An open letter to the ABC

An open letter to the ABC

The President Rev. Prof. Andrew Dutney and 28 other Australian religious leaders and supporters including Rev. Elenie Poulos and Lin Hatfield Dodds have sent a joint letter to the ABC Board Chairman, Mr James Spigelman AC QC
and Mr Mark Scott AO, Managing Director demanding a meeting about proposed across the board cuts to ABC Religion.

SPECIALIST RELIGION PROGRAMMING ON THE ABC

Dear Mr Spigelman and Mr Scott,

As people of faith, our prayers are with you and all ABC staff during this painful time for our important national institution.

We write to you because we believe that the ABC has a particularly important role in presenting religion both in its own right and as an integral part of modern Australian society, thanks to the high-quality specialist religion programming provided by both television and radio.

As leaders of Australian religious and faith-based organisations and our supporters, we are concerned that the ABC’s implementation of budget cuts may significantly and disproportionately diminish an area of programming that is crucial in the life of our nation.

We seek an urgent meeting with you and the ABC Board to discuss the reported proposed cuts to broadcasting about religion.

We believe the faith and values we hold will always occupy a central part in the formation of our Australian national identity. Further, an understanding of religion plays a crucial part in grasping today’s ever more complex social and political developments both in Australia and internationally.

We also believe that no broadcaster committed to the common good, let alone one seeking to provide a comprehensive service to all Australians in an increasingly diverse and multicultural Australia, should diminish its commitment to the broadcasting of religion.

We are especially concerned that the proposed cuts will include:

  • abolishing the position of Executive Producer of TV Religion, leaving ABC TV without a specialist editorial head of religion;
  • placing the Compass program under a Commissioning Editor responsible for a broad range of programming and without experience or expertise in religion;
  • the loss of high quality religious radio documentary on Radio National; and,
  • removing staffing, budget and editorial authority from the Executive Producer of Radio

Religion, diminishing the unit’s ability to support religion documentaries, the capacity to manage staff, to develop ABC-wide projects and to share the Unit’s specialist knowledge across the ABC.

There are other issues we may want to discuss when we get more information from you.

The role of the ABC in broadcasting religion is doubly important, as it is the last mainstream media organisation in print, radio or television to maintain any discrete religious coverage. It has never been more important for Australians to have access to content that builds a deeper understanding of the role of faith in the lives of individuals or society, as demonstrated in last month’s G20 interfaith summit.

We look forward to meeting you and the Board to explore these issues.

Signatories

The Most Rev’d Dr Philip Freier, Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne

Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, Grand Mufti of Australia

Rev. Professor Andrew Dutney, President, Uniting Church in Australia Assembly

The Revd John Henderson, Bishop, Lutheran Church of Australia

Commissioner James Condon, Territorial Commander, Salvation Army, Australia Eastern Territory

Commissioner Floyd Tidd, Territorial Commander, Salvation Army, Australia Southern Territory

Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant, President, Organisation of Rabbis of Australia

Elder Jeffrey Cummings, Pacific Area Seventy, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Professor Nihil Agar, Chairman, Hindu Council of Australia

Professor Raja Jayaraman, Vice Chairman, Hindu Council of Australia

Bishop Philip Huggins, Interim General Secretary, National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA)

Elizabeth Stone, Associate Interim General Secretary, National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA)

Rev. Tim Costello AO, CEO, World Vision Australia

Simon Smart, Director of the Centre for Public Christianity

Peter Wertheim AM, Executive Council of Australian Jewry

Jeremy Jones AM, Australia-Israel Jewish Affairs Council

Ghaith Krayem, President, Islamic Council of Victoria

Maha Abdo OAM, CEO, Muslim Women Australia

Bishop Peter Ingham, Chair, Australian Catholic Media Council

Rev Dr Richard Leonard SJ, Director, Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting

Ahmet Polat, Executive Director, Australian Intercultural Society

Ahmet Keskin, Executive Director and Co-founder, Affinity Intercultural Foundation

Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director, UnitingJustice Australia

Marcelle Mogg, CEO, Catholic Social Services Australia

Lin Hatfield Dodds, National Director, UnitingCare Australia

Professor Neville Rochow SC, Joint National Director for Interfaith Relations, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Alan Wakeley, Public Affairs Department Adviser (Australia and PNG), Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Dr Brian Adams, Director, Centre for Interfaith and Cultural Dialogue, Griffith University and Convenor G20 Interfaith Summit

Professor Samina Yasmeen AM, Professor of Political Science and International Relations, University of Western Australia

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