ABC independence: have your say

ABC independence: have your say

ABC Friends is calling on our members and supporters to let the Federal Government know your views on how the independence of the ABC and SBS can be strengthened.

Have your say

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This is your chance to have your say on this important issue. 

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Communications Minister, Michelle Rowland, outlined the parameters of review at the ABC Friends NSW and ACT Winter dinner on 20 July, before formally announcing it the following day.

The review will examine and make recommendations to:

  • Support stable funding arrangements by identifying potential mechanisms to implement and maintain 5-year funding terms
  • support effective governance arrangements for the national broadcasters

 The Minister also emphasised that the review will not look at:

  • The quantum of funding, funding terms or funding models for either of the national broadcasters
  • Any changes to ABC or SBS advertising restrictions
  • Changing the legislated Charters or corporate character of either broadcaster 
  • Merging the two broadcasters
  • The Minister’s legislated power to direct the national broadcasters in certain circumstances
  • The efficiency and performance of the boards
  • The Staff-elected Director on the ABC Board 
  • Operational matters

The review’s terms of reference and other details are included in the Government’s Public Consultation Paper available here.

Speaking to the New Daily on 24 July, President Cassandra Parkinson said that there are two crucial outcomes for the ABC which need to flow from the review. 

"First, the ABC needs a funding mechanism that can protect them against cuts or threats of cuts.  If an organisation is dependent on government for its funding, but at any time the government can take that funding away, it creates a nervousness about reporting independently"

“Second, there should be a transparent and accountable process for appointing people to the ABC’s governing board, as well as a clear structural separation between management and the board. That’s just good governance.”

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Public input into funding?

One option the Government is seeking feedback on is the possible introduction of a public review prior to the end of each five year funding period, with a government commitment to take submissions into consideration.

This idea was floated in The Australia Institute’s 2016 paper, No Politics at Aunty’s Table, which recommended that the Government call for public submissions, hold forums to examine submissions and publish a report summarising the debate before finalising each next five-year funding allocation.

Board nomination panel – are there better alternatives?

The Government is also seeking input into the future operation of the legislated nomination panel process which determines appointments to the Boards of both the ABC and SBS.

The nomination panel advertises vacancies before assessing applications against merit-based selection criteria. At least three people are then nominated to the government, before the government recommends a nominee for the vacancy to the Governor-General.

ABC Appointment flow chart

ABC Friends President, Cassandra Parkinson, said that public confidence and trust in the ABC had been undermined because the process had been breached several times when Ministers made appointments without following the letter and the spirit of the law.

She said there was a risk the public would think the ABC board consisted of political appointees, rather than people with the required expertise.

The review is interested in finding out if people believe the functions of the nomination panel should be expanded or narrowed or if there are other better options for strengthening governance arrangements.

Got more to say? Submit a written submission

Members and supporters can submit a written submission before 31 August by:

  • making a submission via the Department of Communication's website
  • emailing a submission
  • posting a submission to Director, National Broadcasters Section, Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications, and the Arts, GPO Box 594, Canberra ACT 2601

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