Culture

Only ‘ideology or fear’ would push a government to attack ABC, Anthony Albanese says

Only a government ruled by ideology or fear would attack the ABC, Anthony Albanese has said at the 90th birthday celebration of the public broadcaster in Sydney.

In a thinly veiled attack on the former Coalition government’s fraught relationship with the ABC, the prime minister on Friday evening said a strong independent broadcaster was vital to democracy and brought Australia together as a nation.

“The health of our democracy is underpinned by truth and by the strength of our cultural identity – how we see ourselves as a people and what unifies us in all the splendour of our diversity,” Albanese said.

“A government that chooses to attack a public broadcaster does so motivated by either ideology or fear – or a toxic cocktail of the two.

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“No government should fear the ABC – unless it fears the truth. A government of integrity and transparency should welcome the accountability that a strong, properly resourced public broadcaster brings.”

An avowed fan of Triple J, Albanese praised many aspects of the ABC, from the credibility of its news and current affairs programming to its crucial role during the pandemic and the bushfires.

“There are people still alive right now because of the ABC,” he said.

He confirmed Labor would provide five-year funding terms, restore the $83.7m cut by the former government and review options for delivering greater financial sustainability to safeguard against political interference.

Albanese told guests in studio 22 at the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters that locally made children’s television such as Bluey was important for the development of cultural identity in young people who would otherwise face “a tide of imported programming”.

“Just as in drama, we need other voices and all the perspectives they bring, but not at the expense of our own,” he said.

Albanese, who was joined by the communications minister, Michelle Rowland, said the ABC helped to share Australia’s voice in the region.

“That was undervalued by the previous government, even trivialised,” he said, reiterating an election promise to increase funding for Australian content in the Indo-Pacific region.

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The ABC’s managing director, David Anderson, said the corporation could not be complacent about the future.

“We need to continue to evolve the ABC to respond to rapid technological change and the changing audience preferences and behaviours that come with it,” he said.

“The competition for audience attention is intense and the competitors are large, global and well-funded.”

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