The next government must strengthen the public broadcasters, the ABC and SBS, and defend them from attacks from commercial media operators, says the Rationalist Society of Australia.
In a video message to members and subscribers today, RSA Treasurer Brendan Liveris (pictured) said the public broadcasters, especially the ABC, play a critical role in Australia’s democracy.
He said the underfunding of the ABC needed to be rectified in the next term of parliament so that it could effectively perform its critical role for the nation, especially during times of emergencies, such as bushfires, floods and pandemics.
Given the increasing concentration of commercial media and the decline of newspapers in regional areas, the ABC, as the most trusted media outlet in the country, has a critical role to play in ensuring that Australians are informed.
The RSA’s support for public broadcasting is reflected in its Reclaiming Secular Australia statement, which says: “The federal government should fund its public broadcasters, the ABC and SBS, at levels that allow them to fulfill effectively their public benefit missions and should defend them from attacks by commercial media businesses.”
RSA Patron Professor Fiona Stanley says: “As a scientist concerned about our planet, our environment, and our children, I support the ABC because we have precious few other sources of good, evidence-based unbiased information. ABC content is a precious resource.”
Mr Liveris also said the public broadcasters must do more to accommodate the voices of pro-secular Australians, especially as the proportion of citizens identifying as non-religious rapidly grows.
As pointed out by the National Secular Lobby, the ABC has a large stable of religious and spiritual programs but not one focusing on the secular or non-religious viewpoint.
“The ABC routinely ignores pro-secular voices when it comes to programming such as Q&A, even when the topic relates to religion in politics, such as the Religious Discrimination Bill, or more generally about the separation of church and state,” said Mr Liveris.
Following the election, the RSA will urge ABC management to introduce programming that has a focus on the secular and non-religious viewpoints, and to include more pro-secular voices in its shows.
Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman