On the TPP

Peter Matters writes: Re. “Whoo boy, trade agreement to save Australian business a whopping … $150k” (yesterday). Allowing for what little we know of the subject, the trade treaty negotiations were undertaken between the governments of the interested nations PLUS the richest and therefore most influential multinationals. If Monsanto can sue for damages any government bringing down laws inhibiting serious deterioration of land and people due to Monsanto’s commercial activities, if big pharma achieves absurd patent rights for their products and thereby increases the cost of medicines by multiples to the detriment of people everywhere etc, such an agreement must not ever be passed.
If trade negotiations are taking place between governments only, a case could be made out that an agreement reached on such basis may or may not be of advantage to individual nations.

ABS vs SBS

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CEO of Internet Australia Laurie Patton writes: Re. “Is it time to get rid of SBS?” (yesterday). A merger between the ABC and SBS would simply create a large divided and dysfunctional organisation and do no good. Even if you think either or both are unwieldy and in need of reform a merger is just not the way to go. For sure, there are opportunities to decrease the overall operating costs of the public broadcasters by combining some of their technical “back end” functions. But that’s as far as it should go.

SBS’s image problems go back a few years to a board that tried to make it a fourth commercial network. Michael Ebeid has gone some way to redressing the programming imbalance, but arguably not far enough.

SBS took over NITV a few years back, but only reluctantly and under pressure. It should have embraced the idea from the outset. Community television is on the way out for lack of spectrum, yet SBS had spare capacity but wouldn’t do the right thing and make space available. Where else should community TV be housed but at the Special Broadcasting Service? SBS needs a new Statement of Expectations from the Minister yanking it back firmly to its core purpose.

As for the ABC, it has charted a new course under Mark Scott that has set it up well for survival in the Internet age. However, like all broadcasters, public and commercial, it needs to be very careful when deciding its next steps. Becoming mired in what would be a very fetid dispute with the supporters of SBS would be extremely unwise.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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