To represent community interest in defending and promoting the vital role of Australia’s independent national public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) to ensure:
- that the ABC is properly funded to maintain and advance its role as the national public broadcaster in all media, promoting and reflecting Australian culture and diversity
- that it remains editorially independent of government and commercial interests.
And to inform the Australian public about issues affecting the national public broadcaster.
On the ground, our efforts are directed towards:
- opposing all efforts to censor the ABC, ensuring its ongoing integrity
- opposing all efforts to compromise its independence through the introduction of advertising or other commercial activities inconsistent with its public service obligations
- fighting for a merit-based ABC Board appointment mechanism, ensuring an open and transparent process at arms length from Government
- reminding all political parties and the people of Australia of the need for adequate government funding for the ABC to enable it to fulfil to a high standard its role as an independent, comprehensive, fearless, innovative, national public broadcaster acting consistently with its Charter
- reminding all political parties of the potential risks to the independence of the ABC when its funding is tied
- pointing out the distinct roles of SBS and the ABC, and the critical place for both in the lives of all Australians
- ensuring that the ABC’s crucial role in providing services to rural and remote Australia is recognised and supported
- reminding the ABC of its critical role in promoting Australian culture in all its diversity, including the need for strong local content production for audiences of all ages and backgrounds
- reminding the ABC of the need for accountability to its shareholders - all Australians.
We do not slavishly support everything that the ABC does and it is our policy to criticise the ABC when we consider that it has strayed from its Charter or acted in a way that could jeopardise its long-term future.
Our Vision Statement
In June 2017, we launched a National Vision Statement for both the ABC and the Government of the day. You can read it here.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is ABC Friends?
ABC Friends represents the community’s interest in its independent national public broadcaster - every Australian is a shareholder. It comprises independent organisations which exist in each State and Territory. These have worked together co-operatively over the years to tackle national issues, particularly in election years, culminating in the formation of ABC Friends National Inc. in December 2016.
2. Why is the ABC important?
Media is the gateway to information. It determines what the public will and will not know about all range of matters.
A healthy independent and comprehensive national public broadcaster is critical to Australian democracy and culture. The ABC’s independence – from political and commercial influence – enables it to report without fear or favour. The ABC’s responsibilities are to promote Australian culture and, as a comprehensive broadcaster, to cater for a diversity of interests in the community. Importantly, it delivers content to other countries that encourage awareness of Australia.
Only a public broadcaster can:
- probe the powerful, critically analyse government, expose secret agendas
- concentrate on quality, rather than deliver audiences to advertisers
- create a sense of national culture
- cater for the diversity of interests across the nation
- foster creative endeavour in the community.
An effective public broadcaster must have:
- independence from political and commercial influences - freedom to broadcast comprehensive and accessible information so citizens can scrutinise the actions of the powerful and participate in decision-making
- accountability to the public ultimately, via parliament, but also through accessible and transparent reporting and complaints procedures
- distinctiveness in creating high quality programming which caters for both minorities and the mainstream
- market share - sufficient users to justify public expenditure and to exert pressure on other broadcasters
Credible investigative journalism, imaginative and creative programming take time. They require diligence, courage, integrity and independence, and adequate funding.
3. What does ABC Friends do?
ABC Friends engages in a range of activities at national, state and local levels. These include:
- informing the public and the media
- presenting submissions to Government reviews and inquiries
- communicating with and lobbying Members of Parliament
- addressing public meetings
- conducting rallies
- communicating with the ABC about the concerns of members and shareholders
- publishing a magazine for members (UPDATE) four times a year.
4. Is ABC Friends independent?
ABC Friends is politically unaligned. It works for the best interests of independent and comprehensive national public broadcasting, challenging governments of any political persuasion that attempt to dismantle or interfere in the ABC’s independence.
ABC Friends has members of many different political persuasions and none.
ABC Friends is independent of the ABC. It is a critical supporter, which speaks out on the occasions it perceives the ABC’s management or governing board not to be acting in the best interests of public broadcasting.
5. How is ABC Friends funded?
ABC Friends earns its income from membership subscriptions, public donations and fundraising activities. It receives no government funding.
6. When did ABC Friends begin?
‘Aunty’s Nieces and Nephews’ was established in 1976 by a group of concerned Melbourne citizens in response to government threats to sharply cut the ABC’s budget. It later changed its name to ‘Friends of the ABC’ (FABC). In the same year (1976) Friends of the ABC (NSW) Inc. was formed under the chairmanship of Walter Bass, a renowned Civil Engineer. At a national conference in January 2014 it was decided to use the name ‘ABC Friends’.
“The Friends were in the line of those people who had affirmed over the years that the ABC was essential to the nation”, wrote Professor Ken Inglis, the distinguished historian and author of the two-volume History of the ABC.
- 'This Is the ABC - The Australian Broadcasting Commission, 1932 -1983'. Melbourne University Press (1983).
- 'Whose ABC? - The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 1983 - 2006'. Black Inc. Melbourne (2006).
7. What has ABC Friends achieved?
ABC Friends has provided a focal point for defending the ABC’s independence from political interference, resisting commercial activities that risk the integrity of ABC programming and working for the public broadcaster to be adequately funded and to remain accessible to all Australians without direct cost.
ABC Friends’ efforts have contributed significantly over the years to better outcomes for the ABC, including:
- Planned funding cuts of past governments of both major political persuasions were moderated.
- The Rudd/Gillard Labor governments increased ABC funding to partially address the low level to which ABC Australian drama has fallen and to fund new services, like an ad-free children’s television channel. They also provided additional funding for News services.
- Radio Australia (the ABC’s international radio service) was saved after the Howard Coalition government initially sought to close it.
- The Mansfield Review – which was established by the Howard Coalition government to curtail the role of the ABC – received a staggering 10,615 submissions, almost all in support of the ABC.
- The Rudd government introduced a new transparent and merit-based process for appointing members of the ABC Board, and it restored the staff-elected position to the ABC Board.
- The Gillard government legislated for Australia’s international TV service to be retained as an ongoing service of the ABC.
Sometimes gains are reversed or reduced and have to be fought for all over again! Organisations like ABC Friends can never rest on their laurels.
8. How does ABC Friends operate?
ABC Friends has a presence in each State, with independent organisations managed by honorary Committees. The Committees set policies and are responsible for the operations of the organisations, and their members are actively engaged in the activities of ABC Friends. ABC Friends has local groups and establishes special interest groups as the interest or need arises.
Following many years of co-operative work between State organisations, ABC Friends National Inc. was formed in December 2016 to act as a peak body and to ensure ongoing national co-ordination of effort.
9. How can I help ABC Friends?
Join and Recruit – ABC Friends membership is open to all who support its objectives. Whether you want to be active or simply wish to express your support for the ABC, ABC Friends needs YOU. Only with a large membership can ABC Friends ensure it is heard by all politicians and has the resources to inform, educate and campaign for the ABC’s healthy future.
ABC Friends needs help with a huge range of activities - e.g. fundraising; specialist skills, such as design, IT, writing and research; distributing flyers at events. If you have an idea and you can help, let us know.