catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Repost: What to do with the ABC?

with 40 comments

This post unfortunately went down with the server crash so I’m reposting it for people to start stoushing over it again if they want to.

Rudi Michelson calls for the ABC to be privatised:

The ABC today comprises businesses that include television, radio, 38 retail outlets, book publishing (over 120 titles each year), magazines, videos and DVDs, contemporary music including Renee Geyer and Kate Ceberano and logo licensing. These are all crowded commercial markets, yet Australian taxpayers are subsidising ABC businesses to the tune of nearly $800 million each year. In broadcasting, Australia has 627 operating radio stations and 138 TV stations, plus pay TV. The internet is a further ubiquitous source of information and entertainment. Why is a government broadcaster competing in this mix?

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.

In February last year, my boss Henry Ergas had a piece in the Fin Review which proposed a compromise to make ABC funding more contestable and accountable to its ultimate customers and stakeholders. I reproduce some extracts from that article below:

The proliferation of content delivery platforms, on free-to-air, subscription TV and via the internet, creates opportunities for using an ever broader range of means to meet legitimate public sector broadcasting (PSB) objectives. The issue that then needs to be addressed is whether these other channels should be allowed to compete for funding now reserved for the ABC. Allowing such competition could have substantial advantages. It would mean that content that meets public service goals could be delivered in a wider variety of formats.

Funding under the contestable model would enable the specific PSB objectives and social groups to be better targeted. For example, children’s educational and drama programming could be specifically allocated funds if those purposes are identified as worthy objectives. Particular groups may also seek to top up with government funding to pursue their aims if they are complementary to PSB objectives.

In practical terms, this would mean the creation of a board or trust invested with the responsibility for allocating funds for content that meet the objectives government and the viewing public want to see for their money. Some part of this funding would come from existing funding to the ABC, which would in turn have the opportunity to contest the allocation of funding for projects in line with the stated PSB objectives. That said, the ABC would retain some core funding that would allow it to develop and maintain a program supply and delivery capability. This programmatic funding (as against the project funding supplied through the contestable fund) could be determined on a five-year basis, and fixed for the five years as a share of budget outlays. However, in exchange for that greater certainty, a rising share of total PSB funding would become fully contestable over time.

But what is the rationale for even subsidising public service broadcasting in this age when so much free content is available online and everyone can be a self-publisher and even a film-maker (through channels such as blogging and YouTube)? Is the rationale for public broadcasting based solely on the notion of certain ‘merit goods’ which citizens are encouraged to ‘consume’ for their own good or is there more to it than that?

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Written by Admin

October 20, 2006 at 7:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

40 Responses

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  1. I’d like to repeat my offer to pay one (1) average share of ABC funding for one (1) free-marketeer in exchange for them promising to stop lying about the free market producing free-to-air TV which is “just as good”.

    The offer was extended to Steve Edwards, but now I’ll just open it up to the first taker (having not seen any resposes due to server crash, I’m assuming there were plenty of interested parties; after all this is about the Government “stealing” your precious money, is it not?).

    You’re even allowed to keep watching and listening to the ABC. I wouldn’t want anyone, even an intellectual/ideological foe, to have to subsist on the commercial networks. I care about your intellectual health, even if you don’t.

    Anyone else who cares about keeping our excellent public broadcaster independent of commercial interests, and about not hearing more craven lies from libertarian ideologues is encouraged to participate in this programme.

    FDB

    October 20, 2006 at 10:51 am

  2. Well to my mind the issue of whether the ABC is good or bad, biased or not is irrelevant. Conservatives are fond of making this argument. Libertarians don’t have to. The only relevant issue here is what is the rationale for public broadcasting? is there a significant market failure? saying that the ABC may produce ‘better’ programs than commercial TV from your assessment doesn’t in my view prove that there is a significant market failure requiring intervention. There may have been a market failure when broadcasting was forced to rely on advertising because at least you could argue there was a tendency to cater to median tastes to maximise ad revenue but you can’t even say that now with pay TV.

