Jul 2, 2008

What does the ABC’s Charter actually mean?

The charters of our public broadcasters are broadly worded, binding them to almost nothing, writes Margaret Simons.

Charter Shmarter. Every time someone is cross with our public broadcasters, they ask "what about the charter"? Is the ABC not being brave enough, different enough, or too driven by ratings? Is it too like the commercial channels, or too elitist? Is it too left wing, or not controversial enough?

Spicks and Specks might be fun, but is a music game show "charter"? East of Everything might be Australian drama, but isn’t it just SeaChange revisited? Doesn’t the charter say the ABC has to be innovative?

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2 thoughts on “What does the ABC’s Charter actually mean?

  1. Keith Bales

    Whatever the ABC charter is meant to do the previous ratings for an organisation that only attracted a very small section of the Australian audience need to “do something” to justify its exsistence.
    I am delighted to see what we now experience on the small screen and the outstanding radio contributions across Australia and, certainly, in WA.

    The TV and radi ratings are a credit to the new MD Mark Scott and his Team

  2. Darce Cassidy

    As Margaret Simons suggests the ABC is required to be all things to all people. The ABC must provide both pushpin and poetry, both information and entertainment, both a national identity and multiculturalism, both programs for foreign nationals and programs for expatriate Australians.

    While the Institute of Public Affairs thinks the ABC is middle class welfare catering exclusively to an elite, Michael Duffy (the Labor MP not the broadcaster) complained that the ABC should not provide light entertainment and bite sized news.

    McKinsey and Co wrote in a much quoted study of public broadcasters in nineteen different countries that this requirement to provide something for everyone is essential for the success of public service broadcasting.

    The McKinsey study argues that there are two ways that public broadcasters can fail. The first is by having a large audience share, but failing to be different enough from the commercials, failing to be distinctive. The second is to be distinctive, but to have so small an audience that they make no real impact. They have little ability to keep the other media honest.

    While the ABC has struggled to meet these stringent requirements, I think it is still managing to do so.
    More this issue at

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