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Kerry O'Brien: Democracy and the ABC

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“Never, in my lifetime, has the ABC been more important than it is today…yet it is constantly under attack.” – Kerry O’Brien

The former presenter of Lateline, The 7.30 Report and Four Corners, Kerry O’Brien presents the latest in a series of short campaign videos produced by ABC Alumni for social media platforms.

In the video released today (Wednesday 11 May), Kerry points out that the USA spends less per capita than any other wealthy country on public broadcasters – and that only 29% of Americans trust their mainstream media.

Over footage of the riot in the Capitol building in Washington on 6 January last year, O’Brien says that misinformation is endangering America’s democracy.

“Australians don’t trust their media much either,” he says “but 70% of Australians do trust the ABC, more than any other news source*.  Yet it is constantly under attack.”

The video highlights a recent podcast, ‘Their ABC’, produced by the Institute for Public Affairs, whose author claims that “the ABC is dangerous for democracy”. More than a dozen federal Coalition politicians contributed to that podcast. 

In his video, The threat to democracy, Kerry says: 

“I don’t work for the ABC, or speak for it…[but] the time has come for those who say they love the ABC, who say they rely on the ABC, to stand up and be counted.  Our vote is one of the most precious things we have – so is the ABC.  

“So please, make your vote count.  Back candidates who support a stronger, better-funded ABC.”

ABC Alumni has released several videos as part of its information campaign prior to the federal election. These videos have been produced without the approval or co-operation of the ABC. They make no use of ABC copyright material, and are entirely funded by ABC Alumni and ABC Friends.  

Other topics in the series include:

Why we can’t trust the coalition – presented by Jonathan Holmes

Emergency Broadcasting – presented by Philippa McDonald

Triple J Unearthed – presented by Ann Chesterman

The Arts – presented by Anne Maria Nicholson

The Bush – presented by Pete Lewis

Foreign Reporting – presented by Phil Williams

And of course, Kerry’s:

The threat to democracy – presented by Kerry O’Brien

Other videos will be released in the next few days.

Kerry O’Brien will also be a keynote speaker at a Rally in support of the ABC in Sydney this coming Sunday (15 May), organized by ABC Friends. Other confirmed speakers are: Labor Shadow Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland, Greens Spokesperson for Arts & Communications Sarah Hanson-Young, Independent Member for Warringah Zali Steggall and ABC Friends National President Margaret Reynolds. Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has also been invited to attend, but has not responded as yet.

ABC Alumni is a group of former ABC staff and contractors who support a strong, well-funded national broadcaster. 

* This figure is taken from the Digital News Report 2021 by the University of Canberra’s News & Media Research Centre in association with the Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford (p78, Figure 6.9).  The ABC’s own tracking produces a higher figure – 78% of Australians trust the ABC  (ABC Annual Report 2020-21 p 119).

Kerry O’Brien spent more than 30 years at the ABC, including presenting Four Corners, Lateline and 7:30 Report. He is a prominent member of ABC Alumni, and a key speaker for our campaigns in support of the ABC. Contrary to recent claims in News Corp outlets, Kerry has no relationship with ‘GetUp!’ of any kind, including a “partnership”. He does not endorse any political parties or independent candidates.

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