Many people will depend on the ABC for their news coverage during the COVID-19 restrictions. Indeed, I have no doubt that the ABC will claim that the difficulties of the present time demonstrate the necessity of a robust national broadcaster for times of crisis. Indeed, following the bushfires of this summer, the ABC used Senate Estimates to ask for more of your money, on that very basis.
This isn’t the time for culture-wars type arguments. But it is worth saying that while the ABC cries poor – from the biggest, newest, most well-resourced studios in the business – this is what it is producing with the public money it says it cannot do without:
Not using the extra channels it has to help parents homeschooling their children to run classes at home – but providing tips on how to keen the couch clean.
Is it any wonder only 32% of Australians think the ABC represents the views of ordinary Australians? (Dynata survey, February 2020.)
This isn’t about being a prude, or about the bounds of good taste (although I’m of the view this is inappropriate on both measures, I accept others will have a different view). It’s about what we regard as a proper use of taxpayers’ money.
I’m willing to accept that where there is a market failure – such as in rural and regional Australia – there is a reasonable call for publicly funding a broadcaster. But let’s be real: the ABC has for the last decade been pulling services out of the bush, pulling local bureaus from the regions and centralising their staff and issues of interest in the centre of our biggest cities.
There is no market failure where the national broadcaster is running repeats of “That 70’s Show”, as entertaining as it may be, in cities where they have out-bid commercial stations for the right to do so.
One of the most compelling arguments offered by ABC apologists is the need for robust, independent journalism. That argument sounds good, but it isn’t borne out in practice. Even if we accepted it presents a balanced range of political views (which it doesn’t) the very fact that the public are paying for the best-resourced news rooms in the business is actually sending other sources of journalism – the commercially viable kind – to the wall. How is that good for an informed citizenry? It’s actually anti-competitive, and we wouldn’t allow it in just about any other industry.
There’s a lot of people in need of help from the nation at the moment. Does the value of the ABC trump the need of those people stood down from work, wondering how they’ll pay their rent or mortgage or facing the heartbreaking reality of having to lay off staff from their business? I don’t think so.
Then again, perhaps that’s why the ABC does not represent the views of ordinary Australians.
PS – Please send to me the worst examples you see of ABC waste of taxpayer funds: [email protected] This example was sent to me by Debra Burns of Airlie Beach. Thanks for your common-sense approach, Debra!