Despite the public outcry about funding cuts to the ABC in last year’s budget, the government has not resiled from its original decision.
The 2019 budget papers confirm funding for the ABC’s “general operational activities” fall from $916 million this year to $900 million in 2018-19, $901 million, and $903 million and $902 million in the following three years.
Former managing director of the ABC Michelle Guthrie hit back at the freeze in 2018 – estimated to cost the broadcaster $84 million – noting the organisation had seen its funding cut by $254 million since 2014.
The funding represents a decrease of 2.9 per cent in real terms from 2018-19 to 2019-20, and 5.3 per cent in real terms from 2019-20 to 2022-23.
“This reflects the government’s decision to maintain the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) operational funding at 2018-19 levels from 2019-20 to 2021-22,” the budget papers said.
The government noted that the funding freeze had no effect on funding for “transmission and distribution” activities.
The “indexation pause” would also be partly offset by an extra $43.7 million to go the ABC over the next three years from 2019-20 to support “local news and current affairs in regional Australia in particular”, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said in a statement.
SBS, whose operational funding was also flat across the forward estimates ($319 million in 2018-19 going to just $326 million by 2022-23), has been allocated an extra $29.6 million in the same funding initiative.
Consumer safeguard funding to ease
The budget also set aside $7.2 million in funding for the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to “improve dispute resolution” for consumers.
That funding will be made available to ACMA over the course of four years, in gradually decreasing increments beginning with $1.8 million in the 2019-20 financial year and steadily decreasing to $1.3 million in the 2021-22 financial year.
The cost of this funding will be recovered through an increase in the annual carrier licence charge, starting in 2020-21.