A new five-year funding term from 2023 would give the ABC financial stability and safeguard against arbitrary cuts and political interference, the Labor communications minister, Michelle Rowland, dice.
In an interview with Guardian Australia on the eve of the ABC’s 90th birthday, Rowland said the Coalition “completely lied” about not cutting ABC funding in 2013 and the broadcaster had been harmed as a result. But she stopped short of agreeing with Kevin Rudd that the ABC had been “tamed” by cuts and incessant attacks.
“I think that it does continue to deliver on its charter despite the many challenges that it has had,” Rowland said.
“It’s had to make some very difficult decisions over the past few years. And it’s made those decisions independently.
“But my focus as minister is on delivering on a suite of policies that will enable it to deliver on that charter and be able to do so without political interference by the government of the day.”
Labor pledged before the election to extend the ABC’s funding from three to five years, something Rowland says will “take it beyond the three-year election cycle” and “safeguard against those arbitrary cuts and political interference that we’ve seen”.
Rowland said the ABC board faced allegations of political interference in 2018 under chairman Justin Milne and managing director Michelle Guthrie.
A leaked email from Milne to Guthrie said the ABC should “get rid of” chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici following complaints from the then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Milne, Guthrie and Alberici all departed the ABC after the tumultuous period.
“I think that the ABC still remains the most trusted news source in Australia,” Rowland said. “I look forward to the next 90 years of the ABC with a sense of optimism.”
Under the Coalition the ABC lost $526m in funding, resulting in the loss of 640 lavori, a partire dal 4,704 staff to 4,064.
In addition to staff cuts, the ABC’s savings have come from discontinuing the 7.45am radio news bulletin, reducing spending on independent production and discontinuing ABC Life.
Rowland won’t be drawn on whether Labor will boost the budget, but Labor has given the ABC additional funds in the form of tied funding for kids TV, drama and news in the past.
Nel 2021 budget the Coalition handed out an extra $58.6m to the media sector but the ABC missed out on the largesse.
SBS got $30m, newswire Australian Associated Press received $15m, community broadcasting got $8m and the media regulator secured $4.2m.
In its final budget the Morrison government restored ABC funding per 2018 livelli, when Turnbull imposed an $84m indexation pause, with the public broadcaster to be given $3.3bn for the next three years.
The former communications minister Paul Fletcher said SBS would receive $953.7m, including an additional $37.5m in ongoing funding to support its long-term sustainability.
Rowland has already signalled a review of the outdated Broadcasting Services Act 1992 which is not fit for purpose for the digital age.
She also criticised the Coalition for being weak on Australian content and for “making things worse by watering down content obligations”.