President's Report

August 2017


More than 300 Friends gathered at Federation Square, Melbourne, on Sunday 2nd July to celebrate a significant milestone in the life of our public broadcaster, and to hear of future plans to support the ABC as a vital and independent voice in our national life. The Friends' Vision Statement was launched by National President Margaret Reynolds, and those gathered saw the pilot of ABC Defenders - high profile and ordinary Australians talking about their ABC. ABC veteran Kerry O'Brien spoke about leadership and Australian Children's TV Foundation's Jenny Buckland spoke about the important role of the ABC in children's television. Read more about the great gathering in this Update - we congratulate Victorian Friends for a great celebration.


In the April Update I wrote that the first three months of 2017 had not been good for the ABC. It didn't get any better in the next three, as the right-wing yap dogs of the Murdoch stable took every opportunity to heap further criticism on the national broadcaster. Roger Franklin, online editor of Quadrant, outrageously suggested that the Manchester bomber should have blown up the Q&A studio, while Yassmin Abdel-Magied's private Anzac Day post on Facebook resulted in the ABC getting the blame! Gay Alcorn writes with perception in The Guardian about the relentless and disproportionate attacks on the ABC from those on the right of the political spectrum, and you can read her comments in this Update. We are reminded daily on the ABC that there is freedom of speech -speakers and guests with a wide range of views are encouraged to say what they think. I doubt that the same can be said about the Murdoch press!


Sue Pinnock (SA President) and I had the pleasure of being in the audience for the Q&A program broadcast from Alice Springs on 3rd July. The ABC is to be commended for taking its top-rating program to such a distant centre, where the 400 seat theatre in the Araluen Cultural Centre was an ideal venue. Audience members went through the usual Q&A selection process, and security at the venue was tight. From the pre-show briefing and instructions to the audience, it was clear that the ABC wanted a tightly controlled and "managed" evening. The questions selected were rather bland, did not touch on difficult issues of race relations in what can be a very tough town for indigenous people, and skirted the issue of the ABC's role in the Northern Territory, especially its abandoning of the large short-wave radio audience. However, it was a great tourist promotion for the Northern Territory.

COMMUNITY FORUM IN ALICE SPRINGS Both Sue Pinnock and David Hewitt have provided excellent coverage of the Forum in this Update. I would add one comment - such events are pointless if the community's voice is ignored, as it was in Alice Springs. Greatest concern in the minds of community members gathered was the loss of short wave radio, but Michelle Guthrie's blunt response was that short wave would not be reinstated, without explanation, or the offer of a workable alternative service. This from a Managing Director who has made it clear that she wants the ABC to be accessible to "all Australians." The many thousands who depend on short wave are clearly not included.


Friends will be hosting a national conference on the theme "Why is Public Broadcasting essential to effective democracy?" on 6th and 7th October. There will be an opportunity for members of Friends to participate on Friday 6th, where a range of prominent speakers will present their thoughts. More information will be available soon.

Mal Hewitt
President ABC Friends NSW & ACT

Mal Hewitt - President FABC NSW