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A love letter: "The ABC has chaperoned me through most of my life".

Rebecca Sparrow
Rebecca Sparrow

This week I found myself thinking about the ABC.

Now let’s be clear. This is not something I am in the habit of doing. I don’t spend my days gazing off into the distance contemplating the existence of our national broadcaster.

But this week, err, I did.

Because this week I watched Australians get emotional for maybe the first time as the ABC – OUR ABC dammit – announced exactly how it was going to deal with a $254m funding cut.

Suddenly things got personal. Suddenly millions of Australians worried that THEIR favourite ABC show was on the chopping block.

And so I found myself inadvertently reading op-eds and blogs and comments about the ABC shows and presenters and hosts and, you know, British cartoon pigs people didn’t want axed. Hosts who meant something to people. Programs – be they on TV or radio – which play an important role in people’s lives. Muddy puddle loving pigs that kept small children entertained while dinner is being made.

And in the swirl of opinion I was forced to think about what exactly the ABC means to me.

Turns out it means a hell of a lot.

Because the truth of the matter is, dear old Aunty has chaperoned me through most of my life.

As a child of the 70s, Maria and Luis and Mr Hooper and Big Bird on Sesame Street on Channel 2 taught me how to count and sing my ABCs and that ‘one of these things is not like the other’ long before I went to school.

John and Bettina and Jemima and Hamble taught me to tell the time on the Flower Pot clock on Play School. And Mr Squiggle and Miss Jane showed me from an early age that things are not always what they seem. And they’re often upside down.

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Those deliciously subversive Goodies were my reward for getting my homework done after school in the early 80s. And the Kenny Everett Video Show and Aunty Jack and Australia! You’re Standing In It and Sweet and Sour kept me mesmerized while I should have been studying for my Social Studies test but wasn’t.abc cuts

Thank you, ABC, for shows like Sesame Street. 

I knew Dad was home when that familiar ABC news bulletin music majestically thundered from our lounge room.

As a teenager in the 80s, Countdown allowed a chubby girl with a perm and braces to feel just a little bit cool. While James Valentine introduced me and millions of other Aussie kids to the gob-smackingly gritty and raw Grange Hill and Degrassi Junior High. Oh Joey Jeremiah, whatever happened to you?

And I can’t have been the only person obsessed with Lynda and Spike and the Junior Gazette on Press Gang. Right?

In my 20s when I was busy finding my place in the world and trying a little too hard to look like Shannon Doherty, the ABC made a determined effort to teach me a little of my own history with inspired dramas like Brides of Christ and Come In Spinner and The Leaving of Liverpool. I found a role model in Sigrid Thornton on Seachange and fell hard for Diver Dan. Comedies like Absolutely Fabulous, The D Generation and The Big Gig became my first ever experience of ‘watercooler’ TV.

From a news and current affairs perspective, ABC is where I went for an intellectual deposit. That’s right – to feel SMARTER, y’all. Australian Story. Four Corners. 7.30 with Kerry O’Brien and then Leigh Sales. The Drum. The Conversation Hour. Sarah Ferguson’s explosive investigation into the cruelty inflicted on cattle in Indonesian slaughterhouses in 2011 is a TV moment I’m not sure I will ever forget.

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When I became a mother myself, ABC4Kids kept me company. And I have thanked Jimmy Giggle more than once for airing kids shows that aren’t punctuated with commercials for, I don’t know, lets say Lalaloopsy dolls that poo trinkets out their arses (Google it).

But my feelings for the ABC go beyond just those of a dedicated viewer.

ABC local radio across the country has given a voice to writers and musicians and actors everywhere who struggle to ever get anywhere near a commercial station.

I wouldn’t have a career as an author if my local ABC radio station (612, I’m talking about you!) didn’t champion local authors and artists with a passion and commitment that is second to none. And it’s the same across the country.

And I should know. For two years from 2007-2008 I had the privilege of working as a producer for ABC Radio North Queensland in Townsville. Professionally it was two of the most fun, inspired and invigorating years of my career.Thankyou Jimmy Giggle, of Giggle and Hoot

Thank you Jimmy Giggle, of Giggle and Hoot

That’s why I actually know first hand how hard the ABC works to represent us all. To deliver programs and stories that speak to each of us. That reflect our lives, our opinions, our experiences back to us whether that’s through an interview with a local band or a TV series like Redfern Now or The Slap, Paper Giants or Go Back To Where You Came From.

So consider this a love letter to the ABC and to the hundreds of staff who this week lost their jobs. Whether the cuts where necessary or not is irrelevant. Because when YOU are the person who arrives at work only to be told that you are no longer needed – your world is turned upside.

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When YOU are the person who dreamt up and championed a show, who poured everything and then some into bringing it to life – be that Bush Telegraph on radio or a state edition of 7.30 – only to have it canned – it feels like a kick to your spirit.

So thank you, Team ABC. That’s all I want to say. Thank you. Your hard work has been appreciated for the past 42 years. And this week I’m thinking of you.

Take a look through our gallery below of beloved ABC shows.

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