Mar 11, 2014

The public interest in public broadcasting: accountability a two-way street

Accountability at the ABC and SBS should be a two-way street, writes former ABC executive Geoff Heriot at Inside Story. Erratic government scrutiny fails the public-interest test.

Accountability is the price of statutory independence, and the price is considerable, especially for the kind of editorial and creative independence exercised by the ABC and SBS. As the Australian National Audit Office once observed dryly of the ABC, a national public broadcaster is subject to “more diverse” expectations of accountability than a private sector operator driven principally by the need to achieve a commercial profit. Having offered this self-evident truth about the national broadcasters, the Audit Office was silent on the reciprocal accountability of government.

To survive, the public broadcaster must win and retain the endorsement of the community at large, including those who don’t frequently use its services yet support them through taxation. The public broadcaster must compete for a critical mass of listeners and viewers while also serving specialist audiences; it must retain credibility within a ratings-driven industry while adhering to public sector principles and values; it must serve Parliament, not the government; and it must demonstrate leadership through innovation. Inevitably, public broadcasting operates in a politically contested zone where — as demonstrated again in recent months — the discourse is often combative and careless.

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2 thoughts on “The public interest in public broadcasting: accountability a two-way street

  1. Bill Hilliger

    Many expats working in SE Asia say it will be a sad day if and when the muppets from Sky were to run the Australia Network.

  2. The Old Bill

    It will be a sad day indeed when the Liberals force us to listen to the likes of Sandilands and Jones during the day and watch Home and Away, Sixty Minutes and Today Tonight for our in depth current affairs coverage.
    At least it will still be more accurate than Rupert’s newspapers reporting, especially Home and Away

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