Jim Fryar, “The best solution is to sell the ABC,”
The Australian, July 26, 1978, p. 6, as a letter to the editor.

SIR — With reference to recent suggestions that TV licences be reintroduced to finance the ABC, it is high time we examined the need for such a service.

We should also examine the philosophy behind the idea that the Government should do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. In most cases these turn out to be:

  1. Things we don’t want to do.
  2. Things that we don’t want to pay for.
  3. Things over which other things have a higher priority.
  4. Things we cannot afford.

If these are provided by the Government, we still have to pay for them whether we use them or not. It is ridiculous to suggest that we should be forced to provide a service which can be provided by commercial interests.

It is also wrong for groups to expect others to pay for their tastes. They may pay for them if they wish but should not be coerced into it.

If we are all to be levied to pay for an unwanted service, then that is precisely what they are doing.

If the ABC is to continue, viewers should be given the choice of whether they wish to receive it or not. If they do not then it can be left off their sets. If they do, then they should be prepared to pay the full cost.

A far simpler, more economical, more just solution would be to sell the ABC off to the highest bidder.

Glastonbury, Qld

“In defence of the ABC,” The Australian, July 31, 1978, p. 6, two letters to the editor in response to the above.

Mr Fryar would do well to listen and to watch the ABC before going to print (26/7) on the public funding of institutions.

If we assume the justification for such funding is the failure of alternative provision for institutions which would otherwise wither, then he would need to experience the ABC — free of charge — to discover his intellectual and aesthetic satisfaction in the commercial alternatives.

Without the existence of the ABC, Mr Fryar could remain in ignorance of just how contented he is with commercial programming. He could not know that the ABC is an alternative to the commercials, not a duplication.

If Mr Fryar is simply contending that because he (“we” — Joh and he?) doesn’t want to share a communal responsibility, that responsibility should be shelved, then he has broached a Pandora’s box indeed. What of the childless and education, the pacifist and defence, the criminal and the police force, the arsonist and the fire brigade!

I don’t believe, of course, that Mr Fryar is serious. A moment’s reflection would satisfy him that this is a pluralist society, one of its remaining virtues being that, in all but one of the States, differing views and the right and capability of putting those views is with every citizen. The ABC is the Medibank of the mind. Because either like Mr Fryar we are not sick, or can afford a private attendant, we should not deny to others not so fortunate recourse to care.

Incidentally, we all pay more through the advertising mark-up on commercials than we do for the ABC.

Federal president Australian Broadcasting Commission Staff Association


How typical of Queenslander Jim Fryar (26/7) to suggest selling our beloved Aunty, the ABC! Oscar Wilde once said: “People don’t change; only hats and adjectives!” But in Queensland nothing ever changes. It’s the only State marching backward.

When I lived in California in the 1960s the ABC and Canada’s CBC and, of course, Britain’s grand old BBC were vastly admired and many Americans only wished the USA had such public broadcasting corporations, or just one.

It is not a question of things we don’t want to do, or things we don’t want to pay for, or things we cannot afford. He also says it is wrong for groups to expect others to pay for their tastes. How true. A poll last year showed over 70 per cent of Australian youth did not want our borrowed overseas monarchy and that a clear majority of Australians wanted a republic — this in Silver Jubilee year, of all things. Se here’s a case of a group of minority royalists foisting their tastes and taxes on those in the majority who wish to have done with the fiction of royalty and the even costlier fiction of governors-general and State governors. The money spent on them could splendidly enhance the sagging reputation of the ABC, the whipping boy of the Anthony-Fraser mob.

In sum, Mr Fryar, our beloved ABC maintains, to its credit, a national culture freely given to all those intelligent and selective enough to listen or to watch. Further, the ABC brings, more often than not, delightful plays, operas, concerts by our excellent symphony orchestras and by overseas orchestras, concerts by great artists, talks, science shows, Mastermind quizzes and certainly a more reliable and balanced news reporting system. On the lighter side, the ABC caters to jazz, rock, youth and more than enough sport. Causes are fought for, and “appeal for,” too. All this is the envy of the commercial stations which have to allow the most appalling, most insulting repetitive commercial advertising which bombards the senses of the hapless suckers who bother to listen, or to view.

In any event, Mr Fryar suggests the “ABC be left off their sets.” How on earth can this be done? Surely Mr Fryar is not suggesting the recall of radios and TV sets to be modified? Perhaps Mr Fryar should be sold to the highest bidder. It would make more sense.

Ashfield, NSW

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  2. Jim Fryar's 1978 debate in The Australian on selling the ABC
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