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What we will lose in the ABC ‘efficiency’ review

Crikey readers talk religious schools and the ABC’s so-called efficiency review.

The ABC will not be fine — and neither will we

David Salter writes: Re: “Don’t panic, the ABC will be just fine” (Tuesday). Glenn Dyer dismisses the fear that a $50 million cut and consequent job losses at the ABC would cause the loss of program-making knowledge and experience at the public broadcaster as “poppycock”. How so? Because, Dyer would have us believe, the sacked ABC staff could go and work for a commercial production company and sell programming back to the ABC. Wow, that sounds efficient — the same shows, but with Aunty now having to pay someone a fat profit margin on top of the production cost.

Dyer’s commentary on the leaked Coalition-commissioned “report” on ABC efficiency is riddled with similar illogicalities. For starters, he seems to think that the national broadcaster is only a television service. He talks repeatedly of “the networks”, but never of radio. It has clearly escaped him that Aunty currently commands an impressive 25% of the metro radio market, and a much greater share in the regions. For Dyer, outsourcing is the solution to all the ABC’s financial problems. Presumably this is the same outsourcing that gave us the Elle McFeast/Chopper Read fiasco, the Chris Kenny dog skit and the forgettable drivel of Jana Wendt’s $100,000 per half-hour interview series.

More disturbingly, Dyer has no grasp of how a mature national broadcasting service operates and its value as a democratic institution. The ABC is not just a program-making factory for a few producers and presenters. It is a fundamental component of Australia’s public culture. It provides the skills base and resources to develop creative and production people — and their ideas — over the long term. That process can’t be outsourced; it has to be nurtured in-house. Around 75% of the ABC’s staff are employed in content–producing divisions. Break up that precious cohort and the rest is just Big Brother and wall-to-wall shock jocks.

Getting schooled

Alison Alexander writes: Re. “Why the government loves private schools” (yesterday). Helen, I know secondary histories often claim churches started schools, but they didn’t really, and certainly didn’t pay for them. They had enough to do just establishing themselves. I’d like to see an example of an early church school. Yes, there were some experiments in the 1840s, which failed, but that was long after the first schools set set up. Not that I want to argue with Keith Binns’ main point.

Joe Boswell writes: Keith Binns repeats his astonishing claim that “schools (and hospitals and universities and a large slab of modern science) were a church invention in the Middle Ages”. He erases from history all such institutions of the ancient world, including of course Asia, as well as many significant early scientific developments such as those made by Islamic scholars. Some Islamic madrasas were teaching physical sciences long before any European institutions. Modern science only began to flourish in Europe once its practitioners could risk setting aside the constraints imposed by Christian religious authority and build on knowledge acquired from more advanced cultures. The medieval church schools that Binns sees as the origin of all education were dedicated to training clergy, which is not quite the modern concept of universal education.

Binns says his key point is, “discourage anyone from the public system and you are contributing to its downgrading.” Indeed. So, can Binns explain why he is certain people are discouraged when a school concentrates on education rather than religion? Surely religion in whatever guise (Binns appears to see religion and church Christianity as identical) can be adequately pursued elsewhere as much as they please by any that are so inclined? On the other hand I know people who have resorted to home education as the only practical way to preserve their children from religious indoctrination when all local schools were faith-based. Why should the large number of Australians (not only atheists) who do not want their children indoctrinated in a particular faith they do not share have to submit to this and pay for it through their taxes? Are they not being discouraged?

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    Mark Duffett
    Posted Thursday, 26 June 2014 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to see an example of an early church school. Yes, there were some experiments in the 1840s, which failed…”

    The Hutchins School in Hobart, named after “an Archdeacon of Van Diemen’s Land and one of the leading educational pioneers of the era”, was founded in 1846 and continues to flourish.

    It’s no coincidence that ‘modern science began to flourish in Europe’ with the onset of the Reformation.

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