Labor pledges $40 million to ABC and $20 million to SBS to support local content

Bill Shorten. (Photo: Ross Caldwell)

If elected, Labor has promised $40 million to the ABC to support drama, comedy, children’s and music programming, and $20 million to SBS to support more Australian content on the broadcaster.

The Opposition unveiled its arts policy, ‘Renewing Creative Australia’, over the weekend, also promising a further $15 million to the ABC to boost resources for regional news and sports and emergency broadcasting; to help restore shortwave radio in the NT and support a news literacy program to fight “disinformation and fake news”.

In addition, Labor will provide $4 million across the ABC and SBS to upgrade audio-description services for Australians who are blind or have poor vision.

As previously announced, Labor has also promised to reverse the government’s $83.7 million indexation freeze on the ABC’s operational funding. ABC managing director David Anderson has warned of cuts on staff and services if the three-year freeze is to go ahead; the broadcaster has already absorbed $254 million in efficiency cuts over the last five years.

Labor has promised funding certainty to the ABC next budget cycle, and in an address to ABC Friends’ Forum in Melbourne on Saturday leader Bill Shorten suggested that he would like to look at longer funding terms for the public broadcaster.

“We want to start the conversation about five-year funding, not three-year funding. Proper certainty locked away,” he said.

Earlier this month, Shadow Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland announced that Labor would seek to convene a taskforce to “conclude” the government’s Australian and Children’s Screen Content Review, arguing the government had “stalled” it.

Labor’s arts policy document also suggests the party will put a focus on international co-production and adjust the requirements of the Producer Offset for film in order to allow the screen industry to compete more readily internationally.

“Recognising that Australia is lagging behind in regard to co-production agreements, Labor will explore new co-production agreements and review Australia’s co-production treaties. We want to encourage more creative partnerships between Australia and other nations to produce stories of common interest and increase the global reach of Australia stories,” it said.

“This work will be combined with exploring ways to boost services exports for Australia’s creative industries to help Australia’s screen industry take more Australian stories global as well as replacing the requirement for theatrical release for Australian feature films with a broad-base marketplace requirement.”