ABC's assertion it is managing finances responsibly : LUSENET : Friends of the ABC : One Thread

Whats $30 million here or there ?

An audit of the ABC's transition to digital television has uncovered a spending blow-out of almost $30 million - giving the Federal Government fresh ammunition for its war of words with the national broadcaster.

The ABC last month axed its two digital channels, but the bill for the digital equipment remains outstanding, and according to an Australian National Audit Office report to be released shortly, the exercise was well over budget.

It is understood that the report exposes overspending of nearly $30 million.

The report will undermine the ABC's assertion that it is managing its finances responsibly, and will damage the broadcaster's attempt to blame the demise of the Fly and ABC Kids channels on the Government's parsimony.

An ABC spokesman said yesterday that managing director Russell Balding did not dispute the figure in the report.

But he said the ABC would meet the shortfall from its capital budget - its operational budget would not be affected.

"When the ABC provided estimates into its digital expenditure to the Government in November 1997, many of the items were not yet available for sale," he said.

"Some of these items ended up being more expensive. Furthermore, there were also exchange rate issues."

But a spokesman for Communications Minister Richard Alston said the broadcaster had to be more forthcoming about its expenditure of taxpayers' money.

"It does seem quite strange that the ABC has spent so much on digital equipment and then has taken the unilateral decision that the first thing it will cut is its digital multi-channels," he said.

The Government provided nearly $60 million to the ABC for equipment and infrastructure over the first and second phases of the move to digital.

Mr Balding, when questioned about digital spending at last month's Senate estimates hearings, acknowledged that the transition was over budget, but put the figure at "about $20 million".

The decision to axe Fly and ABC Kids will save the ABC around $7 million a year, but Mr Balding told the estimates hearing that he was also looking for cuts of an additional $25 million a year to keep the broadcaster within its means.

An ABC board meeting at the end of this month is scheduled to begin examining proposals for budget cuts, and Mr Balding has refused to rule out any areas or programs as potential targets.

The ABC is obliged under the Government's digital broadcasting regime, which went through parliament in 1999, to provide digital broadcasts.

It will continue to broadcast digitally - using the equipment - but viewers will no longer have a choice of designated separate channels.

Senator Alston is expected to use the audit report as ammunition in his dispute with the ABC over funding, exacerbated late last month by the minister's attack on the ABC news service's reporting standards.

The broadcaster is still preparing its response to Senator Alston's allegation that the radio program AM had been systemically biased in its reporting of the Iraq war.

-- Anonymous, June 15, 2003


Keith A is simply factually wrong when he says that only 10% of Australians use the ABC. A poll conducted by Australian Nationwide Opinion Polls (owned by Rupert Murdoch) reported that each week nine out of ten Australians tuned into an ABC service (radio, or TV on ABC Online). While nine out of ten Australians use the ABC each week, some people use it more than others. People in regional areas use it more than city people, people with tertiary education use it more than people who did not proceed past high school, and people in higher income brackets use it more than people in lower income brackets. However just about everyone uses it.

-- Anonymous, August 30, 2003

keitha says

I can only say what the ABC doesnt do.

It is easy to see why the ABC captures only 10% of the audience in Australia

It has just plain reached its use by date.

How far distant from reality are they since have they lost the plot?

On the day when the nation welcomed our troops back from Iraq, there was no live television coverage. It was left to channel 7. It shows an ever growing isolation from mainstream australian thought, based on a political bias now out of control.... oh we can't show anything that shows John Howard and the liberal party in a good light can we?

On the day when our national capital was burning, despite excellent local coverage by their 2CN station in canberra, the abc did not connect any national coverage till well into the afternoon leaving thousands around australia with canberra connections to wonder as to the fate of friends relatives and loved ones. Slow moving and oh it was the weekend wasnt it ?

The ABA is trying to force cash starved commercial TV country networks to carry local news for country areas, but as for local news there is nothing on the abc regional transmitters. they have had more than enough time to develop these services, but in reality have never bothered.

The ABC is sexist.There are no ABC woman specific TV programs during daytime or anytime and certainly not much womans sport in comparison to a massive coverage of male sport

The selection of movies shown on ABC TV is antique and mostly old british.The ABC has a huge anti american bias and no movies made in the usa are shown and when other movies are scheduled at all they are shown in the middle of the night as a filler.

It is so sad to see them use their own media to attempt to black mail the government for more money.

they want a billion dollars. Plus they cause at least a billion dollars a year damage to commercial radio and tv.

tis time to review ?

-- Anonymous, June 18, 2003


The ABC used to do this years ago. They did a 5 minute bulletin on most major ABC regional TV stations just before the main news. In Bega/Cooma is was labelled "ABC SE NSW regional news" or something like that. Wollongong had the "Illawarra SE news".

-- Anonymous, June 19, 2003

Keitha, who was the original author of this idea of an ABC 'spending blow-out' of $30 million? Would it be Piers Akerman, by any chance?

The original Hansard of the recent ABC Budget Estimates (26th May, page 22-23), where ABC MD Russell Balding is questioned about digital broadcasting, contains a slightly different perspective on this matter. But who needs original sources and facts and evidence anyway? That's boring.

PS just out of interest, Mr Balding also mentioned during this part of the Budget Estimates that the ABC was never funded for the set-up of its online site, which according to, is now being accessed by 'impressive' numbers of non-Australians as a source of balanced international news. Setting up a comprehensive website for NOTHING! So much for an organisation for which you don't get value for money! (Sorry, just had to get that off my chest).

-- Anonymous, June 24, 2003

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