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article imageOp-Ed: Networks vs public broadcasters – Ugly test case in progress

By Paul Wallis     Apr 27, 2018 in Business
Sydney - Australia’s two public broadcasters, ABC and SBS, are being accused by private broadcasters of “competing” with them. The legal basis for this complaint is that they’re supposed to be “competitive neutral”, which can mean anything at all.
News Corp is leading the charge against the publicly funded national public broadcasters ABC and SBS. This isn’t the usual News Corp “genocide of journalism” story. It’s about commercial interests. Rupert Murdoch, who has been complaining consistently for many years about public broadcasters, and in fact any competition at all, has been very clear in his views. This could very easily be a test case for broadcasters worldwide.
You’d have to watch Australian TV to really appreciate this issue. A colouring book could compete very effectively with Australian commercial TV. You’d at least stay away while you were colouring. Game shows, endless jobs for old stagers who simply don’t know when to go, you name it; that’s Australian commercial TV. It’s a boy’s club for two dimensional wankers, at best.
Australian commercial TV is wall to wall ads, and ads of an appalling standard, very 1950s in many ways. Commercials never end. The commercial broadcasters, when not regularly going broke, provide a high fructose diet of utter slop, with minimal use of Australian actors and production.
Nor is the commercial sector’s appalling performance in the stock market or anywhere else any great recommendation for sympathy. Australian TV exports are truly pathetic. Steve Irwin was the most recent Australian TV export to make any impact overseas.
As for Netflix, Stan, and the rest of the streaming screamers – Check your balance sheets, boys. People subscribe to you guys. Your core business has absolutely nothing to do with whatever else people watch. Nor do you have any right to bitch about people watching something else.
A few very basic facts
• ABC is the traditional training ground for a huge number of Australia’s best and brightest. Some of the best journalists, and much of the most historic media content Australia has ever seen, have come from ABC.
• News and information - We do not need a US-style disinformation factory presided over by the commercial networks. The health budget, let alone common sense, couldn’t stand it.
• SBS is a multi-lingual network, delivering useful services to the entire community. Tell me exactly when and where the commercial networks have ever made the slightest gesture in the multicultural field. Hiring Waleed Aly doesn’t count.
• Competition is supposed to be based on quality of content. It’s not some idiotic theory about big bad public broadcasters who get their budgets cut to hell every year as threats.
Fear of public broadcasting also has another, less appealing, side:
• Why is the public being excluded from this inquiry? We pay for it, we have a built-in, unequivocal right to have a say in it.
• The LNP government has made many accusations of bias against the ABC in particular. Is this a closet attempt to attack the ABC based on a party political position? It looks like it.
• Why is it that these mega-corporations are so scared of two rather small, underfunded networks? Surely they can’t be saying that their content isn’t selling?
• ABC and SBS do NOT compete for sponsor revenue with the commercial networks. If they disappeared tomorrow, commercial revenue would be the same.
• Nor do ABC and SBS compete for subscribers with Netflix, Stan, etc. How in the name of cooked books could the streaming networks claim any sort of competition issue?
• The commercial networks have exclusive rights to a vast range of sports which ABC and SBS don’t. That’s much the same as the “monopoly” theory used against public broadcasters.
• The commercial networks are effectively deregulated. They’re theoretically accountable to ACMA, (Australian Communications and Media Authority) which if very nice people, have very limited powers over these tantrum factory commercial networks.
• ABC’s Iview and SBS Catch-up TV are totally irrelevant. You’re complaining about competition from ABC and SBS, but not Freeview, which is exactly the same as ABC’s Iview and relates only to ABC shows? Who’s doing your demographic number crunching, Harvey Weinstein?
A word of advice
This bitching exercise is stretching the public patience in a direction it doesn’t want, or have any reason, to go. This IS a free country, and it intends to stay that way. Who the hell are you bastards to tell us what to watch? If you can’t compete, die. That’s what usually happens to incompetent, financially extremely questionable, illiterate, media networks. Just not Australian networks, apparently.
A government with a very small majority should be extremely bloody careful how many people it antagonizes. This hypocritical bean-counting exercise will not be appreciated by millions of very bored, politically infuriated Australians trying to find something decent to watch, to start with.
On the political level, the ramifications are obvious. The constant, decades-long series of attacks on our public broadcasters by the conservatives in government and business just sends the message that the LNP works for the corporate sector, as usual. Will that win an election? Probably not.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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