Every day hundreds, if not thousands, of consumers are wronged and ripped off in Australia. So it is of real concern that Australia’s only national consumer affairs show, The Checkout, has been shelved. The Checkout was a beautiful fit for our national broadcaster — which is independent of commercial interests — and just the ticket at a time of soaring consumer concerns.
While the ABC maintains The Checkout is only “on hiatus”, reactions to the decision indicate Australians are very wary of any reduction to public interest reporting. Audiences have vented their spleen on social media, asking “who will keep the bastards honest?”
The independent Australian Competition and Consumer Commission also said the show has done an incredible job since 2013 of informing Australians about consumer rights and holding businesses to account.
The number of contacts the ACCC has received from consumers has more than doubled during the past five years — from 185,640 in 2012-13 to 405,382 in 2016-17. The ACCC received 155,035 scam reports in 2016 — an increase of 47% compared with 2015. Some $83.6 million has been reported lost in these scams.
Australians trust the ABC and they trusted The Checkout to inform them of unscrupulous rip-off merchants.
The Turnbull government’s sustained attack on the ABC, inclusive of $83.7 million budget cuts this year alone, spells uncertainty for all manner of ABC programming. While the ABC balances a range of factors in deciding its production slate, including its budget envelope, at the end of the day it is Australian citizens and consumers who pay for Liberal cuts to the ABC.