The government’s new cultural policy hardly mentions the ABC. It is only mentioned in one of the many actions in the plan, and only then as a repeat of the commitment to secure its funding and restore indexation. Yet the ABC underpins the delivery of the entire “Revive” policy.
The previous government went out of its way to make life difficult for the four primary sources of independent critical thought – the arts, universities, the not-for-profit sector, and the ABC. The new government has started to redress the undermining of all of these four sectors, and this week it was the turn of the arts and culture. The new government’s National Culture Policy is not named “Revive” by chance.
With its five Pillars and ten Principles, the new policy has been warmly welcomed, but it has not been a shock to the system. It provides for modest new money - $199m – for Creative Australia, a grant making body based on the role of the previous Australia Council. There will be four new investment bodies for, respectively, First Nations Works, writing, music, and policing workplace harassment.
The initiatives in the policy range across the arts spectrum, and include:
- Restoration of funding for digital games development
- Long term loans to regional and suburban institutions from the national collection
- Enhancing the royalty payments scheme to visual artists
- A State of the Arts report every three years
- Appointment of a poet laureate, and
- Introduction of requirements for Australian screen content on streaming platforms.
The ABC is barely mentioned, but is noted as:
a trusted source of news, information, and entertainment for all Australians
and as a platform
through which audiences engage with some of our best comedy, drama, documentary and children’s television.
Under the previous government we would be alarmed at the ABC being downplayed in such a policy announcement. But there are consistent signs that that this government is pro-ABC. It is something of a relief that the policy takes the ABC and its role for granted.
The four page submission by the ABC itself to the consultation process to develop the policy was concise and somewhat modest, bordering on bland. Perhaps they are waiting on the May budget for their “new” money.
In its submission, the ABC describes itself as:
a significant cultural institution and plays a central role in sustaining and contributing to the cultural life of Australia.
The ABC submission covers its role in each of the five pillars of the policy, with examples, and with identification of challenges. It particularly claims a “vital and unique” role in reaching Australian audiences.
To quote the submission:
The ABC is at the heart of Australia’s creative and cultural industries, which deliver significant economic and social benefits for Australian society. As an engine of creative development, employment and innovation, the ABC helps to support and promote these industries in line with its Charter obligations.
And the punchline, of course:
A strong well-funded ABC remains a key mechanism for supporting and growing the creative and cultural industries and can underpin a new National Cultural Policy.
It is hard to disagree. As ABC Friends, we can help the government to understand that it needs to deliver the well-funded part in the May budget.
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