[LINK] Surely it's time we privatised the ABC

Paul Bolger pbolger at gmail.com
Tue Oct 17 12:29:13 AEST 2006

The piece referenced here is obviously a 'hand grenade' - an opinion
piece commissioned to stir up public reaction. Got me going though.

>>WITH its poor performance, entrenched ideological bias and
'Vietcong-style' industrial strife, surely it's time we sold the
public broadcaster, maintains Rudi Michelson.

Who is a (failed) candidate for the Liberal Party (Henty, 1987) and in
his roles as "a financial public relations consultant in Melbourne, is
a fellow of the Financial Services Institute of Australasia" could
quite possibly see some personal advantage arising from such a move.

Why is a government broadcaster competing in this mix?

Because commercial media operators just can't seem to provide a decent
news service and children's television which is not aimed at getting them
to eat more.

Government broadcasting is favoured by totalitarian states and Islamic

Yes, but the point here is that totalitarian states don't allow other
forms of media.

New Zealand has no government broadcaster and the CBC in Canada gets
60 per cent of its revenue from commercials.

And if you want a holiday from television try New Zealand. NZ is a
classic example of badly planned and executed television
privatisation, three channels trying to survive on a revenue stream
only big enough for one.

After Australia's spate of privatisations in the 1980s and '90s, it is
intriguing that the ABC was spared. Qantas, Commonwealth Bank, the
ports, airports, energy, water and others were privatised. It was OK
to privatise monopolies and duopolies in essential services, yet not a
government body that provides entertainment.

Intriguing if you don't understand that media is not just an industry
which produces 'content'.
Previous examples of privatisation are hardly inspiring are they, if
you want good value and good customer service 'stay away from
ex-government corporations' would be a fairly good motto.

The ABC is not a smooth-running organisation. More than 3000
complaints each quarter from fed-up audiences, staff disputes, court
cases, industrial action and personal vendettas are common.

Unlike Channel 9.

In July it was the staff campaign against the ABC board for acting on
legal advice not to publish a dirt book on rival radio broadcaster
Alan Jones. This venting included a widely signed complaint,
exclamations of outrage all over the ABC airwaves including a
school-marmish berating on Media Watch. Yet all this heat ignored the
question of why the ABC has a book publishing business. Further is the
moral bankruptcy of using the ABC's supposed scarce funds for a book
attacking a person's reputation and private life.

I'm be more concerned about the moral bankruptcy of the ABC spending
precious funds to run a marketing campaign for a book which they then
give away to a commercial publisher

>>I challenge the Friends of ABC to name a worse example of Australian
broadcasting. There are more examples like this – from the ABC. The
ABC complaints process is pathetic. Material such as the above is
exempt because it's in a so-called comedy program. What's worse is
that ABC management and the Government tolerate personal abuse and
indulgences on the airwaves as just another day at the ABC.

Try watching commercial current affairs for a week.

>>ABC TV and radio ratings are poor. Audiences prefer the commercial
networks even with advertising. A typical week's free-to-air TV
ratings are: Channel 9, 28.5 per cent; Channel 7, 27.1 per cent;
Channel 10, 23.7 per cent; ABC TV, 15.8 per cent. If your footy team
performed like this every week, it would be asked to leave the
competition. Yet the commercial stations pay tax on profits while the
low-rating ABC sucks up tax dollars and complains it doesn't get more.

And this is were we start to see the money: The ABC ratings are low,
but the audience profile is pure gold. Middle class, post mortgage,
lots of spending power. What financial services person wouldn't like
a crack at that?

>>Part of the dullness comes from the ABC being a big politically
correct straitjacket. The dominant personalities are Phillip Adams on
Radio National, ex-Whitlam staffer Kerry O'Brien on TV and perennial
leftists on Media Watch, At the Movies, Four Corners et al. If the ABC
decides to become true to its claim of diversity, it would stop
appointing same-olds.

... and start hiring new faces like Gerard Henderson and Michael
Duffy. Seriously though, where are these brilliant right-wing
commentators we keep hearing about?

>>Privatising the ABC would be a bonanza for taxpayers. They would be
spared the nearly $800 million liability each year and sales of ABC
businesses would fetch multi-billion dollar prices. Also,
profitability from future services would be taxed just like the ABC's
competitors. But any government knows that privatisation would incite
a squealorama led by the inner-city set who need their soft-left
group-think reinforcement. More valid resistance may come from people
who don't want commercials. Yet SBS TV's transition to
semi-commerciality has been generally hailed as a success.

Who's this 'generally'? After some 10 years SBS are still subsidised.
It could be argued that, considering the resources available to them,
that SBS's failure to make a profit demonstrates breathtaking
managerial incompetence.

>>A new-look ABC would carve out the retail and other fringe
businesses, say goodbye to the Ultimo bureaucracy and see a number of
smaller media groups of TV and radio stations similar in size and
diversity to the successful mid-size public company Southern Cross
Broadcasting. First preference may be management buy-outs especially
in regional Australia where the people who operate the radio station
could own it. Larger asset groupings should be sold to new media

I'm not sure why privatising the ABC would have any effect on the
bureaucracy - it certainly didn't seem to work in the case of Telstra,
CBC, Qantas, NRMA... What's different this time?

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