    Jason Soon

    October 20, 2006 at 10:56 am

  3. To refer obliquely to your “govt failure vs market failure” post – we already have government ‘intervention’. Is it failing to produce goods of worth to a free and equitable society? No, it is providing them. [It is also providing services to remote communities which in a free market would be unprofitable and disappear]. Is there reason to believe that the market will do this “just as well” (as chopper said on the original thread)? CERTAINLY NOT.

    When your precious free markets look even remotely like producing good quality (esp. news and current affairs) programming, your argument will float. As things stand, we need the ABC as it is.

    Well, as it was.

    FDB

    October 20, 2006 at 11:13 am

  4. There’s no intellectual argument about keeping the ABC in public hands but there’s plenty of emotional argument, which is why no government will bother. Sure $800 million is a stack of cash, but in the context of Federal outlays, it’s a drop in the bucket.

    Furthermore, there’s no votes to be won and quite a few to be lost in selling it.

    Scott

    October 20, 2006 at 11:14 am

  5. Of course there is market failure.
    There is no national broadcaster apart from Aunty.
    in terms of radio no other organisation does the local community like Aunty which is why they love her in the Bush.

    I would also make the case ABCFM and even the appalling JJJ do not have competitors

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 20, 2006 at 11:26 am

  6. “When your precious free markets look even remotely like producing good quality (esp. news and current affairs) programming, your argument will float. As things stand, we need the ABC as it is. ”

    I have no problem in the quality of Sky news. And Channel 9 s sunday program is the best going if you’re into that sort of thing.
    I don’t think you are looking too hard are you?

    jc

    October 20, 2006 at 11:50 am

  7. I don’t need to JC. I can just turn on the ABC.

    I was talking about free-to-air, as well. I can’t afford payTV.

    FDB

    October 20, 2006 at 11:56 am

  8. And Jason, as regards your

    “tendency to cater to median tastes to maximise ad revenue”

    this is not the only problem. The craven sucking up to advertisers’ and station owners’ commercial interests is of at least as much concern.

    FDB

    October 20, 2006 at 11:59 am

  9. It’s only a matter of time before the existence or not of the ABC becomes irrelevant. Even now you can stream an enormous number of audio (radio) stations on your computer, and it won’t be many years before you’ll be able to do the same with video.

    At present this streaming’s a bit expensive on megabyte downloads but I reckon like everything in digital telecommuications the price will continue to decrease exponentially.

    In Australia it’s only government maintenance of restrictive practices favouring existing old-world operators that prevent progress in this area.

    The best thing governments can do is to butt out, cease restricting progress and get out of activities like public broadcasting they have no business being in.

    whyisitso

    October 20, 2006 at 4:06 pm

  10. “In Australia it’s only government maintenance of restrictive practices favouring existing old-world operators that prevent progress in this area.”

    Well, the ABC was leading the charge into online broadcasting before its budget was slashed.

    Just sayin’

    FDB

    October 20, 2006 at 4:21 pm

  11. “I’d like to repeat my offer to pay one (1) average share of ABC funding for one (1) free-marketeer in exchange for them promising to stop lying about the free market producing free-to-air TV which is “just as good”.”

    SEND ME THE MONEY.

    RIGHT NOW.

    GMB

    October 20, 2006 at 4:38 pm

  12. You see the scope of the leftists arguments. This is very reminiscent of Johns bet.

    He had no evidence so he comes up with a bet.

    FDB has no argument.

    So he comes up with a bogus offer.

    Well I’ve taken him up on it.

    But do you think he will send me the money.

    Of course he won’t.

    He’s a liar.

    GMB

    October 20, 2006 at 4:40 pm

  13. What the hell’s the relevance of that?

    whyisitso

    October 20, 2006 at 4:44 pm

  14. “Well, the ABC was leading the charge into online broadcasting before its budget was slashed. Just sayin”

    My last comment was in relation to the above in FDB’s comment 10.

    whyisitso

    October 20, 2006 at 4:46 pm

  15. After the false offer comes the pseudo-argument.

    “Of course there is market failure.
    There is no national broadcaster apart from Aunty.”

