A leader of Australia’s disabled community was escorted out of ABC’s Melbourne studios yesterday while protesting the national broadcaster’s decision to close disability opinion and news website Ramp Up.
Spokesperson and organiser of the protest, Dr George Taleporos was asked to leave the ABC’s foyer by a member of ABC's security staff.
Dr Taleporos stated that he was unable to protest outside due to the cold weather. Security informed him that the foyer was not a public space and he could not remain inside.
The ABC called the police and two officers arrived about 15 minutes later and escorted him outside.
Dr Taleporos said the closure of the website was a disappointing and significant event for the disabled community.
"We, as a community, are going to lose our representation, to speak out and canvas disability issues on the national broadcaster,” Teleporos said
Around a dozen news media crews from various events covered the small protest.
ABC News published an article shortly after the protest stating the site had been shut down due to Federal Government budget cuts announced in May, and that Ramp Up editor Stella Young would continue to serve as a regular contributor to other ABC platforms.
The article quoted an ABC spokesperson who said the ABC had been under the belief the program would receive ongoing funding form the Federal Government.
"The ABC has disputed assertions by the Government that the grants were allocated as 'seed funding," the spokesperson said.
‘Seed funding’ is a one-off funding allowance granted to help a company or project meet its initial start-up costs.
"The ABC has never indicated that it would take over funding responsibility for the site," the spokesperson said.
According to the statement, Ramp Up was "established under a grant from the then FaHCSIA department in 2009 to provide a forum for people with disabilities".
"The ABC will cover disability issues in an integrated way across all its platforms, reaching a much bigger audience – a strategy supported by the Department of Social Services.”
A media release issued in May by the office of Senator Mitch Fifield, Assistant Minister for Social Services, contradicted the ABC’s description of the funding arrangement.
"The ABC was provided with two years of seed funding for the establishment of ABC Ramp Up in 2010 by the previous government,” the release said.
This was "was extended for another two years in 2012, with the clear expectation by the previous government that ABC Ramp Up would be incorporated into the ABC’s core business upon the expiry of start-up funding from the Department of Social Services in June 2014".
Mr Fifield wrote to the managing director of ABC, Mark Scott, in January, to "urge him to continue ABC Ramp Up, given… the ABC’s responsibilities as a publicly-funded broadcaster".
* New Matilda will have an important update on this story later this week.
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