ABC chair links funding to extremism cases

The ABC isn't expecting any funding cuts in next Tuesday's federal budget, Ita Buttrose says.
The ABC isn't expecting any funding cuts in next Tuesday's federal budget, Ita Buttrose says.

Countries without well-funded public broadcasters often have instances of right-wing extremism, the ABC chair says as she braces for the federal budget.

Ita Buttrose says the role of a public broadcaster is essential to democracy.

"In those countries that do not have a securely funded public broadcaster democracy is not as robust as in Australia," she told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

"Countries that do not have a well-funded public broadcaster often have examples of right-wing extremism, as we saw in America where the mob stormed the Capitol.

"What country in the world puts the least money into public broadcasting? The United States of America."

Buttrose pushed back on suggestions the ABC should be privatised and have to rely on advertising revenue in order to broadcast.

"It's folly to suggest that we be sold off, that we be privatised, that we go commercial," she said.

"You have to think what you wouldn't know, the stories you would never know if there wasn't an ABC.

"Fortunately there is an ABC and we are able to bring stories that Australians do need to know about to their attention."

The ABC chair also fended off questions relating to the broadcaster's legal case with former attorney-general Christian Porter.

Mr Porter has launched a defamation case against the broadcaster over a news report outlining historical rape allegations against an unnamed federal minister.

He denies the allegations and was not named in the story, but his lawyers say Mr Porter was easily identifiable to many Australians.

Buttrose refused to comment on the case as it is before the courts.

She says the ABC is not expecting any funding cuts in next Tuesday's federal budget.

"The ABC has been assured our funding is guaranteed under the current triennium. We're not expecting any surprises in the budget, but one can often be surprised," Buttrose said.

"We are not expecting any particular cuts. It may be different next year when we go to the polls."

Buttrose also questioned why she has such a limited role in helping fill two vacancies on the ABC's board.

Interviews have been done but the government has not announced who it has picked.

Buttrose did not have any input.

"That's a mistake. I don't know chairs of other companies who have no input into the composition of their board," she said.

"As chair you know where you need to plug up a few gaps, you know what you're looking for.

"It doesn't make any sense to me that the chair isn't included in the decision-making."

Australian Associated Press