Be Careful What You Wish For

Regular readers of The Doohan Discourse will have noticed a particular theme being pushed in recent days, weeks and posts.

Yes, I am an avid supporter, viewer and consumer of the output of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and one who would be prepared to go to the barricades to protect the independence, viability and nature of Australia’s public broadcaster. I don’t always agree with those things the ABC puts out in one form or another – there are times I want to shout at the radio or television when I come across that I consider to be wrong, ill-informed, or just plain offensive.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is one of our nation’s true treasures, and it was established that way in the 1930s. It was established as an independent service, devoid of interference from advertisers or other commercial pressures, and as a result, the ABC provides airspace and awareness of a wide range of issues and subject matter that simply wouldn’t make it in a commercial setting.

And Australia is the richer for it.

Which is why the motion put last weekend to the Liberal Party’s federal council – to privatise the ABC because there was no economic case to keep it in public hands – has me a little riled.

The ABC was established on economic grounds. As Denis Muller, writing for The Conversation, puts it

No economic case. Where the ABC is concerned, that is a false premise on which to proceed. The ABC was explicitly not established for economic purposes or in pursuit of an economic ideology. It was established for social, educational and cultural purposes.

In its origins, the ABC had a very clear and unambiguous purpose, a purpose that was rooted in bipartisan political support. Again, Muller notes

The bipartisan political vision for the ABC was that it should not be vulnerable to sectional interests or commercial pressures, but should exist to serve the public interest in the widest sense.

So any government – of any political or ideological persuasion – who thinks they can denude the Australian landscape of something as precious as our national public broadcaster better be prepared for some serious electoral consequences.