Triple J Hottest 100: Fifield wants ABC board to reject Australia Day move
Mitch Fifield has asked the ABC board to reconsider the decision to move the Triple J Hottest 100 from Australia Day, which he has labelled a bewildering move by the national broadcaster.
The communications minister told ABC Breakfast on Tuesday the ABC and Triple J were “making a political statement” by taking an action that would “help to delegitimise Australia Day”.
On Monday Triple J announced it would move the countdown to the fourth weekend in January, after consultation with Indigenous groups.
According to a poll conducted in January most Indigenous Australians feel 26 January celebrates invasion and should not be celebrated as Australia Day.
Although just 15% of all Australians agree the date of Australia Day should be moved according to that poll, Triple J’s survey of its listeners found 60% favoured moving the Hottest 100.
Fifield said the Hottest 100 “has been part of the soundtrack of Australia Day for the best part of 20 years” and dismissed Triple J’s argument it had not always been held on Australia Day as “pretty thin”.
“We’ve all come to know and accept that that’s when it will be and we all enjoy it,” he said. “Triple J have made it very clear that the reason that they’re shifting it from Australia Day is in response to those Australians who don’t think that Australia Day should be celebrated on January 26.”
Fifield warned that “Australia Day isn’t going anywhere”.
“It will be January 26 and should be a day that unites us and the ABC, through its actions, is actually helping to delegitimise Australia Day, which is the objective of those who don’t want to have Australia Day celebrated as we currently do.”
Fifield noted the ABC received $1bn a year of taxpayer funding and said it should “be in the business of helping to reinforce a sense of cohesion and community”.
Asked if there would be retribution against the ABC, Fifield said he had already made his view clear to the ABC and would ask the ABC board, which has the ultimate programming and editorial responsibility, to reconsider the decision.
In Senate question time, Fifield confirmed he had now written to the ABC.
The communications minister told the ABC that a “relatively small” number of people objected to the date of Australia Day, and said enthusiasm for the day had actually grown in recent years.
He linked Triple J’s decision to moves by “rogue councils” to refuse to conduct citizenship ceremonies on 26 January, which led to the Turnbull government revoking their ability to conduct the ceremonies.
The Indigenous songwriter Dan Sultan welcomed what he called a “really beautiful gesture” by the radio station to recognise what “a lot of people feel” about the national day.
“If you lose a few people that don’t care about humanity and don’t have empathy and don’t care about doing the right thing, then I think that’s a positive,” Sultan told the ABC.
“I don’t mind Australia Day. I don’t. I mind it being on that day,” he said.
“And [the Hottest 100 has] only been on that day since 1994 anyway, which is something that a lot of people don’t realise or don’t care about.”
The ABC said in a statement it had conducted extensive research “showing that the Triple J audience wanted to decouple the countdown from the politics, with a focus exclusively on the music”.
The broadcaster would always “maintain a strong commitment to Australia Day and associated events”, providing more coverage of the day than any other media outlet.
“The new format allows Triple J to expand its coverage of Australia Day and the issues that are relevant
to its audience.”
Liam Stapleton (left) and Ben Harvey from Triple J. The communications minister Mitch Fifield has criticised the station for moving the Hottest 100 from Australia Day, saying it’s the ABC’s job to ‘reinforce a sense of cohesion and community’. Photograph: ABC