ABC given $83.7m to reverse Coalition’s funding cuts but little help for arts in 2022 budget

Australian federal budget provides $500,000 for feasibility study into the expansion of Double J to FM frequencies

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation will receive an additional $83.7m over four years to restore funding it lost as a result of the former Coalition government’s freeze on annual funding increases.

The budget has also provided $500,000 in 2022-23 for a feasibility study into the expansion of its digital band retro music channel, Double J, to FM frequencies.

But there were almost no new initiatives for the arts, with most announcements small and involving redirecting funds remaining from the Covid response for the sector or from other areas within the arts portfolio.

The government foreshadowed the development of a national cultural policy, which it said was “under development”.

The ABC and the Special Broadcasting Service will also now move to five-year funding agreements from July 2023 instead of the current triennial arrangements, giving both broadcasters much greater certainty in planning their programming and staffing, and fulfilling an election commitment.

The freeze on indexation – effectively a real cut – had forced the ABC to deliver a series of cuts to programs at time when it was attempting to fulfil the Coalition’s brief to expand its rural presence.

The ABC will also receive a further $32m over four years from the foreign affairs and trade portfolio to expand its regional transmissions in the Pacific, as part of Labor’s pivot towards greater engagement with the region.

After moves to relocate some ABC staff from Ultimo to Parramatta, a further $1m has been allocated for a feasibility study into moving SBS from Artarmon on Sydney’s north shore to western Sydney. Some staff have resisted the idea.

In the arts portfolio, most of the announcements were for the current financial year, suggesting that a more comprehensive arts budget will be forthcoming.

Funding for this financial year included $22m to establish a live performance support fund to support eligible live event organisers affected by Covid-19, $7.4m to support the operation of Bundanon Trust and the National Institute of Dramatic Art, and $5m to upgrade training and accommodation facilities at the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association Dance College.

There is a further $2.4m over four years (and $1m a year ongoing) for the financial sustainability of the national performing arts training organisations.

Creative Partnerships Australia will be abolished and its functions and funding transferred to the Australia Council.

The government will extend the temporary interruption fund to 30 June 2023 to support new local productions that were unable to start production due to insurance exclusions relating to Covid-19.

The government has also extended funding to support regional news and community broadcasting. The sector faced a wave of closures during the pandemic, raising questions about the future of local news and the creation of “news deserts” in some parts of regional Australia.

The government has allocated an additional $31m over four years from 2022-23 to programs – including $15m in 2022-23 for the regional and local newspaper publishers program – to help print publishers absorb newsprint price increases, and $12m over three years from 2023-24 for community broadcasting.


Anne Davies

The GuardianTramp

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