Retired teacher Phil Corser’s background in Media, History and English makes him perfectly suited to ABC Friends Victoria, writes LOUISE SWINN.
After his retirement in 2018, former Sunshine College teacher Phil Corser joined the Victorian branch of ABC Friends. As an English, History and Media teacher, Phil made use of the ABC throughout his working life, and his affection for the public broadcaster thrives with the extra time retirement brings. When Phil heard rumblings that the ABC board had, allegedly, made staff changes after government interference, he decided it was time to get involved.
“There is a constant barrage of criticism towards the ABC, and too much right-wing opinion instead of the objective journalism we need. The ABC has been under attack for having a left-wing bias for years, but the whole of democracy is under threat without the public broadcaster’s voice.”
ABC Friends, which is not affiliated with the ABC itself, began in the 1970s and has more than 10,000 members nationally. They are a grassroots, not-for-profit, volunteer organisation, and they run public awareness campaigns to highlight ABC budget cuts and lobby politicians from all sides of the political spectrum to give the ABC their support.
“A free and independent ABC is a legacy we can leave for future generations.”
The group is keen to keep the ABC free of commercial sponsorship, and call for transparency in the process of appointing the ABC chair and board members, along with other major decisions made by ABC management. Crucially, they believe that the ABC should have freedom from political influence.
Phil cites the axing of Lateline and the 7.45am radio news bulletin, and the closure of overseas bureaux among recent victims of cutbacks. He points out that few governments have been happy with the ABC – but perhaps this is unsurprising, given government scrutiny is part of the broadcaster’s remit.
Behind the News – known fondly in classrooms as ‘BTN’ – has long been the first resource for children learning to navigate the news. Last year, the ABC became an unprecedentedly important slice of the remote-learning pie as they delivered educational material to support the roll-out of online schooling.
“A large part of the 16- to 39-year-old cohort don’t realise that the government funds the ABC,” Phil says. His hope is to raise awareness amongst younger teachers that privatisation, often mooted by politicians, will not end well. “Teachers believe in truth and honesty, they’re aware that these days there’s a lot of fake news – and given the internet is where a lot of young people get their news, there’s no regulation of that material.
“I think many teachers appreciate the fact-based, impartial approach of the ABC and want their students to understand what ethical journalism is all about. A free and independent ABC is a legacy we can leave for future generations.”
Phil believes it’s never been more apparent that the ABC is our primary source of emergency broadcasting, after the catastrophic 2019–20 bushfire season and during fretful COVID lockdowns. Surveys continue to show that the ABC remains the most trusted news source in Australia; and the place parents and kids go for quality children’s programming.
ABC Friends seeks to help our politicians appreciate the value the Australian public places on the ABC. Phil makes the comparison to Medicare. “The ABC is a free service that all taxpayers should have access to.”
The group is currently fundraising to help build awareness of their campaigns. Their website explains how to get involved, and how to support improved funding for the ABC.
“We are a highly motivated band of supporters,” says Phil, “but we have limited resources. I hope many teachers consider the ABC to be a worthy cause.”
For more information and to get involved, visit me.abcfriendsvic.org.au