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ABC closure of multi-channels shows government failure to back quality children's television.

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Senator John Cherry Australian Democrats Communications Spokesperson

May 26, 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/364

ABC closure of multi-channels shows Government failure to back quality children’s television The announcement that the ABC will close its two digital channels for children highlights the failure of the Howard Government to back quality television productions for children, according to the Australian Democrats.

Democrats’ Communications spokesperson Senator John Cherry said ABC Kids was watched by 500,000 Australian children a month, and ABC Fly by 300,000 a month.

“With audiences growing, there is a clear demand for quality children’s television,” Senator Cherry said.

“The failure of the Howard Government to fund these services lets down 800,000 young Australian viewers by depriving them of access to their unique Australian culture via the powerful medium of television.

“Not only is the closure of ABC Kids and Fly a policy failure for children, it is a major policy failing for the Government’s digital television policy, as the public broadcaster’s digital multi-channels were a key incentive in the take-up rate of digital television.

“The ABC faces a terrible funding situation over the course of the next three years, including a carryover of $17 million in debts still flowing from the disastrous retrenchments during the Shier period, a likely increase in actuarial superannuation payments, and the termination of $18 million of Government funding for special initiatives in June 2005.

“It is clear that without further injection of public funding, hard decisions will need to be made on content and the dumping of programs. And the Government, having refused every single ABC Budget initiative, must be held accountable for those decisions,” Senator Cherry said.

The right of the ABC to run digital multi-channels is the direct result of a Democrats’ amendment passed by the Parliament in August 2000. The Government has consistently refused to provide funding for the ABC’s multi-channelling initiatives and insisted on genre restrictions on the channels.

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