SYDNEY — New chief of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Russell Balding, has demanded more funding from the government to ensure the pubcaster remains a vital and influential cultural force.
“Since 1996 the ABC has been reduced, reformed, refocused and restructured to the limit. Years of doing more with less has taken its toll — we are at the limit of our comprehensiveness,” said Balding in a speech to the Melbourne Press Club Wednesday, his first public address since officially taking office in May.
Balding was formerly the ABC’s GM of finance and acting MD since November, when the controversial conservative government-appointed MD Jonathan Shier ankled 19 months into a five-year term.
1996 marks the year the conservative Liberal Party came to power and cut funding to the pubcaster but Balding conceded coin for the ABC (which doesn’t take advertising) has, in fact, been declining since the 1980s.
Balding backed his argument by comparing ABC with Blighty’s BBC which receives eight to nine times the ABC’s annual $A800 million ($436 million).
But Britain’s population is only triple Australia’s 19 million and geographically Australia is 32 times as vast. BBC costs Britons 47 cents a day – the ABC costs Australians 5 cents a day.
Auds for ABC TV are currently the highest ever, with 7.5% growth on last year (which was a grim one). Reach for ABC’s 61-station radio network is also the highest ever and online has grown 25% on 2001.