Thousands rally to save the ABC

Wednesday, August 14, 1996

Sydney on August 4, around 60,000 people poured into the Domain to protest against government cuts of $65 million to the ABC. Sarah Harris reports that staff, performers and supporters addressed and entertained the five-hour rally, including the Science Show's Robyn Williams, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, newsreader Indira Naidoo, singer Christine Anu, actors Ruth Cracknell and Roy and H.G. and magistrate Pat O'Shane.

O'Shane said in the Sydney Morning Herald that the real agenda of the prime minster and his "minion", the ABC chairman, Donald McDonald, was to "stifle discourse and stop dissent". She said that she was "tired of the line that it's government money that keeps the ABC. It's our money."

Many young people attended, particularly in support of Triple J, responding positively to the slogan "Throw Howard Out" on Resist! broadsheets handed out by Democratic Socialist Party and Resistance activists. Friends of the ABC organised the rally and are planning further action.

From Brisbane, Bill Mason writes that 10,000 people rallied on August 10 in opposition to the cuts. Co-sponsored by the Friends of the ABC and the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the rally heard from current affairs presenter Kerry O'Brien, Four Corners producer Chris Masters, comedian Gerry Connolly and popular 4JJJ DJ Helen.

Graingrowers Association president Ian McFarlane said the cuts were "a disaster for the bush". Other speakers slammed the cuts as a threat to a "national cultural institution". ABC management came under fire for failing to fight the cutbacks.

Young supporters of 4JJJ were a major section of the crowd, rushing the stage when well-known band Regurgitator played after the rally.

From Perth, Leon Harrison reports that a large August 6 public forum was chaired by radio commentator Phillip Adams and broadcast on Late Night Live.

Speakers included Fred Chaney, former Liberal senator and member of the Native Title Tribunal; Tom O'Regan, Murdoch University academic; Bill McGuiness, independent media analyst; Paul Murray, editor of the West Australian; Rob Quinn, Curtin University academic; and John Hyde, director of the conservative Institute of Public Relations.

Aside from Hyde, who supported Howard's cutbacks and accused the ABC of bias, speakers supported the ABC. Adams said that the ABC provided an alternative to commercial radio stations which feature bigoted talk show hosts like John Laws and Howard Sattler. O'Regan pointed out that in many countries, "There is no equivalent to the ABC".