    Notice that these people are TOTALLY SHAMELESS.

    It just doesn’t matter whether or not they have an argument that is real or good or relevant.

    If there is enough of these secular-religionists or bully-boy-advocates-of-the-status-quo or hardcore-utopian-eschatologists or just people that are very dull…..

    THEY WILL THROW US OFF OUR GAME AND WEAR US DOWN BY THE SHEER DISTRACTION OF BAD ARGUMENTS AND NON-ARGUMENTS.

    And look. Doesn’t it make these low-lifes somewhat SUPERIOR to us conservative/classical liberals/libertarians/near-libertarians.

    Surely on an existential level they are superior. Because time and again WE INDEED get distracted, won over, worn down and burnt out, just by the sheer weight of lame arguments put over forcefully.

    As a matter of fact it might make them more attractive to the young sheilas…

    Not more attractive then the smooth bastards on my side of the fence. But on an all things being equal basis.

    I mean you wouldn’t think so if you actually MET these drop-kicks and compared them to the smooth devils on our side.

    But I mean on an A Priori basis they ought to have a bit of a head start FOR YEA THEY ARE ON A HIGHER RUNG OF THE FOOD-CHAIN THEN US.

    And the young broads are turned on by this and this is the tragedy of the human species and there is nothing that can be done about it.

    But whereas I call them bloodsuckers and parasites and they are that for sure on one level isn’t it the law of nature that the more sucessful species prey on the others?

    And so we who are NOT parasites have to get a little bit angry about this rabid exploitation, for all the normal reasons of course, but also simply because its maintained by all thes bad arguments, stupid arguments and non-arguments and the sort of swarming team-work that allows this WEAK HAND or yet even BLUFF HAND to carry the day time after time.

    Lets have a little bit of pride here and CHASE THE TAXEATERS DOWN for some real arguments.

    And if they have none or few we must keep going until it is an established and known fact and all the small children know that the for sure the left is indeed full of shit.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>
    Now so far.

    What was the argument for not PRIVATISING the ABC?

    What was your best arguments for not taking that money and raising the tax-free threshold one more dollar? Or ten more dollars?

    And after another page or two we will review this to find that though they had so many comebacks in terms of volume, very little of them will extend further then ‘a minor point’.

    Most of these arguments I predict will be complete rubbish.

    But OUR job is not done until we see and make clear that they are tapped out. And never really had much going for their case in the first place.

    “Of course there is market failure.
    There is no national broadcaster apart from Aunty.”

    How the fuck does the second part of that provide evidence for the first?

    And how does the rest of the post provide evidence for the conclusion that EP started with?

    I don’t think it does.

    GMB

    October 20, 2006 at 5:06 pm

  16. Remember GMB, you have to agree to the conditions of the agreement before you get your $40, then you have to abide by them for a whole year to match my payout of your ABC funding obligations.

    I do mean it.

    But you will have to shut up about how evil it is to publically fund broadcasting for a whole year. If you understand these simple conditions, and if you promise to abide by them, you’ll get your $40 at the end of this month when I next get paid.

    I’ll take your word that you’ll keep to your end of the bargain, because I know you’re a MAN OF HONOUR.

    FDB

    October 20, 2006 at 5:11 pm

  17. Prof. Sumner-Miller:

    “What the hell’s the relevance of that?”

    Just that the only broadcaster with the vision and will to try and make a go of our exciting new technology was the public broadcaster. The commercials weren’t, and still basically aren’t interested.

    I thought it was relevant to a discussion about whether we should have public broadcasting.

    FDB

    October 20, 2006 at 5:14 pm

  18. I’ll understand if you want to thrash the last of your public-broadcasting-is-evil bile out of your system first, GMB.

    BTW, I do have an argument. It’s the old classic:

    If it ain’t broke (if, in fact, it’s the best free-to-air station you’ve got, and the only national radio network, and the only radio of any kind in most of your nation’s area) don’t fix it.

    FDB

    October 20, 2006 at 5:18 pm

  19. “I was talking about free-to-air, as well. I can’t afford payTV.”

