We saw first-hand last summer just how vitally important the ABC is for keeping us all informed during a crisis. We’ve seen it during Covid, and we see it time and time again with hard hitting investigative reporting. Australia, like all democracies, needs a national broadcaster that is not influenced by business or politics.
The ABC remains under severe budgetary pressure absorbing $783 million in funding cuts since the Liberal Party came to power in 2013. Considerable Australian content and children’s programming, and recently, 200 ABC journalists and staff, have been lost while it tries to maintain the many essential services it provides particularly to regional areas.
The ABC had, over those years, already suffered huge losses of quality journalists and researchers, as well as transmission capability challenges. Residents across the South Coast and Illawarra are becoming increasingly concerned by the budget cuts and lost services.
Many ABC Friends members and supporters live within the Illawarra, Shoalhaven and South Coast region and have come together to form a local branch of ABC Friends (ABCF).
“Australians love the ABC, and right now it really needs our support,” says Carmel McCallum the group’s interim convenor. “ABC needs to remain independent, and it needs adequate funding. During last summer’s devastating fire season, it was the ABC which kept us all informed and answered our urgent questions, throughout the crisis, and especially when all other communication channels failed.”
Last summer if you didn’t have your radio fixed to local ABC you were flicking there regularly. It wasn’t just the constant reports and updates from relevant experts and control centres on the ground; it was listeners calling in and reporting what they were seeing and experiencing in the minute.
No-one has more reach and trust in regional Australia than the ABC. Listeners were phoning in and asking for updates in a specific location, and someone in the area was calling in a response. This type of information saves lives. It is also essential for community wide resilience and mental health.
The ABC continues to deliver benchmark emergency and crisis broadcasts, despite it not being part of their Charter. To deliver these services funds must be diverted away from other already stretched budgets. Staff came in from holidays, and people worked overtime to stream to bush-fire affected areas when there was no other channel for information.
The inaugural meeting of the Shoalhaven and South Coast branch of ABC Friends (ABCF) will take place on Saturday, 28th November, from 10 am at the Bomaderry Bowling Club.
Ms McCallum encourages anyone who cares about the ongoing demise of our national broadcaster to join the new ‘friends’ group or at least come along to the meeting and find out more.
“The louder our voice, the safer our most trusted ABC will be,” Ms McCallum said, “to continue to deliver the excellent and essential public service that it has done for decades.”
Guest speakers are long time ABC supporter Dr John Hewson and President of ABC Friends NSW & ACT, Cassandra Parkinson. Anyone is welcome to attend, but owing to COVID restrictions, numbers are limited, so RSVP is required by 24th November to firstname.lastname@example.org.