John Patkin's spirited defence of the ABC | radioinfo

John Patkin's spirited defence of the ABC

Tuesday 30 June, 2020

Opinion from John Patkin

The funding cuts and job losses at the ABC are an attack on public broadcasting and freedom of speech.

The Australian government should immediately increase the ABC’s budget to ensure the organisation continues in its role of the nation’s psyche.

One of the hallmarks of public broadcasting is ensuring that a variety of opinions are heard, questioned, and contextualised. This broad spectrum of views often receives criticism from fans of privately funded commercial radio that attracts listeners through polarizing shock-jocks. 

Despite the noise made by its critics, the ABC has a loyal fan base and so it is incorrect to state the people hate the organisation and label it as a burden to the nation’s taxpayers. The irony is the ABC protects the haters. Its longer commercial-free newscasts and in-depth programs provide people of different backgrounds more time than an edited sound bite to express their views.

The ABC is central in promoting the rights and narratives of Australia’s armed forces personnel. From embedded journalists to dedicated timeslots that discuss the needs of veterans. Regional radio supports the farming industry and acts as a coordinator for emergencies such as bushfires.

In the cities, ABC radio recognises the traditional owners of the land, discusses issues with the wider population, and looks for the marginalized in hopes of giving them a voice. The ABC reaches across the land to the nation’s youth, sports fans, and music lovers.

Public broadcasting is aligned with social justice but not exclusively. Its well-publicized and transparent policies ensure the ABC provides safe and open forums to discuss the needs of society without judgment. Its highly sort after impartiality sits in contrast to the attention-seeking hedonistic hosts of commercial talk radio. Its news reporting and online content set the standard for usability and functionality. 
Beyond the radio dial, the ABC is the backbone of the modern arts in Australia. If hundreds of actors began with stints on Play School and comedic productions, just think about the thousands of writers, producers, designers, and equipment operators that have passed through the ABC and contributed to the wider industry. There are also the ABC stalwarts that remain and contribute to popular and award-winning content.

The ABC could do some things better. The recently released plan to downsize the Sydney operation makes sense. Let us hope the bean counters wait for a partial recovery as flipping ABC real estate now may not be fiscally prudent. Consciously cutting back on travel is a logical mirror of its own strength of reaching the nation wirelessly. With better financial management and increased funding, the organisation can create more stability and build on its intellectual capital with more permanent full-time roles and scrapping part-time and temporary contracts. Long-term job security has a positive impact on the wider economy. 

The indispensable role of the ABC should not be trivialized or cliched. A simple scan of the news reveals what happens when authoritarian governments like China attack public broadcasters as is the case of RTHK in Hong Kong which is being squeezed into obscurity. That is why an attack on the ABC is an attack on Australia and democracy.

How the government treats the ABC serves as a template for developing democracies and weakening its place in Australia provides excuses for repressive regimes to muzzle the media. 

Some of us do not drive on every road in the country, borrow from libraries or use the local community centre but it is good to know they are there and there is a democratic process in place that allows us to discuss how they are funded and managed. Like it or not, the ABC charter aims to make the lives all Australians better, even for its detractors.



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30 June 2020 - 11:18am
John Patkin writes "the ABC provides safe and open forums" ... if that were true the people at the ABC would not be blocking, deleting or hiding comments that they don't agree with now would they?
30 June 2020 - 6:16pm
The ABC doesn't need to be abolished ... just severely trimmed!

They really do produce a lot of crap ... at our expense!

And I love this "Its highly sort after impartiality sits in contrast to the attention-seeking hedonistic hosts of commercial talk radio''
Impartiality? Is this guy high? Does he actually listen to or watch the [Left Wing] ABC? What a joke. Does anyone at the ABC understand the word unbiased? I think it's in their charter actually :-)

But as for waste, why do we need SO many radio stations many of which pretty much cover the same material ... from a bevy of different journos.

And WHY do we need to pay for Triple J AND Double J? One is enough. They pretty much cover the same music and audience after all. Maybe if JJ catered to a different, older audience (the original Double J listeners) there may be some justification. But two stations on the same track ... paid for by taxpayers! This is wasteful. And why does nearly every shift need two presenters ... instead of one capable one! If commercial radio wants to pay for multiple presenters because of a poor talent base, fine. But tax-payer services need to be more responsible with our money.
Maybe a manger who knows how to actually 'manage' would help!

An attack on public broadcasting and freedom of speech? What nonsense.
Who is this guy anyway!

Click go the Shears! About time!

And I agree with ceejay ... exactly right.
But then, that's common practice on radioinfo too:-)

Christian Arge
1 July 2020 - 1:53pm
Sorry but this is a load of nonsense. Can you show me the so called 'budget cuts' please. And I'm so bored with blaming the government for everything. There's no cuts. *2017 - $1.036 Billion *2018 - $1.043 Billion *2019 - $1.045 Billion and 2020 - $1.055 Billion. No cuts here. Here no cuts. I reckon there should be cuts personally. But there aren't any? I'll happily stand corrected though if you can show me and even watch an episode of Q&A without wanting to be physically ill. What about the ABC underpaying casual staff to the tune of $35 million? When they had to cough that $ up after being found guilty, all of a sudden reports of a $40 million funding shortfall. What BS. The management pay themselves bonuses upon bonuses and the EBA ensures pay rises for all year on year. They go through the motions except when it comes to having a whinge and a bitch about the federal government (and deleting any opinions the regime don't approve off). As the PM said the other day, jobs in the media are disappearing at an alarming rate in this country, there's very little job security in that industry, except if you work for the ABC, where the funding is guaranteed by the government. So we've seen what happens with billion dollar plus funding year on year. Can you imagine what it would be like if these so called 'budget cuts' actually happened for real?
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