ABC and SBS cuts raise profound concerns for democracy and society

ABCCutsPicThe Public Interest Journalism Foundation has condemned funding cuts to the ABC and SBS, which will undermine these organisations’ ability to fulfil their critical roles in producing journalism that serves the public interest.

The loss of 400 jobs and other cutbacks at the ABC (see here and here for details) will have serious consequences for the organisation’s capacity to produce quality journalism.

The Foundation notes the concerns of senior journalist Quentin Dempster that the cuts will undermine editorial independence and local coverage, while promoting “churnalism”.

The Foundation also notes concerns that have been raised about the impacts on regional, rural and remote areas.

The Foundation urges politicians across the board to take note of the strength of public concern, as shown by the many thousands of Australians who have supported the campaign against the cuts run by the Community and Public Sector Union and the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance.

The Foundation is particularly concerned that the cuts come at a time when job losses and restructuring across the wider media industry have undermined the watchdog role of journalism.

As a recent Foundation statement noted, the ability of journalists to hold governments and other powerful entities to account is under attack on multiple fronts, including from international trade negotiations, and federal legislation.

The Foundation urges the Federal Government to explore a full range of mechanisms for encouraging diversity and sustainability in public interest journalism and the emergence of new media models.

“Public interest journalism plays a central role in a healthy, safe and effective democratic society,” said the Foundation’s Patron, Rob Oakeshott.

“It provides citizens with the information needed to participate in the democratic process. An informed public in an effective democracy requires public interest journalism in privately owned, government funded and non profit media organisations.

“The Public Interest Journalism Foundation joins with many thousands of Australians in expressing our deep concern at these funding cuts, and their impact upon the wellbeing of our society.

“The cuts to the ABC and SBS make the Australian story harder to tell, and make it harder for public interest journalism to hold governments and its institutions to account.

“We also express our concern for those losing jobs and facing uncertainty about their futures.”

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Further reading

• Quentin Dumpster’s speech to the Sydney Rally.

• Report at The Guardian about “the ABC version of Survivor”.

• At The Conversation: Is this the beginning of the end of the ABC as we know it?

• At The Failed Estate: Enclosing the commons.