Despite promises to leave the ABC untouched, the Federal Government will be cutting approximately $250 million from the network’s budget over the next five years. Whilst Prime Minister Tony Abbott claims that cuts will not affect the overall structure of the ABC, Managing Director Mark Scott has said the smaller budget will result in many changes including the threat of job losses for about 400 staff.
With smaller, niche television programs and radio stations being threatened, the ABC is heading towards more national coverage. This means that state-based news and sports reporting will be replaced with national reportage, with changes planned for ABC Local, Radio National and Classic FM. One example is the scrapping of niche programs such as Bush Telegraph – a show that covered life in rural and regional Australia – that ended in December 2014.
So how does this affect students? Fortunately, Triple J remains untouched and will continue to broadcast as per usual. Whether the cuts will affect ABC2, however, remain ambiguous. In 2014, an Oztam survey recorded that live, primetime viewing of ABC2 in Melbourne was down, sitting at just 2.3%. However, demographics were not recorded across multiple platforms, meaning iview streaming was not taken into account. ABC2 relies heavily on imported programs such as documentaries, sitcoms and popular talk shows like The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, as well as repeats from the ABC. What it is great at is supporting local-made shows by young Australians: The Roast was a daily satirical news show airing for three years before being axed in November 2014 (not a result of budget cuts) and Josh Thomas’ Please Like Me has been renewed for a third season.
However, with drastic cuts to the budget, many of these programs by young Australians are under threat, which brings into question whether shows that would not ordinarily be viable for commercial television will have a home in the future. The budget cuts, while still being discussed and implemented, will affect many aspects of the ABC but are particularly threatening to smaller, niche aspects of the network.