ABC Budget allocation 'disappointing' says Balding | radioinfo

ABC Budget allocation 'disappointing' says Balding

Wednesday 21 May, 2003

As part of the budget process, the Minister for Communications Senator Alston, has announced that ABC funding “has been maintained in real terms.” The Government will provide the ABC with base triennial funding of $488.7 million in 2003-04, $501.4 million in 2004-05 and $512.9 million in 2005-06 (financial details below).

Senator Alston said the funding allocation “fully meets the Coalition's election commitment to maintain in real terms the level of triennial funding” for the ABC, but ABC MD Russell Balding does not agree.

Balding told radioinfo: The ABC is very disappointed with its funding outcome as outlined in the
Federal Budget this evening.

We argued in a logical, consistent and candid manner, that without a modest
increase in our budget, programs would suffer.

The Government has decided to reject that funding request in the full
knowledge that it would have a negative effect on ABC programming.

This funding outcome is all the more disappointing in light of the
anticipated budget surplus, and the ABC's recent outstanding efforts in the
coverage of the war in Iraq and the bushfires. It is precisely in times of
national struggle and crisis that the nation needs a properly funded public
broadcaster.

As part of the triennial funding process, the Government has decided to continue the funding initially provided in 2000 to strengthen the ABC's Radio Australia services to the Asia-Pacific region, through FM retransmission, shortwave transmission and digital satellite distribution. The ABC's Radio Australia will receive $9.1 million during the 2003-04 to 2005-06 triennium.

The RA funding will ensure that the overseas network of the ABC “continues to help international audiences better understand Australia's rich culture, the challenges it faces and its place in the world, and to communicate with Australians in the region during times of crisis.” In 2001, the Coalition also committed $90 million over five years to the ABC to enable it to re-establish an Australian international television presence in the Asian region.

As a result of this Budget, the ABC will receive a total of $742.6 million (plus over $17 million for ABC Asia Pacific and funding for digital interference) in Federal Government funding in 2003-04, and in excess of $2.2 billion from 2003-04 to 2005-06.

Balding says: “The ABC must now assess its position. Hard decisions must be made so that we
can maintain core services and continue to be relevant to the Australian
public. Some decisions about programming will be made within the next few
weeks.

The Board will need to consider the ramifications of this budget in the
broader strategic context over the coming months.”

RADIO DIVISION FINANCIAL DETAILS

The Radio Division will spend $228.498 million fulfilling the objective: "To provide distinctive radio programs that give an Australia-wide focus to local and regional communities, and satisfy diverse audience needs, nationally and internationally."

$201.598 million of this funding will come from appropriations (down from $212,249 million last year) and $26.9 million will have to be earned from other revenue sources.

TELEVISION AND NEW MEDIA DIVISION FINANCIAL DETAILS

Television will spend $479.431 million, made up of $374.388 million in appropriations (down from $400,629 million last year) and $105.043 million in other revenue.

New Media will spend $17.898 million, made up of appropriations of $15.384 million and $2.514 million from other revenue.

COMMENTS

Australian Democrats communications spokesperson John Cherry has also weighed into the ABC Budget debate saying: "The Federal Government has refused every single one of the ABC's proposed new programs in its triennium funding. It appears any new funding for the ABC seems to be dependent on the Senate agreeing to the Government's cross media ownership bills."

"The 3.4 million Australians who cannot get NewsRadio, the 1.2 million who cannot get Triple J, and the 1 million who cannot get Classic FM will be disappointed that the Government has failed to deliver on its promises on ABC Radio coverage."

He also warned that the "failure to fund the ABC" may also lead to the government's digital TV strategy being undermined if ABC TV has to turn off its digital TV multichanneling service.

Friends of the ABC spokesperson Terry Laidler described the budget allocations as: "Steady as she goes, dismantling the ABC."

He says: "Shortly after its election in 1996, the Government cut the ABC’s triennial funding by $66m (12%) per annum. The current Budget has failed to restore ABC funding, and highlighted the danger of governments providing one-off targeted grants in lieu of adequate triennial funding."

"The Government has even failed to commit the funds required for the ABC to continue its increased regional production and programming, an initiative which resulted from one-off funds the Government targeted to regional audiences for political advantage prior to the last Federal election."

One-off funding of $17.8m per annum over four years, announced shortly before the 2001 election, is due to expire in the funding period covered by the current Budget.

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