MEAA calls on public to protest ABC, SBS funding cuts
The MEAA is holding events around Australia to try to enlist the public support to protest the government’s cuts to ABC and SBS funding.
Screen Producers Australia exec director Matt Deaner also criticised Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull's announcement that the broadcasters will lose nearly $280 million over five years.
"It's disappointing that funding to public sector broadcasting has been made, however the fact that there is clear direction around where these cuts should be found and that programming and content funding should be sacrosanct provides some comfort to the sector," said Deaner.
SBS MD Michael Ebeid has said the local content is locked in for next year and there will be no changes despite the cuts. “We were already and are implementing back-of-house measures which will largely help to absorb this funding cut, net of additional revenues,” he said.
"SBS’s focus and my personal commitment as Managing Director has and continues to be on securing funding to put into more Australian content for our audiences and to meet our charter."
The MEAA said the cuts of $254 million and $25 million come at a time when the broadcasters are “doing more with their budgets than ever before, across more platforms, and are struggling to meet the demands and cost pressures of a media space being dramatically transformed by digital technology,” it said.
“There will be hundreds of jobs lost across the organisations. Despite what the government may say, it is evident that cuts of this magnitude must have an effect on programming. “
However Turnbull said both broadcasters should be able to modernise their businesses without reducing the quantity or quality of what Australians view and listen to on ABC or SBS.
“The savings are not of a scale that requires any particular change to programming. All of the savings can be found within operational efficiencies of the kind canvassed in the Lewis efficiency study,” Turnbull said.
The Minister acknowledged Tony Abbott’s pre-election pledge there would be "no cuts to the ABC or SBS." But he said that as the government is forced to make savings made across the board, the ABC and SBS could not expect to be exempt from the obligation to contribute by eliminating waste and inefficiencies.
Abbott’s statement “left open savings of a kind which would not diminish the effective resources the ABC and SBS had available to produce content,” he argued.
The MEAA called for the immediate release of the Lewis report and said, “Both ABC and SBS have a legislated obligation to tell Australian stories, to provide relevant and local coverage to all communities, to enrich our national cultural life, and to provide balance, accuracy and independence to our national debate – regardless of geographic location.
“The staff of our public broadcasters have a wealth of knowledge, expertise and experience which must be utilised to minimise the impact of the cuts and to build on the proud tradition of public broadcasting on which generations of Australians have relied, and will continue to rely on in the future,” it said.
“Management has refused to engage on these issues. The time to do so has well and truly come. Consultation needs to be meaningful and must commence immediately.”
The MEAA’s so-called Week of Action includes meetings in Bendigo, Gippsland, Northbourne, Adelaide, Bega, Ballarat, Perth, Wollongong, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.