Doing maths on public broadcaster costs: terrible increase turns into major cost-cutting.

Further to my comments on the gruesome appeal of the newspaper, after noting that Ms Devine once again is writing without fact-checking (ask any early childhood teacher in any of the six schools I know), I was inspired by David Penberthy to use basic (Year 7) maths.

I have included my calculations below, as they might be useful in provoking class discussion on the real uses of Maths Literacy.

Mr Penberthy’s position high in News Limited ensures that his column pops up in many places around Australia, with the title changed to fit the locale.  If you can stomach the incredible number of cookie requests, the one that caught me is online  via the Herald Sun website, though with a different title to the one I read.  This effort is worthy of Mediawatch attention.

Mr Penberthy says

Those of us on the wrong side of 40 can still remember those ads for the ABC which reassured taxpayers that the national broadcaster cost each of us just eight cents a day.

Even allowing for inflation, the cost of funding Aunty is now well beyond that. It has now emerged that for the first time in our history the ABC is receiving more than $1 billion from the taxpayers.

In the past four years government funding has risen by more than $165 million, or 20 per cent, to a record $1024 million.

Whichever way you slice it, that is a whole lot of dough, and well beyond the eight cents of yesteryear. And the internal running of the organisation confirms the belief that the easiest type of money to spend is someone else’s money.

Wow! from eight cents to $1024 million!

Mental Maths time :

ABS says we have about 23 million Australian population as at 27 October 2013.

Take off the millions from both figures:  23 of us pay $1024 per year.

Estimate:  $1000 between 25 people is $40 each.  (A slight underestimate)

Estimate again:  365 days, between 300 and 400 .

$40 over 300 days : divide both by 10, $4 over 30 days,  or 400 cents over 30 days.  Divide by 10 again, 40 cents over 3 days. 40 divided by 3 is 13-and-a-bit, round up to 14 because underestimated base estimate.

$40 over 400 days:  same process as above, 400 cents over 40 days, 40 over 4 days, 10 cents per day.

Between 10 and 14 – call it 12 cents a day.  (I was surprised.)

Really?  Calculator check: 

1024/23*100/365 = 12.1977

How much should it have gone up since the “eight cents a day” figure was given?

The eight cents a day figure comes from around 1987.  Using the Reserve Bank of Australia’s Inflation calculator that comes to 17.41 cents in 2012 dollars.

What is the percentage cost reduction?  (17.41 – 12.20) / 17.41 * 100 = 29.925 %.

So, the figures Mr Penberthy writes up as a terrible increase  shows almost a 30% saving.

Problem.

Mr Penberthy’s quote said

Those of us on the wrong side of 40 can still remember those ads for the ABC which reassured taxpayers that the national broadcaster cost each of us just eight cents a day.

Even allowing for inflation, the cost of funding Aunty is now well beyond that.  (My emphasis.)

This implies that he had checked the figures for inflation – given the context is a Per Person figure, inflation of both the dollar and the population.

This is bad journalism – either he has misled us about his checking the figures, or he has misled us about the results, or he can’t do year 7 maths and should get a high-school student to do it for him.

Given the infamously tense relationship between News Limited and the ABC, Mr Penberthy should be more careful of perceived bias when writing about the ABC.

“… all the gruesome fascination of something that fell or jumped from the thirtieth floor and lit on a picket fence.“ Indeed.

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