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Parents and teachers to join the fight to protect and enhance the ABC and SBS

Quentin Dempster recently delivered a talk to the Ryde-Macquarie Teachers’ Association Annual Dinner about the threats facing the ABC, SBS and NITV. Here is an extract of his talk.

"The public broadcasters are in grave danger. These institutions – the ABC with an 83 year legacy; SBS with 36 years, have legislated Charters requiring all program makers to regard their audiences as citizens in a robust democracy … and not consumers to be delivered up to advertisers. Programs should be commissioned on the basis of their creative merit, sometimes with risk. On-air conversations should facilitate the clash of ideas, not be devised by agents provocateur.

"We are yet to see Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s professed regard for the public broadcasters turned into supportive action.

"Malcolm Turnbull and his new Communications Minister Mitch Fifield look like moving to reform media policy in Australia by eliminating what’s known as the ‘reach’ rule and/or the ‘two out of three rule’, allowing print, radio and television ownership to be consolidated across all capital city and regional markets. These rules are now considered redundant because of video and audio streaming now accessible to worldwide players.

"The need to join the Friends of the ABC and/or Save Our SBS is now more urgent if there is an early double dissolution federal election."

Dempster goes on to say "an electoral land slide [Coalition victory is likely] in the face of a faltering Bill Shorten Labor Party.

"The Australian Labor Party has not always been a friend of public broadcasting in the past – particularly during the Hawke and Keating eras when funding was progressively cut [but under] the Rudd and Gillard governments … there was a modest enhancement for the ABC and the rescue of SBS from insolvency.

"For SBS a hostile SBS Board has allowed the commercial compromise of its Charter through allowing the disruption of programs by ads … not between programs, but within them. And this year the SBS Board, backed by Malcolm Turnbull [then] as communications minister, tried to amend the SBS Act to effectively double the ads in prime time from five to 10 minutes [per hour]. SBS will now start a shopping channel … an advertorial channel … with a commercial programmer and its own catalogue of cooking shows to enhance its advertising revenues. Over time this will destroy SBS and its raison d’être. SBS was established by the Malcolm Fraser [Coalition] Government in 1979 to serve the needs of the non-English speaking population in languages of their countries of origin. 

"In an age of geo-political tension, drone and jihadi terror, if ever a taxpayer investment in counter-terrorism was justified – the $270million we spend on SBS is more than justified. Incoming migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds including this country’s 600,000 Muslims, need to feel included and listened to."

The full text of Dempster’s speech is here.


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