The public broadcaster’s new managing director, David Anderson, sent an email to staff this morning saying a “budget challenge” would be taking hold from July 1 based on the government’s near $84 million funding freeze.
“Despite extensive requests from the ABC, the budget papers locked in the $83.7m pause in indexation funding flagged in last year’s budget,” Mr Anderson told staff in an email.
“The cut comes into effect at the start of the next financial year, with a first-year impact of $14.6m. This is on top of the $254m the ABC has had to absorb in efficiency cuts over the past five years.
“I have said many times over the past seven months that our focus must always be on freeing up as much money as possible for content, adapting what we do to ensure we spend public funds effectively while searching for efficiencies.”
ABC MD David Anderson has written to staff saying $14.6m in cuts to the ABC will come into effect from July 1 b/c of the government’s funding freeze (83.7m total). He will “explore options with the Board on how to meet these challenges and consult with staff.” #ausvotes #auspol
— Jason Om ✊🏼✊🏾✊🏻 (@jason_om) May 19, 2019
Labor had committed to reversing the indexation freeze on ABC and SBS funding over three years starting in July, and said it would add another $40 million for content, $10 million for regional and local news, and other commitments.
The Opposition accused the Coalition of inflicting “funding cuts and ideological attacks” on the public broadcasters.
“We believe in public broadcasting in this country,” Bill Shorten said in a speech to the Friends of the ABC last month.
“I think equally as important, perhaps not as immediately useful to the ABC but I think even more important in the long term, is after speaking to people who care and love the ABC deeply … Michelle Rowland and I are going to make clear today that we want to talk to the board of the ABC, and the new managing director, about five-year funding, not three-year funding. Proper certainty, locked away.”
In light of the Coalition’s shock win on Saturday, Mr Anderson said the broadcaster needs stable funding to give it greater clarity over its future plans.
“With confirmation that the Coalition has been returned to government, we will resume discussions with the Minister about securing longer-term funding arrangements,” he wrote. “Stable funding is essential to deliver a greater level of financial certainty and enable us to plan for the future.”
An efficiency review ordered by Communications Minister Mitch Fifield last year concluded that the ABC needed long-term funding certainty. The review has never been publicly released.