We all knew it would happen. The more the Prime Minister protested that it wouldn’t, the bigger the deceit and the more blatant the lie. Just when the ABC was getting nicely into its stride with a series of new local productions, the coalition made its inevitable move to strip it, and the SBS, of funds. There have, and will be losses of programs and jobs, as there have been so often in the past, whenever a conservative government gains power and sets out to disarm the ABC. The pattern is similar to past assaults, rumours about left wing bias, followed by a hefty cut in the national broadcaster’s finances. The Prime Minister’s surprise denial on the eve of the elections that he would not do this to the ABC and SBS was clearly a slip of the tongue, which was believed by no-one. After all, Abbott once said the only time he should be trusted was when he put a promise on paper.
So there have, and will be staff cuts, and some of the best and brightest on the ABC will be discouraged by the cuts, and seek jobs with commercial networks as has so often happened before. This is the first slash of the knife; doubtless if next year’s budget is as big a shambles as the current budget, there will be another “financial adjustment”. Some of us hoped Minister Turnbull might have rounded up enough support from the National Party to support the ABC, for many country parliamentarians realise its value. But the stripping goes on. They once had a perfect setup in French’s Forest, a film studio with two sound stages and all the technical support required, where we made mini-series and television films that were seen all over the world. It was sold off to be demolished, and is now an office block. What comes next? An annexation of SBS, and its disappearance into the ABC complex in Ultimo?
And will the ABC be forced into buying even more second rate British shows, like the endless episodes of QI, one every week night at 6.30 pm, and two each Wednesday night in prime time. Even for those who admire Stephen Fry, this is overkill and far too much braying laughter.