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Crikey says: an unhealthy reliance on Aunty

Risk and reward: the battle between industry and the climate. The Herald Sun scrambles over an injunction. Therese Rein: Australia’s new rich lister. We’re not going to cop junk food taxes. Australia’s (unfinished) field of dreams in Brazil. Who’s going to China with Tony Abbott? ABC boss Mark Scott v News Corporation. And free public transport — is it really such a good idea?

Much of ABC managing director Mark Scott’s speech last night was testimony to the failure of Australia’s media ownership laws over the last 30 years. Somehow, we’ve ended up with the key battle in Australian media being between the national broadcaster and the largest commercial media company.

For News Corporation, of course, the ABC is exactly what the BBC is for its British newspapers and pay TV interests: a taxpayer-funded competitor deeply loathed not so much for purported bias or ideological opposition, as for how it provides for free what News Corp wants to charge for — and increasingly must charge for — given the collapse in its newspaper revenues.

Scott argues the ABC alone can be the nation’s town square and the trusted source of news. He is correct on that score: the ABC’s services are far ahead of any commercial media organisation in terms of Australians’ trust, particularly compared to some of News Corp’s tabloid newspapers, which are the least trusted major newspapers in the country.

But the Australian media landscape should be more than the ABC versus News. The ABC (and SBS) should be an important, but not dominant, part of a vibrant media landscape composed of a variety of commercial voices.

That landscape has long since vanished: Australia’s major media outlets are now controlled by just six groups or families, with the Murdoch family — via its control of newspapers, pay TV and the ailing Ten Network — the most dominant. That leaves the ABC as an increasingly lonely source of public interest content.

Yes, the internet, and the dramatic changes it has wrought in media across the world, is partly responsible. But that outcome reflects the decisions of generations of politicians, from Labor in the 1980s onward, who have structured Australia’s media ownership rules to facilitate an ever-tightening grip of oligopoly.

As a result, we now need the ABC far more than ever before. And that’s not a healthy outcome.

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  • 1
    Bill Hilliger
    Posted Wednesday, 2 April 2014 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    …a taxpayer-funded competitor deeply loathed not so much for purported bias or ideological opposition, as for how it provides for free what News Corp wants to charge for… Yes indeed, News Corp would like to charge for their shitty products and the public are becoming resistant to buying shitty products. That’s why News Corp are so anxious about the ABC.

  • 2
    graybul
    Posted Wednesday, 2 April 2014 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Crikey, are you saying . . Because Govt(s) facilitated Murdock to buy up 70% of commercial Media; thus isolating ABC as a ‘last man standing’ . . that now the non-commercial ABC has become THE THREAT!??

  • 3
    Posted Wednesday, 2 April 2014 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Although appreciating the overall hypothesis, wouldn’t an alternative news source-internet/whatever be a question of finance? Who would be able to put up enough money to put another news source in place? And even if someone can afford to do this, how will that someone not want to tamper
    with it and impose his own personal ideology the way Rupert Murdoch does.

    If the Australian people ever found the courage to go to war against the present system of government a new political force could neatly press the ABC into following correct party lines.

    It is pointless to hope for an enlightened and alternative news source, as the people clearly are unable to tolerate anything more complicated than two plus two.

  • 4
    Jaybuoy
    Posted Wednesday, 2 April 2014 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    why is taxpayer funded a problem.. its a crowdsourced media supplier of the highest standard.. it even outs itself for laxness..why is there an insistence that private profit based news is purer.. surely the Rupert factor alone dismisses that line of thought.. the ABC is an Australian institution that is at least as important as the ADF (anzac) in defining this country and ought to be allowed to continue to adapt..

  • 5
    klewso
    Posted Wednesday, 2 April 2014 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    Well …. we need the ABC more than we need a politically partisan media behemoth run by a foreigner - Murdoch…?

  • 6
    zut alors
    Posted Wednesday, 2 April 2014 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    To describe the ABC as “a taxpayer-funded competitor” against News Corp is hardly fair. There’s no competition, they play in different leagues & to different rules. The ABC is respectful of the umpire whereas News Corp doesn’t give a rats.

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