The ABC has got lucky in the Budget, picking up an extra $150m over the next triennium, including funding for the promised children’s channel.
The funding is the biggest increase in ABC content funding since the 1980s. SBS has also scored extra content funding of $20m over three years, although Shaun Brown will be disappointed that his campaign for more Australian content hasn’t yielded more.
However, both broadcasters are likely to be forced to share transmission services under a new initiative, driven by the Department of Finance, to “promote efficiencies and savings in the ABC and SBS from the more efficient use of distribution and transmission services, including through closer cooperation in arrangements with external providers.”
The language is code for a proposal, for raised by Finance in 2008, that ABC and SBS be asked to share transmissions and distribution facilities. Currently ABC and SBS have separate contracts and facilities for transmission in analogue and digital with Broadcast Australia, the monopoly owner of what used to be a Government-owned transmission network. At one stage, Finance even wanted ABC and SBS to share spectrum, which would generate a potentially significant return from the sale of frequencies currently used by the broadcasters.
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The mooted savings may be limited to a joint contractual arrangement with BA, which is currently up for sale, but may extend to sharing distribution equipment, which may require the collocation of SBS equipment at ABC premises (namely its Sydney headquarters in Ultimo).