Cuts to the ABC? – IPA Keeping in Touch – 2 July 2020

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2 July 2020
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Dear IPA Members

I’ve been away on paternity leave for the last few weeks after the birth of our first child Theodore. While changing nappies and during sleepless nights, I’ve been keeping on top of the news.

One thing you may have heard a lot about is ‘cuts to the ABC’. It was the top story across ABC platforms last week. ‘ABC cuts force 250 jobs to go’, the headlines read.

This came on the same day Qantas announced 6,000 job losses at the airline, with a further 15,000 of its workers – half of its workforce – remaining stood down. But the ABC thought it was justified to run their own “cuts” as a lead story across its multiple platforms.

What most of the ABC reports did not mention was that the 250 jobs would be shed over three years and would likely be achieved by voluntary redundancies. Hardly comparable to the tragic and countless job losses going on in the private sector.

The ABC also spent an entire Media Watch episode talking about the ABC. That show with over 10 staff for just 15 minutes of programming per week. But Paul Barry says there is no fat left to cut.

Barry despised the loss of ABC Life, but let us have a look at what ABC Life actually did. It was put together to publish similar content to outlets like Buzzfeed, which has unsurprisingly gone out of business.

It provided its audience with content like “If a zombie apocalypse came, this is how much weight you’d lose”, “Do you need to wear sunscreen even if you’re inside all day?” and “How to have a conversation with a conspiracy theorist”.

It is no wonder a poll released earlier this year by the IPA found that only 32% of Australians think that the ABC represents the views of ordinary Australians.

Now wall to wall on the ABC, from ABC RN to Insiders to Media Watch to Q&A, there is the inference that these are federal government cuts of $83.7 million to the ABC, despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s assertion that there are no cuts.

Let’s break it down. The 2018-19 budget contained a freeze on the indexation of ABC funding. The ABC claims this is a cut, but really it is a slower increase than they would have otherwise received. Funding for 2019-20 is $16 million higher than for 2018-19, according to the budget papers, an increase of 1.5%.

Inflation over the past three financial years has averaged 1.8%, so the $16 million increase they are receiving is actually only $3 million less than they would’ve received with indexation. If we are to assume that inflation runs at 1.8% over three years the ABC is about $56 million short of inflation, rather than the $83.7 million claimed ad nauseam by the ABC.

The $83.7 million figure in the 2018 budget was estimated using a higher inflation forecast of around 2.3%, so it is obviously wrong, despite the ABC’s insistence on using it. As mentioned, the increase in funding from 2018-19 to 2019-20 was 1.5%, the same as inflation, so there is no cut.

The ABC is crying poor about an increase that is slightly less than what they expected.


To read the rest of Evan’s letter to IPA Members, become an IPA Member today.

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