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Saturday, May 15, 2021
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ABC cuts could be a key issue in Eden-Monaro by-election

A snapshot of the Eden-Monaro electorate by independent activist group GetUp has found many voters in the upcoming by-election believe the ABC is critical to the community.

GetUp recently conducted polling and focus groups with Eden-Monaro constituents, as well as a survey with 6,000 Eden-Monaro GetUp members, and found many were worried about cuts to the public broadcaster.

The survey found many people in the bushfire-affected region reported listening to local ABC Radio on “almost every hour of the day” during the crisis and found the ABC’s coverage to be trustworthy.

Several respondents cited instances where other media channels “got it wrong” in terms of where the fires were and in which direction they were moving, and many felt the ABC was the only media outlet that told “real stories of different community member’s” struggles and loss.

More than eight in 10 (85%) of Eden-Monaro residents polled were affected by the bushfire crisis in some way.

Almost three-quarters (72%) agree or strongly agree that the ABC was a critical service for providing reliable and up-to-date information during the bushfire crisis.

Seven in 10 (69.8%) would like the ABC to receive more funding, or to have the $783m in cuts restored.

The GetUp poll comes after the ABC confirmed 250 jobs will be cut, the 7.45am radio news bulletin will be cancelled, and the national head of emergency broadcasting will be made redundant.

GetUp’s national director, Paul Oosting, said the by-election could come down to the wire and the ABC could be a vote-deciding issue for people in Eden-Monaro.

“People across the electorate have relied on the ABC like never before this year. Our public broadcaster has kept people safe while fires raged, rolling out informative coverage during a global pandemic, and kept children learning while schools have been shut.

“The impact of cuts to the ABC will be felt across the country but for the people in Eden-Monaro in particular, they will have severe consequences.

“Just days out from the by-election, we’re calling on all candidates to commit to fighting for a strong and fully-funded ABC if elected.

“It’s time to end the political interference, reverse the cuts and reinstate every dollar to guarantee a strong, independent, properly-funded ABC.”

Liberal candidate for the seat Fiona Kotvjs said she liked the ABC and “listened to it all the time” but it was important to understand ABC staffing was an operational decision made independently by the ABC management.

“It’s always very sad to hear about any redundancies because we’re talking about people,” she said. “However, the ABC continues to receive more than $1 billion a year each year.”

Labor candidate Kristy McBain said it was unacceptable to cut jobs and programming after the horror bushfires of last summer and has called for an increase in funding for the ABC’s emergency management functions.

“This year the ABC literally saved lives, as it does year in and year out,” she said.

“More than ever we need a trusted source of news – especially in regional Australia.” 

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