This bill seeks to amend the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act
1983 to increase the extent to which the ABC services the needs of rural
and regional Australia.
It is a solution in search of a problem.
There appears to be taken as read that the ABC is failing to service the
needs of rural and regional Australians, as no reasonable or persuasive
evidence is provided to substantiate that such a failure exists or has existed.
Instead it is simply assumed that the ABC is deficient in its service
and that the solution to this deficiency is more red tape and bureaucracy for
an organisation that is frequently criticized for its current levels of red
tape and bureaucracy.
Many of the submissions to this inquiry were made by those seeking less
to strengthen the provision of services by the ABC and more to isolate them
into rural and regional silos, leaving commercial competitors greater capacity
to service more profitable markets.
The Australian Greens take seriously the need for the ABC to be
representative of its audience, both at an executive and managerial level as
well as with its on-air talent. It is in the service of the public interest for
the national broadcaster to display a commitment to diversity in line with its
If there is a need for the ABC to do more to meet the particular needs
of rural and regional audiences, then perhaps there is a need for the ABC to be
funded to provide more.
Arguments that the content service of the ABC should be zero-sum, where
more content is provided to rural and regional audiences at the cost of content
to inner-city and urban audiences, represent a false dichotomy of choices. If
we need the ABC to do more we should be willing to fund it adequately, so that it
can do more.
It is a political decision to allocate resources to the ABC and if we
are to make the political decision that we the public require more from the ABC
it is entirely appropriate that the ABC respond by saying, to honour that
requirement, it also requires more from the public.
The ABC is unique in the Australian media landscape and its role is of
utmost importance. It remains a highly-trusted source of news and current
affairs and it has maintained a commitment to journalism beyond the confines of
Rural and regional audiences deserve a high-quality product from their
national broadcaster as much as any other audience does. The ABC should be
supported in providing it to all, regardless of their location. Depriving it of
the resources to do so, including by requiring it to commit additional
resources to overcoming bureaucratic red tape and administrative procedures
that are of questionable value, bears an opportunity cost that weakens the
effectiveness of the ABC to do the job we need it to do.
It is because of our support for the ABC, its audience and its function
in the Australian media landscape that the Australian Greens recommend the Bill
Senator Janet Rice Senator
Victoria Senator for South
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