The national broadcaster has been at the centre of a bitter political debate in recent times, with key figures on the political right – notably former Prime Minister Tony Abbott – targeting the ABC over its alleged “bias” and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation reportedly linking support of broader media reforms to a substantial cut in the ABC’s budget.
But a new poll commissioned by think tank The Australia Institute suggests the culture war has been largely lost on South Australians, in a market in which the ABC regularly dominates the radio airwaves and nudges out commercial television news rivals for market share.
In May, One Nation’s party whip Brian Burston told The Australian the party would pin its support for “budget savings measures” and broader media reforms on a $600 million cut to the ABC over four years.
“If they’re not forthcoming in reducing funding to the ABC as part of their budget repair we’ll have to seriously consider what budget repair options (we support) that the Liberal Party puts forward,” he was reported as saying.
“It’s about time we apply a little bit of pressure on the Government to do something about the left-wing, Marxist ABC.”
Hanson subsequently insisted support for the budget would not be contingent on the measure, saying in a statement: “The people want One Nation to deal with all legislation on its merits, and the Government’s budget will be no different.”
However, she said if the Government “wanted to show it was serious about media reform and deficit reduction it would reign in (sic) the out of control ABC and SBS”.
Last month, she told conservative commentator Andrew Bolt on Sky that One Nation was “still looking” at proposed changes to media ownership, which prompted the interviewer to warn her: “You won’t get a friendly word from the ABC.”
Hanson replied: “I would like to reduce the ABC’s funding, I think we pour too much money into that, they have too much control, too much Left opinion, so it’s not a balanced view.”
However, she also railed against media bias more broadly, saying she was “sick and tired of the media sensationalising… just to make their stories look good”.
Bolt has previously written in his NewsCorp Australia column that the Liberals “are in a battle to the death with the ABC”.
.@PaulineHansonOz says we pour too much funding into the ABC, they have too much control. https://t.co/oilRAgib58 pic.twitter.com/m5MO6yP5Sq
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) June 22, 2017
However, the ReachTel poll of 1589 South Australian residents, conducted on June 29, found 40.4 per cent of respondents believed government funding for the ABC should be increased, with 33.4 saying it should stay as it is.
Only 17.5 per cent believed it should be reduced, with 8.7 per cent undecided.
Of those who identified as Coalition voters, 21 per cent wanted ABC funding increased and 44 per cent said it should stay the same.
An overwhelming proportion of respondents (59 per cent) who said they would vote for independents and minor parties – including One Nation – wanted more money put into the broadcaster.
A vast majority of respondents (64.8 per cent) said the Federal Government should not cut ABC funding in order to secure One Nation support for changes to media ownership laws, with only 16.5 per cent supporting the proposition.
The ABC has antagonised commercial rivals, most notably NewsCorp, with its strong incursion into the online and digital market. But 56.3 per cent of poll respondents (including 42.9 per cent of LNP voters) said they supported the ABC having a “strong online and digital presence, even if it affects the commercial viability of commercial media outlets”.
Australia Institute executive director Ben Oquist said the research “further confirms that the ABC is Australia’s most trusted broadcaster”.
“At a time when concerns about so-called ‘fake news’ is at an all-time high and journalism jobs are being cut across the country, there has never been a greater need for a strong, independent and trusted national broadcaster,” he said.
“To limit the ABC’s digital content at a time when people are increasingly accessing their news and media in this way, would amount to an attempt to make the national broadcaster irrelevant.”
The poll also suggested strong local support for the federal Labor Party, which would garner 56.1 per cent of support compared to 43.9 for the Liberal National Party on a two-party-preferred basis.
The result shows support for the ALP brand remains strong in SA, but is broadly consistent with other national polls putting Labor in a dominant position on a 2PP basis.
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