Extortion and estimates. Your correspondent traditionally rather enjoys estimates, when the chiefs of the ABC and SBS are hauled before a Senate committee. There's a certain amusing culture-wars quality that rears its head whenever Coalition MPs get the chance to dig into the ABC, but last night's performance was, well, rather tedious. Senator Cory Bernardi wasn't even there for most of it!
Anyway, the ABC's Mark Scott and SBS' Michael Ebeid were due to address the committee on the morning of Whitlam's death, but that threw everything into disarray, and so their grilling was postponed till last night. A lot's happened to them in the intervening period. Communication Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced budget cuts, and the broadcasters said they'd respond on Monday. But the Senators grilling them wanted an answer now. Scott gave nothing away, studiously refusing the "can you rule in or out?" game that led him to announce the potential axing of Peppa Pig last time. Ebeid had a prior commitment, so he sent his director of corporate affairs Peter Khalil to answer questions in his place. Khalil was a bit more obliging, telling the committee he didn't anticipate the organisation would be making any cuts to programming as a result of the budget cut, as it believed it could find efficiencies in its back office.