The chairman of the ABC has defended the public broadcaster’s role in the Australian media industry.
Justin Milne has only been in the role for a matter of months, but in an address at Parliament House this evening, he hit back at criticism the ABC is harming the fortunes of Australia’s media empires.
His comments follow a deal between the Coalition and One Nation on the Government’s shake-up of media ownership regulations.
The support of Pauline Hanson’s party came only with concessions from Communications Minister Mitch Fifield on greater scrutiny of the ABC.
Commercial media executives have accused the taxpayer-funded media organisation of aggressive expansion, claiming it had eaten away at their market share and advertising revenue.
“As one of the world’s most successful democracies, Australia has benefitted from a dual media system for 85 years, with public broadcasting existing alongside commercial media,” Mr Milne said.
“This media environment has ensured vibrancy and diversity, for the good of all Australians.
“And while I am sympathetic to the concerns of the commercial sector as it seeks new business models in a severely disrupted media landscape, criticising the ABC is not the solution to their problems.”
‘The nation needs a strong public broadcaster’
Mr Milne cited concerns raised when the then Australian Broadcasting Commission was first created in 1932.
“The then media barons opposed the ABC’s entry to radio on the basis it would destroy their commercial stations. It didn’t,” he said.
“The same occurred with the advent of television in the 1950s. And the same again in the 1990s when the ABC was mandated by government to use the internet as a means of extending it’s trusted, independent and impartial voice to new audiences over new platforms.”
One Nation has attacked the ABC for what it has described as a vendetta against its party, and said it has embraced a left-leaning ideology.
It has demanded the public broadcaster spend more money in regional Australia, and that the words “fair and balanced” are included in its charter.
Mr Milne argued the public broadcaster still held an important place in Australia’s society.
“Over 85 per cent of Australians trust the ABC above all other media businesses and believe strongly in its value as a source of truth and information that others simply don’t provide: science, the arts, religion, philosophy, education, not to mention our expanding regional and rural coverage in 48 different centres around Australia.
“These are difficult things to find in advertising-driven media.
“I believe that in the modern environment — of fragmenting audiences, of the clamour about fake news, the erosion of national boundaries and the decline and consolidation of commercial media — the one incontestable fact is that now, more than ever, the nation needs a strong independent and trustworthy public broadcaster.”