News & Commentary

Libs’ Federal Council votes 2 to 1 to privatise the ABC (B1 and B2 included)

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Right, you blue and white striped clowns. The game’s over. It’s time to straighten up the pair of you and all your mates, too: Barrie Cassidy, Fran Kelly, Ian Henderson, and Jon Faine, to name a few. Living off the Crown’s coin, while honest Australians toil away the hours maintaining life and liberty.

You’re all for the chop. You’re being sold off. No more of your playing around at taxpayers’ expense. You’re being privatised. You too Big Ted and Little Ted and you as well Jemima; here’s your gender equality for you. You’re all gone.

Let’s see how you all survive in the real world of profit and loss. Don’t start crying. “High sentimentality is no justification for preserving the status quo.” Remember that.

It’s an ideological way of saying, That was then. This is now.

Better, B1 and B2, to leave now with your dignity intact and your pyjamas uncreased with ignominy.

The present is this: the Liberal Party Federal Council at the weekend voted by a margin of 2 to 1 to call on the Coalition government to sell the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. No one spoke against the motion during the vote. No one. Forget that the vote is non-binding, doesn’t mean a crumpet. Forget that the Treasurer Scott Morrison, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it wasn’t going to happen. They may be the adults in charge now, but their time will fade and it will come to pass that the Young Liberals, who were the drivers of this motion, will succeed them. It’s all only a matter of time.

Better, B1 and B2, to leave now with your dignity intact and your pyjamas uncreased with ignominy. It’s a pity you don’t live in Yarrawonga or Wagga Wagga, or parts similarly inhabited by country folk because the ABC would stay in government hands. Simple truth is it’s just not worth it to sell off the bush.

Mitchell Collier, the federal vice-president of the Young Liberals, told the council:  “Privatising it (the ABC) would save the federal budget $1 billion a year, could pay off debt and would enhance, not diminish, the Australian media landscape.”

Why Collier had enjoyed B1 and B2 as a child, but the rosy glow of banana frolics watched as a boy didn’t cut it against the steel jaws of economics. There was no reason for the ABC to stay public.

This is quite a leap of logic. Indeed, it’s revolutionary. The ABC is the nation’s public broadcaster.

Thus to privatise it, that is, place it in the hands of the marketplace, is to subvert its charter, in fact its raison d’etre, and destroy its function. It places it in the hands of those whose primary driver is making money. It becomes a commercial operation. It becomes a dead public broadcaster. It certainly won’t enhance the media landscape.

Which, to put it mildly, would go against the public interests of the country. The ABC Charter, which is enshrined in the federal ABC Act, details the corporation’s purpose.

“The functions of the corporation are:

(a)  to provide within Australia innovative and comprehensive broadcasting services of a high standard as part of the Australian broadcasting system consisting of national, commercial and community sectors and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, to provide:

(i)  broadcasting programs that contribute to a sense of national identity and inform and entertain, and reflect the cultural diversity of, the Australian community; and

(ii)  broadcasting programs of an educational nature;

(b)  to transmit to countries outside Australia broadcasting programs of news, current affairs, entertainment and cultural enrichment that will:

(i)  encourage awareness of Australia and an international understanding of Australian attitudes on world affairs; and

(ii)  enable Australian citizens living or travelling outside Australia to obtain information about Australian affairs and Australian attitudes on world affairs; and

(ba)  to provide digital media services; and

(c)  to encourage and promote the musical, dramatic and other performing arts in Australia.”

The corporation will also “provide a balance between broadcasting programs of wide appeal and specialised broadcasting programs” and take into account “the multicultural character of the Australian community”.

This is the smoke that shows a fire is smouldering. There are many who want to mould the ABC to a shape that aligns with their ideology.

Does anyone of a right mind think the commercial world of broadcasting will commit to that? The commercial world has enough on its plate in deciding how many reality shows they can load onto the public’s shoulders. They think we’re content with building houses, renovating houses, cooking a meal, surviving on an island, jumping through hoops, surviving in the jungle, marrying someone you don’t know, marrying a farmer, being a real housewife, being obese and losing weight, being a celebrity, trying to fix it up with the ex, dancing a bit and singing a bit.

The Federal Council motion has been painted as a sideshow to the main game, and it is in the short term. But this is the smoke that shows a fire is smouldering. There are many who want to mould the ABC to a shape that aligns with their ideology.

