Following claims within the highly conservative Australian government that the work of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (commonly referred to as the ABC) dramatically fails to align with national interests, the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his government ministers have embarked on a sustained public attack on the network.
It is widely understood that the ABC has come under fire due to its systematic reports into government misconduct, particularly into alleged harm inflicted on asylum seekers as well as growing instances of spying and phone-hacking. As the ABC was one of the first organisations to report on both of these issues, Prime Minister Abbott has declared that it is single handedly
accountable for the erosion of Australia’s once favourable national image by actively denying support to the government’s current initiatives. He in fact commented that the ABC, as the national broadcaster, takes ‘everyone’s side but Australia’s which clearly demonstrates the government’s inability to understand the functions of media diversity.
Suggestions by the government that the Australia Network, a subsidiary channel of the ABC, may cease to exist in the near future reflect yet another attempt to curtail the organisation’s rapidly expanding influence. The Australia Network is broadcast in the Asia-Pacific region and in the Indian subcontinent. Its conception was lauded as a significant breakthrough for the diffusion of Australian soft power in the early 1990s, as the channel strives to promote a holistic image of Australian culture and encourage English language learning. Eliminating such an important
contribution to the world would therefore clearly be counterproductive.
On a surface level, budget cuts and the need for economic efficiency could be the primary reasons for any changes to the ABC and the Australia Network. However, the rationale behind these changes may reflect the government’s desire to strengthen its enduring ties with the hyper-conservative News Corporation, headed by Rupert Murdoch. Based on the overwhelming presence of headlines from News Corporation-run publications urging Australians to “Kick this Mob [the Labor Government] Out” in the lead-up to the 2013 elections, it would hardly be a surprise if Tony Abbott is simply trying to thank Rupert Murdoch for his support and assistance.
What is crucial to note is that the removal of the Australia Network would exponentially heighten the influence of Sky News, which just happens to belong to Murdoch’s media empire. Several of the empire’s representatives have expressed frustration at the ABC’s free to air digital broadcasts,
on the grounds that these have hindered their plans to expand in the Asia-Pacific region. Restrictions to the Australia Network would afford News Corporation an unprecedented opportunity to freely allow its expansion goals to be realised and to elevate Murdoch’s sphere of influence in the media industry.
Some many suggest that the ABC is reminiscent of an outdated model of public media broadcasting. However, a free media landscape that upholds diversity is essential to any modern society. The government, in spite of its political, economic or commercial motivations, must maintain adequate provisions to the ABC as part of an understanding of the importance of media diversity and the significance of this Australian cultural icon.
Both politicians and journalists have a common responsibility to the the people to ensure that there is an accurate conveyance of information and more critically, all sides must be subject to scrutiny and held to account. In short, Tony Abbott, please don’t attack the ABC because they don’t pander to your conservative friends.
Picture Source: http://images.smh.com.au/2013/12/03/4976897/VD-abbott-_ABC.jpg