Expert panel: is there a place for the ABC in modern Australia?

The Conversation - Fiona Martin, Denis Muller, Sinclair Davidson, December 5, 2014

In the recent ABC funding debate, many have questioned what the public broadcaster is for. What should its role be in Australia’s contemporary media landscape?

Some argue that the ABC is a market-failure organisation, a “safety net” for anything the commercial sector can’t do. Others argue that it should focus on audiences as citizens, rather than consumers, to be different to commercial players.

Taking the politics out of it, what should the ABC be doing? The Conversation asked a panel of three experts to respond. Read it [here]


Letter to Politicians from Margaret Lund

Margaret Lund has written to Senator Xenophon with copies to Opposition leader Bill Shorten, Senators Doug Cameron, Deb O'Neil, Scott Ludlum and Jacqui Lambie.
Read Margaret's letter [here]


Central Coast ABC Friends joined with community members to protest against the cuts to the ABC and SBS on
Monday 22nd November in front the new ABC studio in Donnison Street, Gosford opposite Kibble Park

The role of the ABC as an Educator

(this article was a result of discussions on the roles of the ABC during the State Conference of the FABC, Quality Inn The Willows, Wyoming, Central Coast, 18th and 19th August, 2012).

Production of high quality programs

Education comprises an integral part of the ABC’s role as a broadcaster. The provision of quality programs that enlighten and inform enable it to fulfil its obligations within the charter. Commercial imperatives have led to the abandonment of any such aspirations on the part of its rivals, who often refuse more intellectually challenging programs on the assumption that they won’t rate and therefore fail to attract advertisers. The increasing attraction of social media has probably accelerated this trend. This gives the national broadcaster a unique opportunity to find and secure an audience by producing quality programs that can stimulate and even challenge an audience. This demands that guests commentating on particular issues possess the necessary expertise and weight of evidence to speak with authority on particular matters. Such requirements are essential if the audience is to obtain a better understanding of the facts and disciplines involved, that is, if they are to become better educated.

Partnership with the education sector

In attempting to expand into digital broadcasting and gain a foothold in the new technology, with little additional funding, management have made sacrifices. One of these appears to have been the partnerships that previously existed between the ABC and the education sector. In the past, the national broadcaster ran a series of television and radio programs that ranged from pre-school through to training in adult education, for example language programs to assist new Australians. Friends of the ABC would like to see such programs renewed. Possibilities exist by incorporating the new technology which currently exists within the ABC and schools. If they still continue, these specialist programs appear to do so with reduced budgets and airtime. Behind the News, a valuable resource for teachers across a range of subject areas no longer covers current affairs stories in as much breadth as it once did. No less a critic than Don Watson has lamented the loss of Ramona Koval, the presenter of the Book Show on Radio National. Shows such as this, essential in maintaining a vibrant literary culture, continue to exist but they are often reduced or absorbed into other programs.

It is unclear what discussions, if any, have taken place between the ABC and the education sector. Friends of the ABC propose a return to regular programming for schools, in areas such as the arts, science and civics education. Teaching staff could make provision for these within their programs once ABC schedules detailing broadcasting times and details were issued to schools. Designating a certain number of hours to specific education programs that are taught within the National Curriculum would ensure that the ABC met its requirements. Such reforms would necessitate greater communication between ABC management and groups such as the Board of Studies. The technology available within schools, universities and households should result in these programs being accessed more readily. The virtual classroom also makes interaction between ABC production staff and students a real possibility.

Producing quality programs with limited funding has been consistently achieved at the ABC since its formation. However, the infinite variety of media sources has led the organisation to spread itself more thinly over a wider range of formats. Friends of the ABC would contend that this has resulted in the reduction of those programs specifically designed to cater for students across all education sectors, from pre-school through to university. Re-establishing those links, while never losing sight of the obligation it carries to inform our culture should be a priority for both government and ABC management.

Author: Ross McGowen, Central Coast Branch with assistance from Izabel Soliman of the Armidale Branch


Contact the Central Coast FABC

Klaas Woldring,
Convenor FABC CC
Phone: 02) 4341 5170