Thursday, August 18, 2011

Change FOI to govern ABC

Former ABC board member Judith Sloan writes in today's Australian:

Their ABC is just ungovernable
"Short of some broad-based and hard-nosed external review and significant cuts to taxpayer funding of the organisation, it is hard to see how the ABC will fundamentally change -- and, of course, that suits the Friends of the ABC and other devotees just fine."
Follow the link to read the rest.

A simple method to make the ABC more accountable is to expose the organisation to the full force of FOI. The ABC currently enjoys wide ranging exemptions from FOI for "documents that relate to program material". The exemptions provide a means to shelter the ABC from public scrutiny. As we have found HERE this exemption is widely applied by the ABC to the detriment of the public's right to know. As FOI lawyer Peter Timmins documents in an article on his blog, titled FOI front in the News v ABC battle, ABC's use of the exemption has been extended to cover information relating to audience data and employee salaries. These subjects are not related to program content, but ABC has successfully argued the exemption still applies. It seems that as the ABC's role is "programming" it can argue virtually everything it does should be covered by the exemption.

ABC programming is paid for by tax payer's funds and should be as open to scrutiny and audit as much as the rest of government. Why is the ABC provided with a "chamber of secrets" in which to hide its dirty laundry?
I guess ABC's membership of the "Right to Know" coalition is for publicity purposes only.

UPDATE 19/8/2011 Letters page in today's Oz contains some comments on Judith's article (including ours) HERE.

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