Why the ABC can't squeal like Peppa Pig over cuts

OPINION: I'VE always considered myself a friend of the ABC.

I believe in the value of great journalism and current affairs and enjoy compelling drama, comedy and sports programming like anyone else.

But the sanctimonious bleating over 4.6% cuts to the $1 billion a year broadcaster have become a little hard to stomach in the past 24 hours.

Having worked in commercial media for almost 30 years, I've seen plenty of cuts.

And many of them run a lot deeper than what the ABC will experience over the next year.

In Australia, thousands of jobs have been lost in the media sector.

It's ugly.

But as media organisations, we have, like any other company, learn to live within budgets, within our means.

The ABC should be no different.

In recent years we have seen big expansions of the public broadcaster.

The purchase of multi-million-dollar buildings, even at a local level, and the awarding of some very generous salary packages, particularly for their 'stars' in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

We've also seen duplication of services, excessive layers of management and expansion into areas which you could argue are hardly 'core' information services.

Yet at the same time, we have days where our local programming is almost non-existent.

If someone is sick, the morning program switches to the statewide program, Brisbane, Gold Coast, or the Wide Bay.

We have also seen plenty of examples where the ABC uses the content of local newspapers as fodder for their own programs, with little or no credit to the original journalism.

Don't get me wrong, I think our local ABC journos and producers work pretty hard - it's just they are trying to cover too many things - and there are not enough of them.

Perhaps if the ABC returned to focusing on just news and current affairs, particularly in radio and television, we would get a better service.

The ABC, like everyone else, needs to find it precise niche in a multi-platform media landscape which no longer has news organisations as the only source of information to punters.

Politically, however, Prime Minister Tony Abbott deserves to cop a flogging over the $254m in cuts.

As much as the LNP would like to spin it, it is a clear broken promise. No two ways about that.

But at a time when everyone is being asked to tighten their belts, the ABC can't expect to be immune from the budget knife.

Aunty provides a great service, but like the rest of the Australian media, it will have to learn to work leaner, harder and smarter in the digital age.

Mark Furler is APN Australian Regional Media's group digital editor. He has been a journalist on the Sunshine Coast for almost 30 years, and has taken out numerous media awards, including PANPA Newspaper of the Year and APN's Editor of the Year. 

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