[release from the ADG]
The Australian Directors Guild is extremely concerned at the recent attempts by the ABC to deny independent film Producers Nick Torrens and Frank Haines access to ABC archives, which is crucial to their production concerning the history of the Liberal party.
We now understand that the ABC may allow the producers to purchase footage if the producers agree to broadcast their series only after an ABC series of a similar nature has gone to air, and only if they use material that the ABC has approved.
The producers are unable to give a guarantee on the first point as they have no control over the ABC or SBS transmission date, secondly they have no control over what material the ABC will approve. Consequently, the entire series has been seriously jeopardised and the ability of independent filmmakers to make programs of national interest has been severely compromised. This is of grave concern not only to all filmmakers and journalists, but to the Australian public as well, and is setting a precedent which is unacceptable.
It is untenable that the ABC could withhold access to part of Australia’s cultural heritage, just because at some stage in the future the ABC might plan to make programs of a similar nature.
The Directors Guild believes that the ABC archives are a public asset which has been funded by the tax payer and is an integral part of our cultural and political history. The ABC holds the archives on trust for the nation and our future generations and withholding access is a fundamental breach of that trust.
Access to our history is a core right which reinforces our democracy. We can not afford to undermine the right for independent journalistic debate and we urge the ABC and all concerned to act in the national interest to allow full and open access as a key right in a civilised society.