Friday, 16 May 2014

REGION: Cuts to Australian broadcaster a regional concern

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands, 16 May 2014 - Budget cuts to the Australian public broadcaster and the abandonment of its regional arm send a chilling message to the region, states the Pacific Freedom Forum.

"Hidden in the talk of the cuts being just 1 percent of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's budget is the fact that the ABC's international services will be cut in half," said PFF Chair Titi Gabi, referring to the radio arm of the public broadcaster.

"This sends a chilling message to the people of the region - their access to independent news and information does not matter to Australia anymore."

ABC Managing Director Mark Scott this week said that the full impact of the cuts would be AU$120 million over the next four years.

The ten-year, AU$220 million contract for the ABC to run the regional television broadcaster, the Australia Network, was cancelled.

Speaking from Port Moresby, Gabi said that the decision to also cut all funding for the one year old Australian Network was evidence that Australia's ruling party placed little value in a free media

"Their campaign promise not to cut funding for the ABC, now broken, represents a failure of imagination in what is supposed to be an information age."

PFF co-chair Monica Miller said that despite increased access to the internet, radio remain by far the most widely used media source, especially for remote Pacific Islands.

With news from public broadcasters across the Pacific Islands, mostly controlled or censored by their governments, she said that the ABC was a rare source of news that could be relied upon.

"Australia's government is basically saying we don't need independent facts to make wise choices about our future choices.

"This leaves our islands increasingly isolated and vulnerable to potential mismanagement and corruption that stems from a lack of scrutiny."

Polls taken in Australia show that nine out of ten people there support the public broadcaster, and independent reviews do not support allegations of bias made by critics, she said.

Speaking from Pagopago, Miller called for Pacific media groups to show solidarity with public broadcasting in Australia and lobby against further cuts.

"With private media facing increasing losses of revenue streams to the internet, the need for stronger public broadcasting is needed more, not less."

She said there was also a danger that island governments would take the cuts in Australia to reduce what little support there was for their own public broadcasters.

ABC, SBS bosses blast Tony Abbott's broken promise on funding

Budget 2014: ABC, SBS funding cut, Australia Network contract cancelled

ABC managing director Mark Scott responds to Budget cuts


PFF CHAIR | Titi Gabi | Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea | PO Box 7776, Boroko, NCD, PNG | Mob: +675 706 86875 |

PFF CO-CHAIR | Monica Miller KHJ Radio | Pago Pago, America Samoa | Mob: +684 258 4197 | Office: +684 633 7793 | 

The Pacific Freedom Forum is a regional and global online network of Pacific media colleagues, with the specific intent of raising awareness and advocacy of the right of Pacific people to enjoy freedom of expression and be served by a free and independent media. We believe in the critical and basic link between these freedoms, and the vision of democratic and participatory governance pledged by our leaders in their endorsement of the Pacific Plan and other commitments to good governance. In support of the above, our key focus is monitoring threats to media freedom and bringing issues of concern to the attention of the wider regional and international community.

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