Any way you look at it, the decision by the Australian Film Institute to downgrade the role TV plays in its annual awards represents a form of cultural apartheid or cultural suicide.

The ABC revealed the appallingly ungracious decision by issuing a statement this morning revealing that it would no longer participate in this year’s AFI Awards or the awards ceremonies, despite having 22 nominations.

It was a decision aimed solely at TV and represents a snub to an industry which employs, at one stage or another, the majority of people in the film industry — from actors through to technical people. Many of the facilities used in Australia would not be economic without business from TV: the Fox Studios lot in Sydney comes to mind.

ABC sources say the decision seems to have come from AFI director, James Hewitson, who is a film person and doesn’t think highly of TV.

The ABC said in its statement today:

The Australian Film Institute has instigated some major changes to the broadcast of its annual awards to be held in December, which ABC TV feels shows a lack of respect for the television nominees, and seriously diminishes the role television plays in the ceremony.

ABC TV has today withdrawn its support for the awards, and as a result, the network will not be attending either The AFI Industry Awards (December 5) or the on-air AFI Awards Dinner ceremony (December 6) or funding the attendance by any nominees.

ABC’s Director of Television Kim Dalton said “We have not taken this decision lightly. The AFI has removed a number of major television awards from the broadcast night. Some categories remain part of the Award Dinner, while others have been moved to the Industry Awards, effectively splitting up some program teams.

“The AFI alone has selected those they believe are the highest-profile faces to attend the broadcast, while other members of the team do not receive an invite to the dinner/broadcast. Instead they are invited to view the telecast on a large screen elsewhere.

“As we all know, making television is a team effort, and ABC TV cannot support this move which favours some over others,” he said.