The ABC could be forced to close its Fact Check unit to endure an almost $20 million funding cut in the 2016 federal budget.
A spokesman for the ABC confirmed “there will necessarily be some changes to staffing and programming in line with the reduced allocation of funds” following Treasurer Scott Morrison’s first budget.
While the budget continued ABC’s triennial base funding allowance of $3.1 billion dollars, it cut a $60 million set funding sum given by Labor, to $41.4 million across the next three years.
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This effective dip in funding of $18.1million would likely affect the ‘Enhanced News Gathering Program’ which encompassed the ABC’s Fact Check unit, regional news services, outer-suburban bureaux, state based digital news and improved “live-linking capacity in the regions”.
“ABC News will seek to maintain as many of the initiatives as possible, with a focus on delivering for Australians in regional and outer-suburban areas,” the ABC statement said.
ABC’s Fact Check unit specialised in verifying the claims of politicians and officials made in the media.
The shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare attacked the budget measures for the ABC via Twitter.
“Remember the promise the night before the last election “no cuts to the ABC”? Turnbull has cut ABC again in this budget by $48.6M #auspol”, it read.
However, fellow public broadcaster SBS was happy with its 2016 budget outcome.
It was awarded an extra $6.9 million funding for 2016-17 on top of an $8.3 million funding boost across the next three years.
SBS’s managing director Michael Obeid welcomed the news, saying the funding would support SBS at a time when it was continuing to evolve through the wider media’s digital transformation.
The one year funding sum was given to cover additional revenue SBS missed out on when a bill to let it advertise more did not pass parliament.
Meantime, commercial media outlets also won in the 2016 budget.
Their license fees were cut by 25 per cent, a move which Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said would apply to the 2015-16 financial year.
“Licence fees for commercial television and radio broadcasters will be reduced to enable these broadcasters to more effectively meet the challenges of an increasingly competitive global environment and invest in Australian content,” Mr Fifield said in a statement.
“The government will consider further reductions in broadcasting licence fees later in 2016 as part of a broader package of reforms that will include consideration of the pricing of broadcasting spectrum.”