Turnbull defends ABC cuts

ABC’s threat to axe programmes like Lateline because of government budget cuts has been labelled ‘lazy’ by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Despite a $120 million cut to the public broadcaster’s funding in the May budget, Mr Turnbull said the ABC should reform and modernise rather than cancel programmes.

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“A commercial broadcaster called on to save money will always try to preserve its programme budget – cutting that will prejudice their ratings and thus their revenues,” Mr Turnbull said in a blog post titled Cut our budget and the pig gets it’: the future of ABC programming.

In the post, Mr Turnbull responded to threats that cuts to ABC funding would prompt the end of popular kids television show Peppa Pig.

“That threat was always a joke – no government, no management would ever take on the 3 year olds of Australia (not to speak of their parents),” Mr Turnbull said.

“A public broadcaster, on the other hand, could if it wished save money in the easiest (and laziest) way by simply cutting programming and in particular cancelling new shows or new series.”

Mr Turnbull said an efficiency study into the ABC and SBS was conducted by the Communications Department earlier this year, with programming expenditure not included in the recommendations.

“The harder but better thing to do is to restructure, reform and modernise the business and that is exactly what the efficiency study makes clear to the management.”

Mr Turnbull rejected there was a link between budget cuts and “decisions made by management about programming”.

A petition to keep Lateline on air is believed to be circulating amongst ABC staff, with journalists like 7.30 host Leigh Sales taking to Twitter to call for its preservation.

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