Culture

“An Institution In Crisis”: The Chaser Founder Hits Out At The ABC

The Chaser won't appear on the ABC for the 2019 election.

The founder of The Chaser has described the ABC as “an institution in crisis” after the political comedy group revealed it would not have a series on the public broadcaster ahead of next year’s federal election.

On Monday, The Chaser team tweeted that the ABC had declined to fund a series for 2019.

The comedy group has covered every federal election on the ABC since the 2001 contest between John Howard and Kim Beazley. But according to founder Charles Firth, “they just said they didn’t have the money” for a new series.

“The ABC is an institution in crisis, and it’s a very deliberate thing that’s happened,” Firth told Fairfax. “This decision, along with lots of other decisions should leave everyone in no doubt that the Liberals have done their work on the ABC and it’s not the institution it once was.”

“If you relentlessly cut tens of millions of dollars out of an institution, it’s going to suffer.”

“The ABC is in a difficult position, so what some people inside the ABC have decided to do is be safe because safeness means there’s no senate inquiries, there’s no questions from the prevailing government,” he continued. “[But] the moment you start being safe is the moment you start losing audiences, and you enter a downward spiral where you become irrelevant.”

“They’re in a death spiral where they’re getting safer and safer and they’re going to lose more and more of their audience.”

A spokesperson for the ABC responded to Firth’s remarks by claiming The Chaser team never approached them with a pitch for 2019.

“We’re surprised by Mr Firth’s comments as The Chaser didn’t pitch an election special to the ABC for next year and advised us it was already in discussions with a commercial network,” the spokesperson told Fairfax.

Firth confirmed the group had spoken with commercial channels, but conceded it might be an awkward fit.

“Advertisers don’t want out-there, overtly political, slightly dangerous stuff to advertise their soap powder in,” he said. “If we could turn it into a reality show about making cakes, then I think they’d love it.”

He also said the group had considered crowd-funding a series that could be broadcast over the web.

“We wouldn’t have to answer to anyone at the ABC or anywhere else … we could be totally unleashed.”