A review into the ABC’s operations has identified “very substantial savings” that can be made, but none that should affect programming, according to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Mr Turnbull has responded to media speculation that the ABC could face a further $50 million in budget cuts as a result of the efficiency review the Government has commissioned into it and SBS.
He will not confirm the figure, but says the report has identified significant cuts the ABC board can make.
“The Lewis review, the efficiency study identified very substantial savings that can be achieved from back office matters; administration, use of properties and so forth,” Mr Turnbull said.
At today’s Coalition party room meeting, Mr Turnbull said that if the ABC board decided to make cutbacks in the areas of programming, it would be at the expense of “back-of-house” cuts.
Speaking to the media a short time later, Mr Turnbull said the efficiency review was never commissioned to target ABC programming.
“Recognising that there were going to be savings right across government, I undertook that efficiency study so that the ABC would know, and we would know, whether and to what extent there were substantial savings to be made in back of house, and there are,” he added.
Asked to outline how much those savings might be worth, the minister said he “could” but “won’t”.
The review has been handed to the boards of both broadcasters, and ABC managing director Mark Scott has emailed staff to tell them much of what has been reported in the media is “highly speculative”.
“The report is high-level and suggests that further detailed work is required to assess the level of possible savings and the cost of implementation,” Mr Scott wrote.
“The Lewis review is not prescriptive and final decisions on how the ABC operates and spends its budget lies with the ABC board.
“The board will continue to consider our future spending priorities in coming meetings.”
Recently the ABC’s multi-million-dollar Australia Network contract was cancelled and the corporation itself had its overall budget cut by 1 per cent.
Mr Scott said he had established a “project management office” to investigate ways to make the savings, not only to meet the budget cuts but also to invest in mobile and online services.
“We are planning for the shutdown of the Australia Network service and for the inevitable job losses that will result,” he wrote to staff.