Australia is about to get stupider thanks to cuts to the ABC (Australia’s public broadcaster) and SBS (our multilingual and multicultural broadcaster). Are the cuts all about privileging big business, discourse control or doing public broadcasting a favour? I heard a very strange argument yesterday – how the ABC was the cause of the financial problems of one of the big media companies because the ABC was so popular. Therefore the current state of affairs is not fair – really? And then we have a so-called democratic government espousing free speech when it suits their interests yet uses power to silence critical voices. In my view, changes to quality broadcasting have already been noticeable but what to the future and implications for Australian society?
A debate is emerging about the role of public media. The debate is attempting to move beyond the string of broken pre-election promises of no funding cuts and claims that slashing and burning will really provide wonderful business opportunities for the ABC (go figure). Is it the ABC’s role to compete with private, profit making industries or fill the gap by providing quality and stepping beyond political interests? I favour the latter. My values are the antithesis of those of the current coalition government. I am not against private industry but as I have said before some things simply don’t work in private hands because the true master is always profit not what is good for all individuals in society or society as a whole. Truth and fairness are distant relatives. It really does come down to what sort of society we want. We need an independent, intelligent public broadcaster in this country – more than ever.
Stupidity is scary. It is scary how politicians can appeal to people’s basest fears and how this actually works with the help of uncritical, popularist media. Come on, how many history lessons do we need? Is Australia’s future one where only the rich can be educated, where limited safety nets come with a big judgemental stick, health care is in exchange for $$$, and one where the public is fed on a diet of headline grabbers, celebrity news, reality television and very, very old television – all determined by the number of clicks and profit potential. That is ok but not if that is all we are going to have. A real risk? – you judge. Will we have a society not exposed to critical thought, one that blames and fears difference, one that is out for number one and bugger everyone else?
Public media does fill a gap – an important one. No matter how politicians want to couch it, funding cuts will have a huge impact – they already have. Already there are some shows I can’t watch anymore because of the sudden proliferation of commentators mouthing off what is simply their personal, unsubstantiated beliefs – all in the quest for fairness. I say if we are going to do that – let’s at least go with something more interesting like an alien invasion (you know that our politicians are really aliens or lizards disguised as humans), that the earth is really flat, that man has never been to the moon or there is no climate change (oops sorry – that one’s already here). I attribute this decline to the politics of survival and hope they are temporary. Despite this, we do need a properly funded ABC and SBS that are immunised against political interests – more than ever. I would be happy to pay a tax (umm, I mean levy, errr I mean tax) to fund the ABC.