The ABC is Australia’s most trusted media organization – 81% of Australians trust it as a source of information. The ABC receives about a billion dollars a year and reaches 99.58% of Australians via 56 broadcast locations.
Where does the money go?
Fixed transmission costs account for about $180 million or 21% of total expenditure. Content production accounts for about $546 million or 62% of total expenditure, with a further $79 million or 9% spent on supporting production makers. About $70 million or 8% of expenditure goes to financial, human resource and other non-content administration.
Despite a 40% reduction in its workforce since 1989, the ABC is still Australia’s largest creative employer and employs one of world’s largest dedicated rural reporting teams.
The ABC Act and other legislative requirements obligate the ABC to provide specialist arts, science, education and Indigenous programming, as well as services for regional audiences, and the maintenance of high reporting and editorial standards. These are obligations commercial operators are not required to meet. The ABC tells Australian stories and represents the diversity of Australian culture by producing programs with general appeal as well as specialized interest.
The ABC produces more Australian content than any other source - 515,000 hours of radio content and 31,000 hours of TV content are presented each year, including about 12,000 hours of TV and current affairs, more than 10,000 hours of children’s TV, 148,000 hours of digital radio content, and more than 30,000 separate pieces of online news content.
More than 70% of Australians watch, read or listen to the ABC each week and 7.6 million access its digital content each month, downloading 13 million audio podcasts each month and streaming 54 million programs via Iview or ABC apps.
Where has the money gone?
The cost of producing local content has risen by more than 30% over recent years while the cost of producing children’s TV has risen by 90%. Despite increasing costs of production, the ABC’s budget has been cut significantly.
In real terms, the ABC today receives half the per capita funding it received 30 years ago – 8 cents a day in 1987, 4 cents a day in 2017. The ABC delivers content to a population one-third of the UK and spread across a continent, yet receives only 12.5% of the budget received by the BBC.
In 1989 the ABC employed 6,500 full time equivalent people. Today it’s 4,093 (a 40% reduction) with a further 250 redundancies announced in response to the Government’s latest cut of $84 million over three years.
The Coalition was elected in 2013 on a promise of no cuts to the ABC or SBS. It’s funding decisions since then equate to a $783 million cut to the national broadcaster over the financial years 2015-16 to 2022-23:
2014 budget imposed a 1% cut to ABC operational budget ($71.7million over 8 years), cross-portfolio budget savings ($2.8 million over 4 years) and termination of The Australia Network contract with DFAT ($148.8million over 8 years)
2014 Efficiency Review conducted by former Seven West Media executive (Peter Lewis) imposed a $353.7million cut to ABC operational budget over 7 years
2016 budget cut $122.4million in funding for ABC Enhanced Newsgathering Program over 6 years
2018 budget froze indexation of ABC operating revenue for three years - $83.7 million.
10 things the ABC could do with more money to provide services for everyone?
- Produce more quality Australian content
- Produce more quality children’s content
- Increase the quality of in depth news and current affairs reporting
- Increase investment in the Arts
- Strengthen the voices of regional communities
- Increase access to educational content
- Ensure leadership in digital technology services so that Australian stories are available on every platform
- Communicate Australian values and interests across the Asia Pacific region and globally
- Train and develop young Australian talent in journalism, media technology, drama writing and production, documentary writing and production and children's programming
- Ensure all Australians have access to accurate and timely emergency broadcast information