing to fear from less government funding, as long as political leaders and society are both fair and realistic about the pace of funding reform, and supporters are prepared to put their own money behind their cause.


For example, several local US public stations saw a dramatic rise in direct contributions after President Trump promoted a tweet asking why NPR still exists. This followed an NPR journalist experiencing foul language from Vice President Pompeo on 24 January 2020 after he was pressed on the administration's Ukraine policy as part of a taped interview, with the State Department Correspondents' Association, lawmakers and commentators speaking out in support of NPR afterward, including a Fox News host (Steve Hilton) who referred to Pompeo as a "baby" and a "bully".

But, rather than allow the ABC to openly preserve its bias and direct spending at its own will, governments should continue to decrease public funding and target special needs like infrastructure and local drama (including children's content) to help preserve Australian culture where ABC and SBS production already play an important role.

To conclude, the ABC can prosper with much less public funding, a reality its supporters may have to get used to given that real funding has already declined by $367 million per year since 1985/86, as Australian governments rightfully allocate more public resources to policy areas of much greater need.


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About the Author

Chris Lewis has an interest in all economic, social and environmental issues, but believes that the struggle for the ‘right’ policy mix remains an elusive goal in such a complex and competitive world.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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