Open Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,

In a long political career, you have maintained a reputation for honesty and integrity. We therefore appeal to you, the elected political leader of Australia, to ensure that your pre-election commitments to the ABC are honoured.
Better Communications, the Liberal and National Parties’ Policy Document presented to the Australian people before the last election, said of the ABC, with its six radio networks, national television channels, State symphony orchestras, and international broadcasting through Radio and ATV:
This vast network provides a diverse range of programs and performances of cultural value and intellectual integrity. The ABC has a proud record of offering high quality and diverse programming across a broad spectrum of human interests including news, current affairs, drama, sport and the arts.
The ABC must be an independent, truly national, publicly funded broadcaster devoted to excellence and objectivity and offering a clear alternative to the commercial broadcasting sector. The ABC should reflect the broad spectrum of interests, values and views in the Australian community.
Specifically, the policy document committed your government to:

  • maintain the existing levels of Commonwealth funding to the ABC;
  • maintain the current prohibition on advertising and sponsorship on ABC television and radio;
  • maintain the ABC’s comprehensive radio network;
  • encourage and support the ongoing expansion of ABC Radio, including the extension of the Triple J network into regional Australia;
  • maintain current levels of financial support for the orchestras;
  • fund the ABC directly for its transmission costs.

Since the election, we have heard with increasing anxiety statements that suggest an abrogation of these unambiguous commitments to the maintenance and support of the ABC. At a time when rumours of budget cuts abound, such negative statements give cause for alarm. We have received no reassurance regarding your election commitments, no reassertion of your and your government’s continuing support for what many Australians regard as Australia’s central and perhaps most significant cultural, educational and intellectual institution.
It is for that reason we write to you today. Through the initiative of Friends of the ABC in all States (whose activities your policy document praises), we ask you publicly to reaffirm your government’s adherence to its policy commitments to the ABC. In so doing, you will both reassure the 86% of Australians who each week watch ABC TV or listen to ABC Radio that their national broadcaster is not under threat, and maintain a proud record of honesty in politics.