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‘It’s very dire’: ABC budget cuts shaping up to be far worse than expected

Cuts to the ABC budget first flagged in May are shaping up to be far larger than expected, with insiders describing the situation as “very dire”.

Further cuts to the ABC budget, first flagged in May, are shaping up to be far larger than expected, with insiders describing the situation as “very dire”.

Numerous sources have told Crikey the ABC and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull had been close to announcing a negotiated cut of $50 million. This would be close to the 4% figure reported in The Australian in June. However, Crikey understands this was seen as insufficient to other members of the government — in particular the cabinet’s expenditure review committee (ERC). The situation remains very much in flux, but figures as high as a $100 million cut are being floated. A cut of that magnitude would remove nearly 10% of the ABC’s funding and come on top of the 1% cut to the ABC’s recurrent funding announced in the May budget.

ABC sources have described the situation as “very dire”, and say that while they don’t know the full quantum of cuts yet, early figures have them very concerned. The Lewis Review into ABC and SBS efficiency, an executive summary of which was leaked to Fairfax and News Corp, reportedly showed how the ABC could save $70 million through back-room efficiencies and by outsourcing production to the private sector. However, many within the ABC doubt even the review shows the roadmap to $70 million in savings, as not all of its suggestions can be implemented at the same time.

One ABC source told Crikey the ABC had been preparing for 500 job cuts off a $50 million blow to its budget. Higher job losses can be expected if a higher cut goes ahead.

Crikey asked Turnbull’s office whether a recurring budget cut of $50 million had been rejected by cabinet and the expenditure review committee. Crikey also asked whether the ABC budget cut would require significant job losses. A spokesperson told us: “As ABC and SBS management know very well, following the completion of the Lewis Efficiency Study in which their finance executives assisted, there is more than ample capacity for the national broadcasters to achieve substantial savings without reducing the resources available to program production or acquisition.”

Turnbull’s office also disputed the suggestion that a $50 million figure had been agreed upon and rejected by the expenditure review committee.

The ABC declined to comment.

Turnbull has a history with the expenditure review committee on this issue — in June, Fairfax reported that the minister lobbied against the ERC’s consideration that ABC and SBS should be subjected to an efficiency dividend.

In earlier correspondence with Crikey, Turnbull made pointed comments about the management of the public broadcaster.

“A commercial broadcaster’s revenues are a function of its ratings. A public broadcaster’s revenues are a function of its lobbying skills,” he said.

“If a commercial broadcaster has to cut costs, they will do their utmost to avoid diverting resources from programming lest ratings and thus revenue decline. A public broadcaster can cut costs most readily simply by cancelling programs.”

To this end, Turnbull said, he was keen for the ABC to make actual cost savings to its base operating costs, hence the commission of the Lewis Review. “The Efficiency Study was designed to encourage the public broadcasters to make the tougher, but more worthwhile, decisions to save costs by cutting waste and inefficiencies which will enable them to significantly reduce their cost base over the long term,” Turnbull said.

Crikey understands such preparations for back-end cost-cutting are already under way. Within SBS, for example, we hear there have already been redundancies in the IT support and broadcast departments as its managers visit the ABC to discuss the sharing of such functions.

Many are expecting the final budget cut to the ABC to now be announced in December, during the government’s mid-year economic and financial outlook statement.

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  • 1
    klewso
    Posted Thursday, 28 August 2014 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    So. The pig gets it?

  • 2
    Draco Houston
    Posted Thursday, 28 August 2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Why do they have ministers at all in this administration? As far as I can tell they just sit around getting overruled on everything.

  • 3
    Terry Goulden
    Posted Thursday, 28 August 2014 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Maybe the ABC management should put the cuts to a referendum of viewers/listeners. That way we city dwellers can vote down supporting regional programming which only gets a small audience and get rid if wankas such as Macca on 702 and Tony Jones and Q&A

  • 4
    Johansen Frank
    Posted Thursday, 28 August 2014 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    I agree with cutting services to the bush- they voted for these bastards- but leave Tony Jones and Q & A alone thank you.

