for suggesting it wants to cut the amount of time devoted to local SANFL football. There have been howls of protest in the media. Letters have been written. Threats have been made. The matter has even been mentioned in the Senate. It is apparently a major disaster, a breach of the ABC's commitment to local content and a denial of the rights of thousands to watch their beloved game on television.
There have also been some quiet comments about how wonderful it would be to have less sport on television. They tend to be very quiet. You can cause a riot here in Australia by suggesting that sport is not important.
Sport is a major industry here. It employs a lot of people. It is given massive coverage in the media. It receives a great deal of financial assistance at all levels of government. A minoirty of people play it.
We are told, "Australians love their sport." There can be a major disaster and the ABC will still have a sporting event or incident as the lead story. SBS (our Special Broadcasting Service) is not quite as bad but it can still happen even there. The ABC is supposed to cover national and international news. It is not a news service for sport but it is often treated as such. The SBS is supposed to concentrate on international content. It is not a news service for sport either but it also treated as such. Sport is important to many people but I suspect that the loss of some sport on television would be a matter of no great regret to many others. There is so much of it that nobody is able to watch all of it, especially when stations have competing events.
Surveys have apparently shown however that more people use libraries every week than attend a sports match. Despite this the amount of money spent on libraries is less. Libraries provide far more than just the books they used to provide. Ours has CDs, DVDs, magazines, a photocopier, a bank of computers for public use as well as a range of audio books for both the print impaired and the general public. It has meeting rooms used for book groups, craft groups and other activities. There is story telling for pre-schoolers, library activities for schools, craft in school holidays and teenage activities of all sorts. There are public speakers and book launches. It is a busy place, a community meeting and exchange point.
It constantly struggles for funds. It needs to be twice the size it is. In an effort to provide new reading material the library recently exchanged some books in our library for some books in another library in the same network. There are plans to make the network statewide in an effort to reduce costs still further but still provide people with reading matter. If something similar was suggested for sport there would be outrage.
Readers take it quietly. Many of them are unaware of what is going on. Nothing is said in the media. The library staff have been told not to comment. I just happen to know them particularly well. Each one of them knows that libraries are in danger of further cuts. They already rely on volunteers to run the home library service to the housebound elderly, volunteers to re-shelve books and people like myself to help someone out when there is just one person behind the desk.
A wise government would spend a little less on watching sport and a little more on libraries. They could encourage people to walk to and from their library. It would be exercise. Readers might find a biography or autobiography of a sports person, a book about football or soccer or cricket or mountaineering. It may encourage them to seek out places where these things happen. They might even decide to join in.
Who knows what might happen then?