Walkley award winning journalist, Alan Sunderland has written an article for our friends at ABC Alumni looking at what is happening internationally for independent and public broadcasters, and how it might affect us in Australia.
Around the world, growing government hostility is threatening independent media who do their job, ask tough questions, and hold the powerful to account. Alan Sunderland explains why the recent UK government’s announcement to freeze the BBC licence fee for the next two years, and potentially eradicate it, is about a lot more than funding models and has worrying parallels with what has been happening to the ABC for several years.
Alan Sunderland had a 40 year career in public broadcasting at ABC and SBS, most recently as the ABC Editorial Director from 2013 to 2019. He continues to write and speak about journalism, and is the Executive Director of the Organization of News Ombudsmen and Standards Editors.
When you look at the international media landscape, three things quickly become clear:
- The news business is under pressure, funding and profits are scarce, and as a result there are fewer and fewer sources of independent, quality news.
- In almost every country where a public broadcaster exists, it is by far the most trusted and valued source of news for the citizens it serves. It’s as true here in Australia as it is in the UK, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Japan, Austria, Belgium and dozens of other places. In the US, which has famously never supported comprehensive public broadcasting, trust in the media generally is lower than anywhere else, and Americans put the BBC in the top four of the news sources they trust the most despite the fact that it comes from another country.
- Despite public broadcasters being the most trusted source of news at a time when it is most needed, governments everywhere are searching for ways to starve, censor or destroy it instead of delivering the secure funding it needs.
It is against this background that we need to understand what is currently happening to the ABC.
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