  • 5
    Bucko
    Posted Thursday, 28 August 2014 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    sounds more like payback for not hip hooraying everything this Govt does. Look out Crikey, you’ve been a bit lippy lately

  • 6
    SusieQ
    Posted Thursday, 28 August 2014 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Won’t Rupert be happy!

  • 7
    Barbara Bradshaw
    Posted Thursday, 28 August 2014 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    I think the Nationals will cave in and let their constituency be trashed again.

  • 8
    Kevin_T
    Posted Thursday, 28 August 2014 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    the ABC could save $70 million through back-room efficiencies and by outsourcing production to the private sector.

    I guess that’s because the Private Sector doesn’t value add to make commercial profits in the way that the ABC does….

  • 9
    DF
    Posted Thursday, 28 August 2014 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    You should see/hear what they have done to Radio Australia (Asia-specific shows aimed at Asian audiences cancelled) and what is about to happen to the Australia TV Network into Asia and the Pacific in 3 weeks time (hint: it is shutting down).

    Allegedly to save $20 million a year, which is half the cost of introducing chaplains into schools. Of course what it’s really about is cutting out the competition to Rupert’s News.

  • 10
    mikehilliard
    Posted Thursday, 28 August 2014 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    The first (nut)job to go should be Albrechtsen.

  • 11
    The Pav
    Posted Thursday, 28 August 2014 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Given thespecific promise was not to cut the ABC thid is yet another lie. I suspect that Alan Jones will not be calling the PM TONYLIAR on air.

    Even maintaining the dollar amount is an effective cut in real terms

    Yet they won’t do a damn thing about the super rort. This is totally the most dishonest govt ever…Criminal would not be to harsh a comment

  • 12
    Luke Hellboy
    Posted Thursday, 28 August 2014 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Great, use commercial television stations as a benchmark. “Australia’s Least Mediocre Karaoke Performers” coming soon to your ABC…

  • 13
    Bill Hilliger
    Posted Thursday, 28 August 2014 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t that lying sloganeering cane toad in charge of Team Murdoch say before the election ‘we will not cut funding to the ABC’? I’m with Terry Goulden there is some fluff that can easily be cut e.g. Macca on 702; Tonto Jones and Q&A, and Compass, etc. Q&A used to be worth watching but has in the last 12 months degenerated into pantomime.

    Advertising is not an option as that would steal much needed revenue from already struggling private electronic media. Rupert and the rest of private media owners will not tolerate that.

  • 14
    Jaybuoy
    Posted Thursday, 28 August 2014 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Rupert was after news24 but that ship has sailed..he might have to be satisfied with nobbling the nbn which would have allowed sportscasting on a pay per view basis eg. a couple of dollars for an AFL game on demand.. without bundling and an eighty dollar a month fee his pay tv empire is stranded…

  • 15
    JRAPQQ
    Posted Thursday, 28 August 2014 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    It would appear most commentators here are from “Friends of the ABC”.
    Whilst I listen to only the ABC (can’t stand adverts), I recognise that “our ABC” is incapable of impartial reporting - just like the BBC, both entities must surely be an embarrassment to journalists of integrity and their shareholders. They’re each fortunate their audiences seem to be not so interested in quality journalism. There is a positive - if the ABC was a reliable and impartial source of news, we may not need or have Crikey!

  • 16
    Northy
    Posted Thursday, 28 August 2014 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Tony Abbott: “No cuts to the ABC or SBS”. What a blatant, blatant lie to the Australian people

  • 17
    burninglog
    Posted Friday, 29 August 2014 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    Northy?

    Abbotting” : the act of blatantly lying

    There he goes again. Abbotting in order to get votes. I wonder if they’ll fall for it again?”

