Broadcasting and the Arts Public broadcasting

Budget Review 2009-10 Index

Budget 2009 10: Broadcasting and the Arts

Public broadcasting

Dr Rhonda Jolly

This Budget delivers $2.1 billion in base funding for the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) over three years from 2009–10 and $362.6 million for the same period for the Special Broadcasting Service Corporation (SBS). This funding does not represent an increase in real base funding from that provided to both broadcasters under the previous Government.[1]

This Budget has, however, provided funding for the public broadcasters which is in addition to the base funding allocation. The ABC is to receive a further $150 million over three years from 2009–10. The Government intends this funding to assist the ABC in establishing a digital children's channel. The funding is also to enable the ABC to increase the level of Australian drama content.[2] The ABC will also receive $15.3 million over three years under the Rural and Regional National Broadband Network Initiative to deliver more than 50 enhanced ABC broadband hubs in regional Australia. The Government considers the latter funding will ‘help establish community websites and portals and create “virtual town squares” for communities to share experiences’.[3]

The supplementary funding for these initiatives, according to the ABC, represents the biggest increase for the ABC since its incorporation in 1983, and an excellent outcome, given the tough economic times.[4] The funding was not unexpected, however, as the Government indicated in its response to the 2020 Summit that it was committed to a dedicated children’s television channel and that it was open to the consideration of ideas about increasing the national broadcaster’s capacity to deliver distinctive Australian content into the future.[5]  

The multicultural broadcaster, SBS, will receive an additional $20 million over three years. The Government intends that this will increase local content by an additional 50 hours per annum from 2011–12. But this funding is less than the $70 million the multicultural broadcaster had sought.   In response to the Budget, SBS Managing Director Shaun Brown considered that after ‘years of financial neglect’ the extra funding was most likely not enough to allow the broadcaster ‘to continue to deliver the services Australian audiences expect and deserve’.[6]

Academic Jock Given considers that this Budget is a ‘clear sign’ that there is a new Government dealing with the public broadcasters. He argues that after a number of beleaguered years in the funding wilderness, their moment to receive more funding has come. [7] This view may be a little optimistic but at the same time, it may be, as Given notes, not a bad time to be a media organisation that receives most of its money from the Government.[8]     

[1].    Funding for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (including only Commonwealth operating revenue) in 2006–07 was $683.8 million and for the Special Broadcasting Corporation (including only Commonwealth operating revenue) in 2006–07 was $182 million. See also R Jolly, Funding of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, E-brief, November 2006, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2006, viewed 20 May 2009, and R Jolly, Special Broadcasting Service (SBS): operations and funding, E-brief, March 2007, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2007, viewed 20 May 2009,

[2].    Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2009–10: budget related paper no. 1.3: Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2008, p. 74.

[3].    S Conroy (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy), quoted in  ABC gets record funding boost, ABCNews website, 13 May 2009, viewed 15 May 2009,

[4].    Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), ABC funding boost 2009–12, media release, ABC, 12 May 2009, viewed 15 May 2009, 

[5].    Australian Government, Responding to the Australia 2020 Summit, Chapter 8 ‘Towards a creative Australia’, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Canberra, 2009, viewed 15 May 2009,

[6].    D Knox, SBS: ‘We will significantly scale back’ future plans, TVtonight website, 12 May 2009, viewed 15 May 2009,

[7].    J Given, ‘The moment has come for Australia's beleaguered public broadcasters’, Special Budget edition, Crikey newsletter, 12 May 2009.

[8].    J Given.