24 July 2020

Like so many Australian children, my first memories of television are of Humpty Dumpty, Big Ted and Jemima, of the Rocket Clock, of the arched window from Playschool.

And again, like so many others, I tune into my local ABC for information I need to know each day. The trumpet fanfare heralding the news at the top of the hour punctuates my daily life.

But Aunty is far more than an ever-present source of high-quality, local, independent news and entertainment. In many cases, the ABC’s emergency coverage saved lives in Victoria during the summer bushfires.

Reporters and staff have worked tirelessly to bring us ongoing coverage of the drought and now the pandemic, many working weeks on end without breaks to make sure the community is well-informed.

The ABC’s dedication to reporting on rural affairs through Landline, Country Hour and ABC Rural online is critical to regional Victoria.

Now 250 dedicated staff face the sack as a result of the Morrison Liberal Government’s $83.7 million cut to the ABC.

It has been deeply worrying to see the crisis in regional media that has played out in recent years. During this coronavirus crisis, we’ve seen the acceleration of the demise of many local newspapers.

Over the coming years, more than a hundred newspapers will no longer be printed.

For years Labor has been calling on this Government to overhaul the policy and regulatory framework and implement a real plan to support Australian content, public interest journalism and regional media in a landscape transformed by digitisation and convergence.

The Coalition has had seven years in Government now, and still they don’t know what to do to help regional media.

The Government’s failure to address these systemic challenges left the media sector exposed to external shocks, and Australians are now missing out on public interest journalism and Australian content as a result.

While I’m delighted to see new independent titles like The Ararat Advocate and The Horsham Times establish, this community deserves more journalists asking hard questions and holding the powerful to account. Not less.

A strong, independent ABC is critical to a healthy democracy – even more so now in this age of disinformation, where rumours and falsehoods spread unchecked on social media.

An Albanese Labor Government will reverse the Liberal’s $83.7 million cut to the ABC to save regional jobs, protect critical emergency broadcasting and support local news and content.

Every week, 71 per cent of Australians – more than 17 million people – watch, read or listen to ABC content.

Labor wants to ensure the ABC can continue to deliver for all Australians.  

We want to ensure that the ABC is strongly resourced to deliver for Australians in regional areas who depend on it.

The ABC is an essential service. We should support it like one.

This opinion piece was originally published in the Pyrenees Advocate and the Ararat Advocate.