Throttle the ABC

If you’re over 25 and have been in Australia for that long, it’s possible that you remember that Australia national (taxpayer-funded) electronic broadcaster; the ABC was operating on just one TV channel and, before the arrival of FM radio, no more than 2 radio stations available in any one area.

It is unreasonable for taxpayers to be forced to pay for more than that in today’s media landscape.

The days of A Big Country, Adventures of the Seaspray, Aunty Jack Show, Bellbird, Mother and Son, The Magic Boomerang, Patrol Boat, Quantum, Rush, Sweet and Sour, This Day Tonight, Weekend Magazine and by far not least; Norman Gunston were to many, the highlights of the viewing week; as was the much-lauded and celebrated Countdown. Of course there were the sports broadcasts; AFL and Cricket without commercial breaks.

The ABC started out as Australian Broadcasting Company in 1928, then, when bankrupt, became the Australian Broadcasting Commission in 1932 and, following its liberation from government policy in 1983; the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

In Western Australia, radio station 6WF was a reliable service for much of the South-West (and beyond), with regional stations serving the specific interests of regional centres. 6WN later filled the AM radio airwaves with different ABC programming in the metropolitan area. As FM radio became available, ABC classic programming seemed to be the first to move along with “fringe” music (stuff only their mothers would appreciate).

For decades, both ABC radio and TV provided airtime for good Australian production of entertainment, education, news and current affairs. All largely without stepping on the toes of commercial radio and TV.

Then, sometime in the 1980’s, the ABC began to expand and embrace. To broaden its image and coverage; including to audiences already well served by commercial an independent providers; but without having to compete on a commercial basis because it had the taxpayer to back whatever the whim of ABC’s management. Pretty quickly, the gumboots, footy boots and Bata Scouts were buried under ballet shoes, sandals, Florsheim, Bally and haute couture branded unwearables.

Marketing became big business at the ABC. Shops sprang up across the nation, flogging treasure and tat to the public, encouraged in part by a “loyalty” programme which the ABC quietly abandoned. It seems that loyalty only goes in the one direction at the ABC.

The 1990’s also opened the Internet to the naïf and innocent masses; enabled by the World Wide Web. There was a rush to go digital as the public embraced the natural anarchy of the Internet; where the influence of a multi-national conglomerate can be less than that of a lone blogger. To “compete”, one only needed an Internet connection and some web pages.

The ABC also embraced that medium; at no small cost to taxpayers. It embraced the Internet not only to provide background and depth to over-the-air programming, but also editorial and “independent” commentary on a variety of topics. Some of those ABC-run commentary web sites have spawned on-air programming that often struggles to fill the many channels available to the ABC. Other ABC offerings have killed commercial offerings that were available at no cost to taxpayers in general.

There are no fewer than four TV channels available over digital TV. Innumerable channels over the Internet via the ABC’s iView and a plethora of radio stations on AM, FM and DAB+ radio and a myriad of web sites. Together, that makes the ABC Australia’s largest media organization; thanks to the taxpayer. The taxpayer who can’t stop the ABC taking what it says it needs.

Methinks that it’s high time that the ABC’s shoe rack was cleared so that taxpayers are paying only for the things that independent corporations aren’t providing. Limit the ABC to:

  • 2 TV channels per viewing region
  • 1 regional and one national radio station per “band” per audience region
  • Internet presence to that enhancing over-the-air programmes
  • electronic media (i.e. no shops, newspapers, etc.)
  • synergies with commercial operators

It’s not in the interests of taxpayers to further tolerate the ABC’s mission creep.

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