ABC managing director Mark Scott says savings identified at the ABC should be reinvested into the broadcaster.
As the Abbott government’s cost-cutting study into the ABC and SBS prepares its final report, Mr Scott told the University of Melbourne on Tuesday night the ABC was a sure bet in the midst of the media storm.
‘‘In all the uncertainty ... the public’s financial support for the ABC is one sure investment,’’ he said.
He said if newspaper proprietors closed daily papers, it would affect diversity. He said News Corporation papers ‘‘have never been more assertive in exercising media power’’, and diversity of views would suffer if papers closed. ‘‘The newspapers that survive will be powerful,’’ he said.
Mr Scott was asked after his speech whether he got nervous about comments from Prime Minister Tony Abbott questioning whether the ABC was “on Australia’s side”.
He responded that he got “comfortable when I look at the history of the ABC ... there’s often the story of challenging times that exist between government, prime minister and the ABC.”
“I know the Prime Minister’s comments. He said actually that he has a love/hate relationship with the ABC; at times it’s terrific and sometimes he wants to throw a shoe at the television set.
“And I thought, ‘Well, that’s what I have too, quite frankly.’
“At its best it’s terrific; it’s not always at its best; but you know, I welcome the debate and discussion and I’ve always welcomed a fair-minded discussion.”
He added that politicians understand that the “great strength of the ABC comes from its independence and that independence is really entrused to the eminent Australians who serve on the ABC board.”
Questioned on what would happen to ABC funding in the May budget, Mr Scott said: “It should be a pretty simple story, really. We’re one year into a three-year, trifunding agreement ... the Prime Minister said before the election, after the election, most recently in parliament a few weeks ago, no funding cuts to the ABC. And I suppose what I’m saying is, we take him at his word and we think our audience takes him at his word. That was a clear commitment that was made.”
He added that ABC News 24 “had very strong audience figures” and its catch-up service iView had 24 million plays a month. “And not all of them are Peppa Pig.”