Show more understanding about transparency, Fifield tells ABC

The communications minister believes the ABC should show a greater understanding of the challenges faced by its commercial counterparts who aren’t taxpayer funded.


Senator Mitch Fifield on Monday was hitting out at critics of greater transparency changes at the ABC insisting reforms are timely “housekeeping”.

In August the minister struck an agreement with One Nation in exchange for Pauline Hanson’s support for his wider media reforms.

The deal includes requiring the ABC and SBS to disclose the salaries of its highest paid staff, a proposal to include the words “fair” and “balanced” in the ABC’s Act and a competitive neutrality inquiry.

Senator Fifield said reactions to the measures have ranged from the hysterical to the slightly unhinged.

“With so much journalistic and opposition hyperventilating, you could be forgiven for thinking the government had announced the privatisation of B1 and B2,” he writes in The Australian.

The minister said the inspiration for disclosing salaries comes from the actions of “that right-wing haven the BBC”.

Already the salaries of ministers, MPs, judges and senior civil servants are all public.

“It is in keeping with the temper of the times to expect similar transparency from the national broadcasters,” he said.

Senator Fifield believes the competitive neutrality inquiry will examine whether the ABC and SBS are using their status as taxpayer-funded entities to unfairly compete with commercial media.

“It would reflect better on the ABC, secure in its more than $1bn of annual funding, if it showed a greater understanding of the challenges faced by its commercial counterparts who earn their revenue rather than receive it from the Treasury.”

Labor has been critical of the deal, warning the inquiry threatens to reduce the ABC and SBS to market failure broadcasters.