New ABC Arts Council Win Back The Arts Community

ABC’s major announcement regarding arts this month council seems to be good news for one its core constituencies. The ABC will create an Arts Council and launch several new arts programming programs.

In recent years, the Corporation’s relationship to the arts community has been difficult. Therefore, the Corporation’s new programming initiatives should not taken as a negative. Some commentators see this as nothing more than a shifting of the deckchairs. Despite the fact that there isn’t much new funding and the uncertainty of a federal budget.

This announcement by Katrina Sedgwick (ABC Head of Arts), comes just weeks before the federal budget gets cut. These initiatives are a continuation of the ABC’s strategic partnership to the Australia Council. Which is intend to provide more digital arts content. They also extend Sedgwick’s outstanding efforts to create innovative partnerships among arts. Organizations and institutions during her tenure as director of Adelaide Film Festival.

The razor gang may not be able to ignore the Prime Minister’s promise to keep ABC funding after his election. Although it is not a pre-emptive strike announcement. The ABC could seen as a way to get the good news out first. This announcement should help build support for public broadcaster in the face of difficult years ahead.

Announcement Centred

Last week’s announcement centred on the creation of an Arts Council. This council will promote a holistic approach to arts programming across all of the Corporation’s channels, networks, and sites. The BBC recently took a similar approach.

Some intriguing possibilities were among the programs that were announce last week. ABC TV Arts has teamed up with Opera Australia, Ja’mie Private Schools Girl producers. Princess Pictures to create a unique soap opera only for television. Mozart in the Jungle with Mr G added perhaps?

ABC News 24 will also have a weekly entertainment and arts program. Ironically, some people are blaming the original cost of establishing the news agency for the earlier cuts to ABC’s arts offerings.

The Arts Council and programming announcements are part of a 2011 Senate Select Committee recommendation that the Corporation publish an Arts Strategy. This recommendation was made at the conclusion of an inquiry into Recent ABC Programming Decisions, which prompt in part due to earlier cuts and changes to Corporation’s arts offerings.

Many of the 335 submissions made to the inquiry were critical of ABC’s decision in this area. These concerns were shared by members of the committee. This issue was brought up again in the final report. The Corporation was reminded of its Charter responsibilities to encourage and promote the musical and dramatic arts through programming decisions as well as to reflect on the cultural diversity within the Australian community.

Relationship And Trust Council

This move by the ABC is also a significant effort to rebuild the ABC’s relationship and trust with the arts community after some difficult years.

September 2012: Radio National cuts 11 employees and seven programs.

September 2011: Radio National’s Sunday Morning Program Artworks has cancel. Nearly 60 cultural and arts figures signed an open letter asking the ABC board to stop the destruction of ABC TV Arts. Simon Mordant (a philanthropist and now an ABC Director) was one of the signatories. He launched the event that resulted in the announcement about the Arts Council.

August 2011, the cancellation of Arts Nation, the television flagship program that had replaced Sunday Arts one year earlier. Ten staff made redundant.

January 2007: The ABC sells six state-based orchestras to the ABC, ending a tradition that started in the 1930s.

Commissioned By Community Council

April 2004: A report by Liz Jacka, UTS, was commission by Community and Public Sector Union. It shows a dramatic decline in ABC arts coverage over the past four years and calls for an overhaul of all ABC arts output.

June 2001: Arts staff resign following the dismissal of Roz Cheney, Head of Radio Arts. ABC Management announces a new Arts Advisory Group headed by Margaret Seares, former chair of the Australia Council.

May 1997: An open letter was sign by a group of art radio executives protesting the Corporation’s new One ABC policy.

October 1996: Radio National’s efficiency drive by the Howard government leads to four loss of arts programs, including Arts National, which was the predecessor to Artworks and The Box Seat, as Radio National cuts four of its arts programs.

Although it unclear how the ABC will dealt with in the federal budget next month. The Corporation should commend for its initiative and active promotion of arts coverage during times of great uncertainty for public radio stations around the world.