It’s not ABC Rural Online, but visitors to EFarming.com could be forgiven for mistaking it so, including the ABC’s own journos.

A confidential Crikey source says ABC Rural department staff are currently furious having just found out their work is being flogged to the commercial web site by the ABC’s own Content Sales Department.
Quite fair game in today’s world of shared music downloads and Youtube, but not when the journalists writing the goods don’t know about the deal.

Discovering the website accidently last week, ABC Rural staff were busy contacting its legal departments to stop EFarming.com accessing its content, only to be told the site was legitimately paying for its access to ABC’s syndication feed, and subsequently Rural Online.

Apparently ABC Management needn’t inform its journalists when their work goes walkabout. ABC Rural Staff have since had a bitter taste of the realities of internet content sharing. Mainly, that while their contract assigns them to the ABC, they can no longer be sure their product stops there.

According to Leigh Radford, National Editor of ABC Rural Online, he has no idea how many sites currently access his ABC Rural Online program.

Like the millions of musicians trying hopelessly to control free downloads, journalists are joining the ranks of professions where their produce is now easily trafficked online in a growing market for content sharing.

Angelo Tilocca, ABC’s Manager of Content Licensing, says the push to share its online publications, increasingly its news and current affairs, has been developing steadily for two years, with the ABC
“currently involved with more than 100 clients in shared content agreements”. It’s now a very healthy revenue stream for ABC, he says.

The journalists argue however that little, if any, of the profits garnered through selling their product indeed flows on to directly assisting them and their program at the ABC. Instead it is funnelled into the ABC’s general revenue and dispersed from there.

It raises some interesting questions about the position of online journalists at the ABC. Are they a branded asset of the ABC’s respected news and current affairs programs like their television or radio counterparts? Or simply seen as the creators of ephemeral content? And is their product, once shared, as protected by the ABC’s formidable Charter?

The relaxed appearance of Aunty’s logo around commercials for New Holland Tractors and CSBP Fertilisers on EFarming.com certainly suggests otherwise.

Crikey was told that ABC Management is currently negotiating a system by which journalists will be able to tab the increasing destinations of their work in cyberspace.

Peter Fray

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