Audit threatens community broadcasting

Staff Writer

As part of the National Commission of Audit being talked about today comes news the audit has identified community broadcasting for "abolition or merging" (section 8.8).

“The Commonwealth Government already provides over $1 billion per annum to the operation of the public broadcasters. There is a limited rationale for the Commonwealth to also subsidise community radio services. Continued government funding of this area does not meet the Report’s principles of good governance,” says the audit.

Community Broadcasting Association of Australia President Adrian Basso said the recommendation, if adopted, would put stations across the country at serious risk.

“The recommendation from the Commission of Audit shows a complete lack of understanding of the community broadcasting sector and the significant contribution it makes to media diversity in the country.

“For local communities, community broadcasting is vital. It plays a crucial role in providing a voice for communities that aren’t adequately serviced by other broadcasting sectors including Indigenous Australians, ethnic communities, the print and vision impaired, young people and seniors.

“We’re hopeful that the Federal Government will see this recommendation for what it is – a sure fire way to undo the vital work community broadcasting has done to promote the identities of local communities and the invaluable contribution it makes to social inclusion.

“If the Government were to adopt this recommendation it would cripple the community broadcasting sector’s operations and development and leave millions of Australians without access to the media content they rely on.

“We are hopeful that the Federal Government will recognise the vital importance of keeping our community radio stations on the air.

“The community broadcasting sector is a smart investment: for every dollar the government puts in, the social outcome is huge.”

Section 8.7 of the audit talks about the ABC and SBS where it proposes that they both be benchmarked against each other and the commercial broadcasters.

"This exercise should provide a sense of the efficiency of operations and the potential savings that could be achieved without compromising the capacity of the public broadcasters to deliver services including to remote and regional Australia. Future funding decisions should be informed by the benchmarking outcome," says the report.

Ross Gittins in the Sydney Morning Herald put things into perspective this morning when he wrote:

"Audit reports are never put into practice because they are commissioned from worthies who make radical proposals no politician hoping for re-election would ever implement. The cuts we do see in the budget will have been worked up by the professionals: Treasury and Finance.

"This report’s proposals go so far over the top – are so impolitic, impractical and improbable – that today is the last you will hear of most of its 86 recommendations."

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