The Coalition has unveiled plans to cut $43.5 million from the budget of the ABC and SBS over the next four years as part of the federal budget.
The ABC’s contract to run the Australia Network – an international television service that available throughout Asia, the Pacific and the Indian Subcontinent – has also been cancelled.
Despite Prime Minister’s Tony Abbott’s promise not to cut funding to the public broadcasters during his election campaign, the windback – equivalent to about one per cent of the public broadcasters’ public funding – is unlikely to be the last.
The budget documents describe the cuts of $35 million at the ABC and $8 million at the SBS as an initial “down payment” on an efficiency study aimed at finding ways to run the organisations at a lower cost.
The accompanying decision to cut the ABC’s $220 million, 10-year contract with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to run the international network comes one year into the agreement.
In a statement, ABC managing director Mark Scott warned that the funding cuts would result in redundancies and cuts to services.
The loss of the Australia Network to ran counter to the approach adopted by the vast majority of G20 countries, he added.
“Countries around the world are expanding their international broadcasting services as key instruments of public diplomacy,” he said.
“It sends a strange message to the region that the government odes not want to use the most powerful communication tools available to it to talk to our neighbours about Australia.”