In this hour, how has the ABC interacted with its audiences since its inception in 1932? In the early years, it came in the form of live concerts, performed to a studio audience and broadcast direct to air and, from the outset, there were always programs which relied on listener correspondence. Its education programs were devised to be participatory in schoolrooms around the country, and its English language broadcasts, created for the large influx of migrants who came to Australia after the Second World War, attempted to re-create a one-to-one language lesson between teacher and student. Interaction and a sense of community combined with education and entertainment was the key to the long-running and extremely popular Argonauts program for children (who joined the program’s club) which connected listeners right around the country.
The internet, and the consequent development of ABC online, has extended and transformed the ways in which audiences now participate with the ABC. From its news and current affairs online sites, to its virtual community hubs such as Pool and ABC Open, even its traditional platforms, like talk radio and television programs, have been shaped by the new media technologies—today talkback radio incorporates as many phone text messages and emails as it does telephone calls from listeners, and television programs like Q&A have pioneered the incorporation of audience participation using new technology.
In this segment: the ABC’s role during emergencies and natural disasters, and its long record of ground-breaking investigative journalism. It is this latter part of the organisation’s story that, for some observers of the ABC and for media analysts, is most at risk of being eroded. This issue is examined, along with other questions, in a discussion about the future of the national public broadcaster.
Ken Inglis, historian, author of This is the ABC
Frank Moorhouse, writer
Malcolm Fraser, former prime minister of Australia, 1975–1983
Brenda L Croft, visual artist
Debra Oswald, writer for film, television, stage, radio and children’s fiction
Melissa Sharpe, President, Friends of the ABC, Tasmania branch
June Factor, Friends of the ABC, Victoria
Malcolm Long, Principal, Malcolm Long & Associates, former deputy managing director of the ABC
Lee Burton, media analyst
Professor Dennis Altman, Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Latrobe University
Richard White, historian, University of Sydney