Richard Boyer, the ABC’s finest chairman, believed the public broadcaster should ‘stand solid and serene in the middle of our national life.’
Eric Lobbecke’s illo in The Australian this morning
In 2014 the ABC is drifting along way from that happy position. Public affection for the organisation we once familiarly referred to as ‘Aunty’ is hard to come by, I write in The Australian this morning:
AS the Friends of the ABC are quickly discovering, a share of public outrage is every bit as hard to come by these days as a share of the taxpayer’s dollar.
The government announces the biggest cuts to the ABC for 18 years and what is digital denunciator GetUp carrying on about? Climate change, coal-seam gas, and the Manus and Nauru detention camps, that’s what. It takes metres of scrolling to reach a polite invitation to sign a petition to save the ABC.
One strategy for the ABC would be to play to its perceived strengths in the regions, I wrote in The Australian last Friday:
It turns out that more than half of the ABC’s staff are based in NSW and the vast majority of those live in Sydney. Four out of five of ABC’s corporate managers reside in the harbour city. Almost 50 per cent of its journalists are based in NSW or the ACT.
That the ABC should fail so badly on geographical diversity, the most measurable form of plurality, is a reflection on poor management decisions over many years. If managing director Mark Scott decides to cut staff at the ABC’s television production studios in Adelaide, the concentration in NSW will increase still further. At the moment South Australia is one of the few states where the concentration of ABC staff (7.4 per cent) roughly matches its share of the population (7.2 per cent).
There could be as many as 150 jobs cut in Adelaide according to some reports, about 40 per cent of the total. If so, SA would find itself in the same boat as Victoria (16 per cent of ABC staff; 25 per cent of the population), Western Australia (6 per cent; 11 per cent) and Queensland (9 per cent; 20 per cent).
The issue here is not jobs per se, though heaven knows South Australia badly needs them. If the ABC were in the business of refining oil for example, we wouldn’t give a Peppa Pig.
But if the ABC is serious about reflecting the national culture in all its glorious regional diversity, then it would matter if most of senior staff lived, say, between Bondi and Enmore.
THE VIEW FROM ULTIMO
NARROW-CASTING FROM THE FRINGES