Faith leaders have met the managing director of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) after the public broadcaster decided to axe some of its religious programming, with further cuts threatened.
On Wednesday, an assembled group including Fr Frank Brennan, Baptist minister Tim Costello, and the Reverend Elenie Poulos, national director of the Uniting Church, met ABC’s Michelle Guthrie.
The broadcaster will end the radio show Sunday Nights with John Cleary, a 15-year-old programme on religion and ethics, with further changes to ABC radio to be announced next week.
Rev Poulos told the Guardian: “We had a meeting [with ABC representatives] and got assurances of their commitment to religion, but we are seeing it play out in a different way.”
However, Rev Poulos said the group were told this week there would be “no net cuts overall”.
As well as programming cuts, the faith leaders were concerned about a decline in the quality of religious coverage. Rev Poulos continued: “Now more than ever we need a well-informed and well-supported conversation about religion and society and we need spaces where those conversations are well informed and the analysis is deep.”
Two years ago a $254m cut by the coalition government to the ABC budget led Cleary to warn that religious programming was vulnerable, because of a lack of resources.
On Thursday, an ABC spokeswoman said: “Yesterday’s meeting was a frank and confidential discussion with religious leaders from a variety of faiths about ABC strategies and challenges.
“The ABC welcomed the dialogue and looks forward to extending it into next year and beyond. There are some changes planned.”
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