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    29/08/2019 - Author: admin - Comments are closed

    The Checkout has attracted more viewers than many network ‘hits’.Last week’s federal budget would have buffered at least some of the chill wind that is blowing around the ABC and SBS four months out from a likely change of government.

    Despite the encouraging words of the potential new communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, the austerity measures of the Howard years and the debacle of the Jonathan Shier era are remembered grimly.

    The budget delivered an additional $89.4 million over the next three years to the ABC, on top of $2.5 billion in the next triennium. SBS scored an extra $20 million over three years.

    For many years, one of the principal justifications for funding public broadcasting has been to fill the gaps in the market left by the commercial networks. Paradoxically, the ”market failure” case gets turned on its head whenever the ABC manages to out-rate commercial networks, which baulk at having their market share reduced by an organisation funded by taxpayers.

    From the unlikely source material of the launch of a fashion magazine in the 1970s, the ABC’s Paper Giants, whose sequel starts next week, remains one of the most popular TV dramas of recent times. So far this year, an irreverent ABC factual series debunking the lies of supermarkets and vitamin supplements alike has attracted more viewers than many network ”hits”.

    What prevented channels Seven, Nine or Ten making The Checkout? Or Paper Giants? Or last year’s terrific Jack Irish tele-features? Nothing.

    Ever-active lobby group Friends of the ABC contends that, despite the budget windfall, operational revenue has decreased by 23 per cent a year in real terms since 1985-86. ”Governments must do more to ensure the public broadcaster can thrive as a vital source of culture, independent information and ideas,” the group says.

    Looking at the recent record of the ABC and SBS, it’s hard not to concur. It’s time public broadcasters stopped being hobbled by fatuous arguments about their existence and left to make the shows audiences so clearly want to watch.

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