Thirty years after then ABC Managing Director David Hill convinced the Hawke Government to hand over more cash thanks to a campaign based around “Aunty” costing every Australian “eight cents a day”, the national broadcaster’s Chief Financial Officer, Louise Higgins, says that figure has halved.
Speaking at the ABC’s inaugural “Annual Public Meeting”, at which the broadcaster outlined plans for its future, Higgins said the ABC produced 50 Australian programs, including 24 drama series, for the same price Netflix spent on two series of House of Cards
“Back in 1987, your ABC famously cost each Australian eight cents a day. In 1987 dollar terms we now cost each Australian just four cents a day. In other words, our per capita funding has halved in real terms,” Higgins said.
“Each year the ABC receives $1 billion in public funding. Whilst on face value, this is a lot of money, the fact is our funding has declined by 28% in real terms since the mid 1980’s. In the last five years alone, it has declined by more than $200 million.”
A decade ago, federal budget figures put ABC funding at 14 cents per person.
Higgins said that by the end of 2018, the ABC will have saved $324 million over five years, returning 78% of that money to government. Controversially, the ABC recently announced it was culling its sound and reference libraries nationally, with 10 specialist librarian positions made redundant.
The CFO said the broadcaster delivers services for third less than the cost of other public broadcasters.
“Our per capita funding is 34% lower than the average of other public broadcasters, including the BBC,” she said.
“In fact, we serve a population one-third the size of the UK, but do it with a budget one-eighth that of the BBC.”
ABC chairman Justin Milne used the occasion to launch what the broadcaster calls ABC 2.0, its digital strategy.
“ABC 2.0 will use technology to transform the way we serve content to our audiences. And it will change how our people operate, attracting the brightest creative and technical talent and making the ABC an even better place to work,” he said.
“ABC 2.0 is not a substitute for broadcast. It is additive. We have absolutely no plans to reduce our presence on TV or radio.”
“We’ll take a multi-platform approach to content so that work done for one medium can be adjusted and exploited on another.
“We’ll improve our commercial operations so that our content can be seen by more people all over the world.”
The broadcaster said 12.3m Australians watch ABC TV each week and 4.8 million Australians listen to ABC radi weekly.
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