  • 18
    Robert Shield
    Posted Friday, 29 August 2014 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Hey JRAPQQ
    the fact that bias depends on where the viewer stands seems to be lost on most. It’s embarrassing to hear our elected members even talk about it. Are they that stupid?
    For mine, the ABC is a bit right. I endured 2 or 3 years of moron Tony having the last say on just about everything in the lead up to last election thanks!
    You probably didn’t notice.

  • 19
    GideonPolya
    Posted Friday, 29 August 2014 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    The ABC – once an Australian icon beloved as Aunty - continues to dishonestly call for audience views while subjecting such views to BLOCKING of particular posters and CENSORSHIP of comments, notably those that are likely to annoy the endlessly mendacious Neocon American and Zionist Imperialists (NAZIs) who evidently have a significant hold over the ABC (operating for the benefit of foreigners against the national interest used to be called “treason”) - and all this to the point that it is largely a waste of time to respond to the invitation to comment. Indeed much of the former interesting commentary from decent, informed, progressive people on ABC websites such as Late Night Live and Saturday Extra has simply dried up. Aunty ABC is very much a fallen and compromised presstitute’s collective (see “Censorship by ABC Late Night Live”: https://sites.google.com/site/censorshipbyabclatenightlive/ , “Censorship by ABC Saturday Extra”: https://sites.google.com/site/censorshipbyabclatenightlive/censorship-by-abc-sat and “ABC fact-checking unit & incorrect reportage by the ABC (Australia’s BBC)”).

    A Zionist-perverted and Zionist-subverted ABC resolutely looks the other way, lying by omission while simultaneously applying egregious censorship and defamation against anti-racist Jewish and non-Jewish Australians speaking out on such matters. And this cowardly and dishonest ABC denial and censorship occurs despite the words of outstanding Jewish American scholar Professor Jared Diamond who in his best-selling book “Collapse” (Prologue, p10, Penguin edition) enunciated the “moral principle, namely that it is morally wrong for one people to dispossess, subjugate, or exterminate another people”, and the words of Australia’s first Australian-born Governor General, anti-racist Jewish Australian Sir Isaac Isaacs (1946): “The honour of Jews throughout the world demands the renunciation of political Zionism” (see “Jews Against Racist Zionism”: https://sites.google.com/site/jewsagainstracistzionism/ ).

    Of course the ABC is not alone in dangerous censorship and malreportage in the interests of Neocon American and Zionist Imperialist (NAZI) One Percenters. For details of media-derived censorship by the global Murdoch media empire, Australian Fairfax media, the Australian ABC, the UK BBC, and the Australian universities-backed web magazine The Conversation in Neocon American- and Zionist Imperialist-perverted and subverted Murdochracy, Lobbyocracy and Corporatocracy Australia and elsewhere in the West see “Boycott Murdoch media”: https://sites.google.com/site/boycottmurdochmedia/ ; “Censorship by the BBC”: https://sites.google.com/site/censorshipbythebbc/ ; “Censorship by The Conversation”: https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammediacensorship/censorship-by ; “Mainstream media censorship”: https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammediacensorship/home ; “Mainstream media lying”: https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammedialying/ ; “Censorship by The Age”: https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammediacensorship/censorship-by-the-age ; “Censorship by ABC Late Night Live”: https://sites.google.com/site/censorshipbyabclatenightlive/ , “Censorship by ABC Saturday Extra”: https://sites.google.com/site/censorshipbyabclatenightlive/censorship-by-abc-sat and “ABC fact-checking unit & incorrect reportage by the ABC (Australia’s BBC)”: https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammediacensorship/abc-fact-checking-unit , “Censorship by The Guardian UK”: https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammediacensorship/censorship-by-the-guardian-uk and “Censorship by The Guardian Australia”: https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammediacensorship/home/censorship-by-the-guardian-a .

  • 20
    Jimmyhaz
    Posted Friday, 29 August 2014 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Reality tends to have a liberal bias JR.

  • 21
    David Camfield
    Posted Friday, 29 August 2014 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    eric abetz should do voice over for banana in pyjamas

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