Not Your Political Punching Bag: ABC Boss Michelle Guthrie Hits Back At Liberal Party

She provided new figures showing the ABC, far from needing to be privatised, was invaluable to the Australian community.

What you need to know
  • "The people of Australia ... deeply resent the ABC being used as a punching bag by narrow political, commercial or ideological interests."

ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie has hit back at those who use the public broadcaster as a "punching bag".

Speaking at the Press Club in Melbourne, Guthrie defended the ABC from attacks this week from the Liberal Party -- which voted to defund the ABC at the annual federal council -- and commentators voicing their agreement.

"This is a debate that affects real people," she said, referring to both her colleagues and "the people of Australia, who regard the ABC as one of the great national institutions and who deeply resent it being used as a punching bag by narrow political, commercial or ideological interests."

She used her platform to "call out" these attacks, remarking on the role of journalism to shine a light on "dark corners" of the powerful.

"In a complex world it is too easy for the powerful to do their work in dark corners: to cynically use so-called narrowcasting messages that have a direct appeal to certain targeted audiences, while conveying an entirely different message to others; to rely on rhetoric that doesn’t match actions," she said.

"Good journalists call that out. Today, I want to channel some of that skill and emphasise some real facts in what has become an increasingly febrile debate over the value and future of the ABC."

She provided the audience with new figures from Deloitte that value ABC's output at $1 billion (the official report will be released next month).

"Far from being a drain on the public purse, the audience, the community and economic value stemming from ABC activity is a real and tangible benefit," she said.

Deloitte calculated that the ABC is helping to sustain more than 6,000 full-time jobs, including "supply chain" workers like local artists, writers, technicians and transport workers.

"I am proud of the ABC. I am proud of the work we do, the privileged position we hold in Australian history and our way of life; and of the value we bring, not only to audiences, but to wider citizenry," said Guthrie.

She pointed to recent successes like the Stargazing Live series, which brought together 2.6 million viewers, and the 800,000 people who chose to watch Mystery Road instead of the "kitchen-sink exploits" of Barnaby Joyce on at the same time.

"I think the public regards the ABC as a priceless asset," she said, providing stats around the 82 percent of Aussies who view the ABC as a trusted source of information, and the 77 percent who believe a well-funded, "healthy" ABC is essential for Australia's future.

It comes after Liberal Party members voted to privatise the ABC at the annual federal council last weekend, a move that was quickly distanced from by senior government figures and the National party alike.

Labor was quick to jump on the issue, defending the ABC against privatisation in the interest of democracy.

"An independent, public broadcaster is an essential part of a democratic society," said Wayne Swan on the ABC, "because when the media is taken over by plutocrats and powerful vested interests, we don't necessary have an independent media."