ABC funding: Chair Ita Buttrose says $1 billion not enough for taxpayer funded news broadcaster

ABC boss Ita Buttrose is demanding yet more funding for the national broadcaster, despite receiving more than $1 billion per year.

ABC chair Ita Buttrose has revealed her massive funding push, despite the public broadcaster’s annual budget of more than $1 billion per year.

Speaking to The Australian after a two-week speaking tour of the NSW Hunter Valley, the 79-year-old said that figure was not enough, and that she was “optimistic” the looming 2022 federal election would provide the opportunity to score more cash.

2022 marks the ABC’s 90th anniversary, and Ms Buttrose said she hoped that milestone in addition to the election would inspire either current Prime Minister Scott Morrison or Labor hopeful Anthony Albanese to loosen the purse strings.

The ABC receives more than $1 billion per year, including transmission fees.

“I’m optimistic that after the election, the funding of the ABC will be given proper consideration,” she said.

“We would hope that the 90th year of the ABC will be the reason for whoever wins government to give us the funding we need.”

Ms Buttrose added that she was proud of the ABC’s performance during years of uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, including working from home arrangements, which might remain in place in the near future given the emergence of the Omicron variant.

“In spite of the restrictions that Covid-19 puts on us, border closures and difficulties of travelling, I think we’ve all been surprised about what we’ve been able to achieve,” she said.

The ABC’s three-year funding could be announced as early as March, which is when the federal budget will be released if Australians were to end up heading to the polls in May, which is widely expected.

According to The Australian, Ms Buttrose is using a Deloitte Access Economics report commissioned by the ABC to argue screen productions added $744 million to the economy from 2017 and 2020.

The report also states the ABC supported 8300 full-time jobs in that period.

However, the funding demands come after months of strain in the relationship between the federal government and the broadcaster.

Earlier this year, ABC bosses were grilled by Coalition politicians in Senate Estimates, while former Attorney-General Christian Porter’s short-lived defamation case against the ABC created further tension.

Budget backlash

The matter of ABC funding has been an ongoing source of drama in recent years.

In the 2019-20 Budget, the government announced additional funding of $43.7 million over three years for continuation of the Enhanced News Services initiative under the “Guaranteeing National Broadcaster ABC and SBS” measure.

However, the government also announced a three-year funding indexation pause in 2018, which led to the axing of 250 jobs.

That equated to a budget shortfall of $41 million per year, according to managing director David Andersen, who said in June 2020 that as a result, “some of our services will be affected and, regrettably, there will be redundancies”.

The following month, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher hit back, claiming that the information spread by “a lot of ABC journalists and Labor politicians” was “misleading”.

“What none of them quoted is the April 2019 budget papers, which added $43.7 million of funding to the ABC for that three year triennium and you need to look at the combined impact of both measures as a consequence of those the ABC’s funding is growing every year over that three year period,” he told Sky News at the time.

“We have seen some quite misleading statements on this matter. It is important to have the facts, have the context.”

Mr Fletcher said the ABC has “operational, editorial and financial independence”, meaning the controversial job cuts decision was made by ABC management.

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