The ABC could lose the ability to foster and discover new talent, such as The Chaser, due to cutbacks at the national broadcaster’s internal television program production operations, the public sector union has warned.
Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) ABC section secretary Graeme Thomson says there needs to be a full and open inquiry into the issue.
“It loses the ability for the new Chasers, the new Andrew Dentons to actually be found and actually be developed and I think that’s sad,” he told a Senate hearing on Monday in Canberra.
The Senate environment and communications references committee is holding public hearings into ABC television management’s August announcement of cuts to jobs, and program production and numbers.
The committee, which has so far received 267 submissions, is also looking at the decision to outsource the popular childrens’ program, Bananas in Pyjamas, and the impact of the cuts on state-based football broadcasts.
The CPSU, which represents most ABC employees but not journalists, said ABC radio had a well-established place in Australia.
But television had lost its way and no longer had a clear vision of where it was headed or its role or purpose, the CPSU said in its submission.
“This confusion is in part created by the changed media environment and because of multi-channelling,” it said.
“It has also been caused by management decisions that have shifted the organisation priorities.”
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance equity branch federal director Simon Whipp said the government had provided additional funding to increase Australian content on the ABC, including the new children’s channel.
But he said the alliance had expressed concern that even with this funding boost, it wasn’t enough because the ABC’s base funding had been under considerable pressure and declining in real terms.
“The ABC has struggled with insufficient funds for more than a decade in what has been a rapidly changing media landscape,” he told the hearing via teleconference.
“The ABC operates three television networks, six radio networks and one of the largest suites of online services in Australia’s media on an annual budget less than that available to Channel Seven and Channel Nine with whom it competes for audiences.”
Mr Whipp said the MEAA supported a mixed model of in-house and out-sourced production.
“There should remain a critical mass of in-house production to ensure the benefits that in-house productions brings to the ABC and the industry are not lost.”