It is a poor commentary of the state of the nation, its politics, both in Canberra and the press, that the public broadcaster, everyone’s ABC, is hostage to this war of puerility. It is an independent entity, whatever critics may assert. Never have so many mountains arisen from so many mole hills. Conservatives see this as a battle of life and death for the heart of the country. It’s not. They scream that their voice is not heard and so scream louder.  It would be laughable if it were not so serious.

A voice of common sense arose after the vote. Former leader of the National Party and ex- deputy PM Tim Fischer said: “Good, bad or interesting, the ABC is part of the core, official fabric of the nation and should never be sold.”

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yes, he’s right.

Council delegate Mitchell Collier, the federal vice-president of the Young Liberals, said he had enjoyed ABC programs such as Bananas in Pyjamas during his childhood but said there was no economic case to keep the broadcaster in public hands. “High sentimentality is no justification for preserving the status quo,” he said.

6 responses to “Libs’ Federal Council votes 2 to 1 to privatise the ABC (B1 and B2 included)

  1. I am 67 and can still recall eating my Vegemite sandwiches on the lounge floor that Mum had just made for me while listening to the opening strains of “Blue Hills”, and if anybody even dares to again suggest the ABC be sold to some traitorious scum bag like Murdoch i will personally come round and “rip their bloody arms off”.

  2. Television or Radio Australia would not be worth switching on without the ABC.
    The commercial alternatives are crap.

  3. Like Warwick McFadyen, I was appalled if not entirely surprised to hear about the motion to privatize the ABC, passed by the Liberal Party Federal Council. Though the Government immediately distanced itself from this, we do know that several senior ministers are strongly critical of the ABC, mainly for the traditional reason: its supposed left-wing bias. We can’t fail to be aware of the commercial media’s opposition to the ABC getting into some of its own territory, via ABC shops and marketing. Behind the latest motion I see the hand of Rupert Murdoch, in whose newspapers several columnists berate the ABC. They only ever talk about programs like Four Corners, 7.30 and the old Lateline – those that deal with political matters, in other words. Beyond those are dozens, indeed hundreds of other programs both on radio and TV, which present material of interest to a very wide range of listeners throughout Australia and beyond. People should speak up more about the myriad services which the ABC provides, quite apart from news and current affairs.

    1. Rodney Wetherell says: “People should speak up more about the myriad services which the ABC provides, quite apart from news and current affairs.” Hear, hear … the current MD in her speech to Melbourne scribblers echoed her predecessor’s line that the ABC is a “news organisation” which it clearly (according to its Charter) should not be. It is there to “inform and entertain” and, among other things, ” to encourage and promote the musical, dramatic and other performing arts in Australia”. It can’t do these things when the vast portion of its budget is spent supporting the already obese news department. Other areas of the ABC have suffered slashing and burning, not because of government budget cuts, but because every available cent has been directed towards the obsession by senior management to be another “news organisation” rather than the “Broadcasting Corporation” that Australians expect it to be. So yes, time to mount the trusty steed and ride toward the portcullis on the Ultimo Taj Mahal with sword raised to defend “our ABC” from those who would turn it into just a bunch of so-called journalists and autocue-readers!

  4. As someone on another forum has written, privatising the ABC means that the pool of money available for advertising now for commercial media will necessarily have to be spread even more thinly. Among other horrible probabilities – untrustworthy presenters (i.e. which vested interest are they now backgrounding), the disappearance of investigative reporting/science-based documentaries – there would be no Andrew Olles or Matt Peacocks or even-handed philosophical/religious treatment. Programs for the bush – for gardeners – “Back Roads” with Heather Ewart/Julie Zemiro presentations – all gone! Anything which builds communities and exposes the sharks – gone! Anything Erich Abetz wants (or is it Erica Betts) is surely properly suspect?

  5. Appalling move by the Liberals. Very poor politics and has just thrown a hand grenade into the next election. Erica Betts (sic) and his ilk complain of the ABC left wing bias but I see this as a relative position of their own making. Years ago the Liberals were in the middle of politics jockeying for that honour with labor to grab the hearts and minds of the Australian public. The Liberals have now moved so far to the right that everything is left leaning including the ABC. To me it seems they genuinely believe that they are supported by the majority and their view is the modal position in the political debate just as they they thought the same about the Gay Marriage debate. They are so out of touch that only losing their seats will drive the message home to them. I shall do my part as NOBODY has the right to sell my ABC. It is the fabric of our society and it always will be. I too will rip your heads off if you try.

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