Open letter to the board of the ABC

Dear Mr Newman

Re: Request to Stop the Destruction of ABC TV Arts

For the past fifty years, ABC TV has introduced Australians to an array of extraordinary local artists – from Sir Robert Helpmann to Kate Grenville, from the emerging Western Desert artists to Nick Cave. The ABC TV arts unit has taken us into our galleries, theatres and museums, sharing the country’s evolving
cultural life. In the last year alone, the unit produced over 500 stories. It has championed new artists, engaged practitioners, and built a vast record of the work of those who strive to articulate our place in the world. Where else do we turn to celebrate our great artists?

When we mourned Dame Joan Sutherland, and Margaret Olley, the ABC helped us pay tribute to their lives and work. We are deeply disturbed by ABC management’s plan to axe ABC TV’s only arts magazine program, disband the TV arts unit and divert resources to prime time, populist content in pursuit of ratings. It will diminish the ABC’s irreplaceable role as the nation’s cultural memory. And sadly, it will reflect no glory whatsoever on what was once considered the single greatest achievement of Australia’s intellectual and artistic life: the ABC itself.

Without a strong in-house unit to create and to commission arts programming, the national broadcaster will fail its charter responsibilities. And it will fail us, by not reminding us that our national character is informed and shaped by the imagination and creativity of artists.

Yours sincerely,

Bruce Armstrong – sculptor, painter
Stephen Armstrong – producer
Ron Barassi AM – Australian Football Legend in the
Sport Australia Hall of Fame
Jonathan Biggins – theatre director and writer
Gay Bilson – writer, chef
Nancy Black – theatre director
Polly Borland – artist
Julian Burnside AO QC – barrister
Peter Carey – novelist
Nick Cave – musician, writer
Betty Churcher AO – former Director of the National
Gallery of Australia
J M Coetzee – writer
Stefano de Pieri – celebrity chef
Robert Doyle – Lord Mayor of Melbourne
Adam Elliot – animation writer, director, producer
Tony Ellwood – Director, Queensland Art Gallery
Saul Eslake – economist; Director, Australian
Business Arts Foundation and former Chair of the
Tasmanian Arts Advisory Board
Bernie Fraser – former Reserve Bank Governor
Helen Garner – writer
Richard Gill OAM – Music Director, Victorian Opera
Paul Grabowsky – Artistic Director, Adelaide
Festival of Arts
John Hillcoat – film director
Janet Holmes à Court AC, HFAIB –
businesswoman and arts philanthropist
Chloe Hooper – writer
Lindy Hume – festival Director, Sydney Festival
Hon Dr Barry Jones AO, FAA, FAHA, FSTE,
FASSA – former Minister and writer
Michael Kantor – theatre director and actor
Lally Katz – playwright
Tom Keneally – writer
Barrie Kosky – theatre and opera director
Nam Le – writer
Michael Leunig – artist
Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE – Director, Museum
of Contemporary Art
Shane Maloney – novelist
David Malouf – writer

Dr Richard Mills AM – composer

Jonathan Mills AO – Composer & Director,

Edinburgh International Festival
Harold Mitchell AC – Executive Director, Aegis Media
Vera Moeller and Phillip Hunter – visual artists
Clover Moore – Lord Mayor of Sydney
Simon Mordant – Chairman, Museum of Contemporary Art
Graeme Murphy AM – director and choreographer
Ralph Myers – Artistic Director, Belvoir
Robyn Nevin – actress
Sir Gustav Nossal AC, CBE, FRS, FAA – medical scientist
Stephen Page – Artistic Director, Bangarra Dance Theatre
Hetti Perkins – Senior Curator, Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Art, Art Gallery of NSW
Hon Mike Rann MP – Premier of South Australia and Minister for the Arts
David Risstrom – President, Friends of the ABC (Vic)
Peter Robb – author
Geoffrey Rush – actor
Patricia Sabine – Design Director, Design Forum Tasmania
Anna Schwartz – gallery owner
Emeritus Prof Margaret Seares AO – Former Chair,
Australia Council for the Arts and former Senior
Deputy Vice Chancellor, The University of Western Australia
Stephen Sewell – writer
Michael Shrimpton – former head of ABC TV Arts and Entertainment
Anne Summers – author and journalist
John Wardle – Principal, John Wardle Architects
David Williamson – playwright and screenwriter
Tamara Winikoff – Executive Director, National Association for the Visual Arts
Tim Winton – writer
Philip Wolfhagen – visual artist
John Wolseley – artist

This letter is sent to the ABC Board on behalf of the above signatories by Glenys Stradijot, Campaign Manager, Friends of the ABC (Vic). The Board is welcome to direct any queries to, and send a reply care of, Friends of the ABC (Vic), GPO Box 4065, Melbourne 3001.

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