4 cents a day buys a lot more than nostalgia

October 21, 2019
Editor(s): Matthew Trachevski
Writer(s): Lachlan Woods, Michelle Koo, Nicholas Bea, Preethika Padmanabhan

In a modern media landscape overflowing with free and accessible online news and entertainment, the ABC is not just a curator of cultural capital. It is a societal pillar and it should stick around.

Perhaps it is the scientific simplicity of its logo, or the hummable melodies of its decades-spanning programs, but the Australian Broadcasting Corporation today is considered the most trusted media organisation in the nation, according to recent Roy Morgan research. Over 80% of Australians trust the ABC, while 57% trust commercial media and only 37% trust social media. Against waves of online news and entertainment, and the fake news and advertising that has inevitably accompanied these media, the ABC stands as a bastion of impartial journalism, and a lighthouse for Australians seeking the truth.

As the appeal of partisan politics grows in many countries, continued funding of the ABC is more vital than ever for preserving Australia’s political middle ground. A 2018 Reuters report suggests that political polarisation has already taken root in Australia, with 40% identifying strongly with the left or right side of politics, reflecting a slightly higher degree of polarisation than the global average. The ABC attracts 12.3 million weekly ABC TV viewers, 4.9 million weekly ABC Radio listeners, and 7.6 million monthly ABC Online visitors from all political viewpoints, serving a crucial role as the only national ‘virtual village square’. Without a robust ABC, it is quite possible that social media networks such as Facebook will gain greater ability to create ‘echo chambers’ for Australian users to see posts only from like-minded friends and media sources, and, in doing so, erode the informational underpinnings of our democracy.

Despite claims by many that online media produced at near-zero marginal cost has made the ABC redundant, or a ‘luxury that Australians cannot afford’, it is clear that the ABC, as an independent state media outlet, is still the best institution at filling many gaps in our media landscape, such as rural and regional broadcasting, quality children’s television, in-depth long-form journalism, and state-based television news and current affairs. Imagine parliament question time on a commercial network. Party members would be kitted in pastel shades of red and blue on Channel Nine; on Network 10, half the chamber would be blocked from view by a picture of the latest Bachelor. However, the ABC’s programs fill a more important market gap concerning the safe consumption of media by young Australians. The ABC is currently the best provider of quality children’s television that, unlike online media platforms, cannot expose children to confronting or explicit content directly or indirectly through advertising. For 4 cents a day, supporting the safety of young Australians’ development does not sound like such a poor deal.

Amidst the debate over the ABC’s purpose and funding, it is worth remembering that the ABC sustains over 6,000 full-time equivalent jobs across the economy; from local artists and writers, to technicians and transport workers. Any move to curtail the ABC’s activities is, by implication, a threat to the livelihoods of thousands of Australians.

The ABC may not offer Game of Thrones. It may not offer any of your favourite shows. However, it does offer social, political and economic stability at a time when all three are so rare.

The CAINZ Digest is published by CAINZ, a student society affiliated with the Faculty of Business at the University of Melbourne. Opinions published are not necessarily those of the publishers, printers or editors. CAINZ and the University of Melbourne do not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in the publication.

Meet our authors:

Matthew Trachevski
Lachlan Woods
Michelle Koo

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Michelle Koo's Articles
Nicholas Bea
Preethika Padmanabhan