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May 10, 2016

No cuts to the ABC? Public broadcaster $100m poorer than in 2013

Remember when Tony Abbott promised no cuts to the ABC? "No cuts" turned out to mean $101 million worth of cuts.

By the time Australia goes to the polls on July 2, the ABC will have lost more than $100 million a year in base funding, tied funding and other government contracts for services since the Liberal government first came to power in September 2013.

During last Tuesday’s budget, the ABC’s core funding was left alone at $1.1 billion a year (or $837 million a year in in 2016-17 for content, once you exclude transmission funding paid directly to Broadcast Australia). But the ABC’s budget was cut to the tune of over $6 million a year in real terms because the $20 million-a-year “enhanced newsgathering” budget was only partially renewed. The ABC also lost another $30 million over three years, as its tied funding to cover the costs of digital transmission was not renewed. Meanwhile, requests by the ABC to secure further tied funding — for regional broadcasting, for example, for which the ABC asked $30 million — have fallen on deaf ears.

All up, the ABC got off relatively lightly this time. But the cuts come on top of several larger funding reductions that began in the 2014 budget.

In the May 2014 budget, the ABC’s funding was cut by 1%, or $9 million a year, for a total of $45 million over the forward estimates. This was quickly followed by the loss of the Australia Network contract the ABC held with DFAT, which reduced funding by $100.6 million over the next five years. This meant a $10 million funding loss in 2014-15 that ramped up to $23 million in lost yearly funding by 2018-19.

Later that year, in November 2014, a further $207 million over four years was cut from the budget. The cuts started off slow before ramping up in future years — 2016-17 will bear $62 million of this $207 million cut. The 2015 budget did not include any fresh cuts to the ABC, though it formalised the cuts already announced seven months earlier.

In a pre-budget submission to a parliamentary inquiry, the ABC set out what its funding reduction had been since 2014-15. In the 2016-17 financial year, it was expecting to operate with $93.8 million less than it did under the last Labor budget.


The cumulative cuts to the ABC since 2014, according to the ABC in a February 2016 parliamentary submission

To this figure we can add the reduced funding from this year’s budget. In 2013-14, the enhanced newsgathering grant gave the ABC $17.6 million to spend — the 2016-17 budget allocates just $13.5 million. The last Labor budget also gave the ABC $3.8 million in 2013-14 for digital content delivery — that funding, which ramped up in later years, is now entirely gone. The loss or reduction of these two tied funding arrangements means the ABC will be $7.9 million worse off in 2016-17 than it was in 2013-14. All up, we can add that to the $93.8 million calculated before the budget, to conclude the ABC is $101.7 million worse off in 2016-17 than it was in 2013-14.

The ABC’s total budget is $1.1 billion a year — a base funding figure that’s decreased slightly courtesy of the 2014 trimming — but more than $200 million of this goes to transmission. The ABC has only $837 million in discretionary funding budgeted for 2016-17 — a $101 million cut is well over a 10% cut to this.

Shortly before former prime minister Tony Abbott was elected, he promised no cuts to the ABC or SBS.

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7 thoughts on “No cuts to the ABC? Public broadcaster $100m poorer than in 2013

  1. David Hand

    Only lovers of the ABC would call a cessation of payment for a service no longer required a cut.
    I didn’t buy the newspaper today. Oh no! My local store has had its funding cut!

    1. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

      David, in the absence of any other media operation in Australia that does anything like what the ABC does, I’m happy to say that I love the ABC. And I’m prepared to bet that you watch and listen a lot to ABC programs, am I right? I didn’t buy a newspaper today because in regional Queensland, where I live, I have three options for a daily paper – the Townsville Bulletin, the Courier Mail and The Australian – all News Ltd papers, all committed to the Coalition, the Conservatives and the Republicans (i.e.Donald Trump). Not one of them holds a candle to the ABC for relevance, balance or local knowledge.

    2. Angela

      David, why do you subscribe to Crikey if you don’t like its’ journalism?

  2. zut alors

    As the Coalition is so relentlessly bleating about job creation how about including the ABC with an injection of $200M or so. It’s a national investment.

  3. Paddy Forsayeth

    With regards to the Liberal/conservative perspective on the media as being left or right I use the geographic analogy. If you live in Sydney obviously Perth is far west and Alice Springs is in the centre. If you are a right wing conservative everything is ‘Left’. So even if the ABC is centrist and objective in its media output, to a conservative it is necessarily ‘Left’. For a Socialist leaning chap like me I probably live near Adelaide. To David Hand I’m probably lost in a nasty pink/red haze, where, I suspect David would love the sun to set on me…..permanently!.

  4. leon knight

    Which paper didn’t you buy Dave? Can’t quite figure out why a chap like you bothers with Crikey, does it ease your gout?

  5. pinkocommierat

    David is probably a sock puppet for some Group of 8 university Liberal club.

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