"Cuts have been made to the ABC in the budget which we have said are a down-payment on the review.": Malcolm Turnbull. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has foreshadowed deeper cuts to the ABC and SBS in coming years, warning the ''age of entitlement'' for the public broadcasters is over.
Mr Turnbull said the broadcasters, whose funding has been cut by $43.5 million over four years, should be relieved the axe did not fall harder on them in the budget.
The government's efficiency review into the ABC and SBS has identified tens of millions of dollars worth of potential savings and will be presented to the ABC board for consideration this week.
The heads of ABC and SBS s argued in Senate hearings last week the broadcasters should be allowed to reinvest savings identified through the review into programs and services, an argument Mr Turnbull dismisses as ''ridiculous''.
''I can understand why that's what they might ask for but if there's money that can be saved - and there is - why should it not contribute to the reduction of the deficit?'' he said. ''Haven't they read Mr [Joe] Hockey's speech? The age of entitlement is over.
''Cuts have been made to the ABC in the budget which we have said are a down payment on the review. That means we would expect more savings to be forthcoming following … this process.''
Mr Turnbull, who launched a parliamentary Friends of the ABC group last week, dismissed concerns further funding cuts could put popular programs such as the children's show Peppa Pig or World Cup soccer broadcasts at risk.
''We want to make sure any savings are achieved with the minimal - in fact a nil - impact on programming,'' he said. ''Without an exercise like this, I think the ABC ultimately would have cut programming because this is harder.''
The efficiency review recommends closer co-operation between the broadcasters, including moving SBS into ABC headquarters - a move former prime minister Malcolm Fraser dubbed ''the first step towards the abolition of the SBS''.
The review, led by former Seven West Media chief financial officer Peter Lewis, is expected to recommend increasing the amount of advertising on SBS and outsourcing some payroll, human resources and legal functions to the private sector.
Although Mr Turnbull cannot force the broadcasters to accept the review's recommendations, he said he expected them to make tough savings decisions. He is prepared to make public recommendations on potential savings measures.
Mr Turnbull said the ABC and SBS should be relieved they were spared a permanent efficiency dividend, which would have required deep, continuous cuts to spending.
Liberal Party sources said Mr Turnbull lobbied against the efficiency dividend being considered by the expenditure review committee.
Mr Turnbull said: ''I couldn't possibly comment on any of the processes leading up to the budget.''
ABC managing director Mark Scott told Senate hearings the broadcaster would become less compelling and relevant if it could not reinvest savings in new services such as News 24 or iView.
''The ABC is not there seeking additional funding from government,'' he said. ''What we are really asking for is the ability to live within the funding envelope that was committed in the budget before last to the ABC for a three-year period.''