5 April 2019
NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) condemns political interference in the ABC, in the wake of a Senate Report finding political interference in the ABC by the government.
On 1 April, on the eve of the Federal Budget, the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications published its report on “The allegations of political interference in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)”. The committee found that “political interference or the prospect of political interference, and all that that entails, is experienced to varying degrees throughout the ABC.” It also found that “the Coalition Government has been complicit in the events of 2018 and beyond, by using funding as a lever to exert political influence in the ABC.”
NSW CCL President, Pauline Wright, said “the maintenance of a strong and independent media sector is vital to any liberal democracy and Australia is no exception. To do its job, our national broadcaster should be free from all political interference. Political pressure applied to limit journalistic freedom and weaken the ABC organisation will weaken our democracy.”
Dr Lesley Lynch, Vice President of NSW CCL, said “It has been clear for some time that the ABC has been under considerable pressure from the government to tone down and moderate its journalism. Now, a Senate inquiry has described it as a ‘besieged workplace’. There have been 16 efficiency reviews in the last years. The Committee observed that the ‘underlying purpose’ of a recent competitive neutrality review appears to have been to ‘undermine the corporation’”.
“Between funding cuts, threatened funding cuts, attacks on editorial independence, and the ABC Chair reportedly ‘informally prosecut[ing] the Australian government’s agenda in his interactions with the ABC Leadership Team, it is clear that the independence of the ABC is in crisis. We say to this government and future governments: hands off the ABC,” said Lynch. “To produce properly fearless journalism, the ABC’s independence must be zealously guarded. The government should restore the $340 million cut since 2014, ensure stable funding of the ABC across five-yearly funding cycles, and have an independent body appoint members to the Nomination Panel.”
Contacts in relation to this statement.
0418 292 656
Dr Lesley Lynch