The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has rejected the demand made by a Nationals senator to widen its focus on regional Australia. The broadcaster called it “illogical and flawed.”
In its submission before a senate committee inquiring into Bridget McKenzie’s private bill, the public broadcaster took a strong stand against regional deviation, reports News Corp.
Senator McKenzie, in her speech to parliament sought amendments to the ABC’s charter. She said it was essentail for maintaining an “effective presence” among regional communities. The Senator also wanted a separate rural and regional advisory council to advise the ABC board.
Reflecting on the demand, the ABC reacted by saying it showed a lack of understanding about ABC’s history.
“While the bill reflects the senator’s deep commitment to regional Australia and acknowledges the pivotal role played by the corporation, overall it demonstrates a paucity of understanding of the ABC’s operations, its governance structure, and the budget constraints,” the broadcaster said.
The ABC argued that any change in its charter would reduce its autonomy and drive up costs. Senator McKenzie accused the ABC of letting down regional Australia with a narrow focus and alleged that the broadcaster had no regard for regional ideas and its culture.
“Over the course of many years, we have witnessed a systemic de-resourcing of our regional services and our regional communities and the art of journalism itself is suffering as a result,” she said.
The ABC also paraded some figures to show that it already spent more than $385 million, which is one third of its annual budget, for servicing regional areas. It also cited a dedicated $52 million regional division set up in 2015 with 400 personnel in 48 locations for making content for the regional communities, reports The Guardian.
The ABC said ABC TV had been making many programs outside Sydney and Melbourne. It mentioned “The Code”, filmed in the outback and Glitch filmed in regional Victoria as leading examples. The ABC also rejected the proposal that it should divert its funds to focus and mitigate the 1,500 jobs lost in regional commercial news services.
“The argument that the ABC can and should simply redirect funds away from ‘non-core’ digital activities in Sydney to address commercial broadcasting market failure pockets in rural and regional Australia is fundamentally flawed, and betrays a lack of understanding about history, production, programming, budgeting and the ABC Charter’, the submission said.