    What are you living in a rubbish dump?

    Foxtel costs $37 a month. Even dole bludgers can afford that. I know this because I was once on the dole, and had Foxtel.

    It’s $8 a week dude. If you are sharing a house its $4 a week each.

    You are just a liar.

    yobbo

    October 20, 2006 at 5:48 pm

  20. “If it ain’t broke (if, in fact, it’s the best free-to-air station you’ve got, and the only national radio network, and the only radio of any kind in most of your nation’s area) don’t fix it.”

    Exactly. So if people are fine before you steal their money. Don’t steal it.

    GMB

    October 20, 2006 at 6:44 pm

  21. Send me the $40 FDB.

    I’m not to lie about stuff.

    I’ll do it.

    Send me the money.

    GMB

    October 20, 2006 at 6:45 pm

  22. Wait?????!!!!!!!!!!

    FDB made a fake offer. And now we have the proof!!!!

    Here is his NEW CLAIM!

    “But you will have to shut up about how evil it is to publically fund broadcasting for a whole year.”

    But we see that this PROVES that the original offer was fake….

    Here was the original offer:

    “I’d like to repeat my offer to pay one (1) average share of ABC funding for one (1) free-marketeer in exchange for them promising to stop lying about the free market producing free-to-air TV which is “just as good”.”

    Well that didn’t take long to expose FDB’s bullshit.

    But we must not stop there.

    The left always wins because they throw up these distractions and we overturn them but ultimately we don’t drive through and force them to make and authentic case before we refute it.

    So good one FDB. Nice false offer. Good distraction.
    Bravo.

    Now lets trash this bullshit and how about you put up a REAL argument.

    GMB

    October 20, 2006 at 6:50 pm

  23. You are flogging a dead horse here GMB, the ABC is the only national broadcaster that is truly unsustainable. It is a climate changing denialist, for evidence just watch Kerry O Briens face sag even further at the next federal election, again.

    rog

    October 20, 2006 at 8:57 pm

  24. I mean, if it is so popular with all Australians (as we are constantly told by our betters) put it to the market, float the ABC on the ASX so we can all have the chance to own a chunk of it. Should make a mozza, go gangbusters, the ultimate peoples choice.

    rog

    October 20, 2006 at 9:01 pm

  25. Yeah well thats the question isn’t it.

    Thats the one these tax-eaters aren’t prepared to answer.

    In perusing their arguments rog, have you managed to find any GOOD ones…

    Like even just a valid minor point? A MITIGATIING CONSIDERATION???????

    (I’d settle for an honest misconception.)

    You know these same guys could be producing an archive of educational programs for next to nicks…

    And you’d just have ads and things here and there one supposes.

    Their whole output a sort of free university just on realvideo or realaudio.

    And you might have to put up with ads or you might pay a few cents everytime you listen.

    But they spend all this money and throw the programs away out there into the air.

    They now have some sorts of archives but the archives don’t go back that far.

    Totally wasteful when you think about it.

    GMB

    October 20, 2006 at 9:09 pm

  26. tell me rog,
    does Kerry treat Government ministers differently to ALP spokesman/woman?

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 21, 2006 at 2:01 pm

  27. Kerry used to work for Gough.

    C.L.

    October 21, 2006 at 2:04 pm

  28. Big deal.
    that didn’t answer my question.
    If he is biased then he would treat said people differently.
    I think you will find he worked for Don Willisee far longer than Gough.

    Paddy McGuinness worked for Bill Hayden.

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 21, 2006 at 2:23 pm

  29. Sorry, Kerry worked for another Labor politician longer than he worked for Gough. That clears up suspicions of bias how exactly?

    The Hayden years must explain why PP is so biased on the ABC current affairs programme that he doesn’t host!

    C.L.

    October 21, 2006 at 3:06 pm

  30. You are alleging bias old chum without supplying any evidence.

    Merely working for someone does not mean the person is biased in interviewing.
    I ask again do you believe Kerry interviews anyone from the Government differently than he does from the Opposition.

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 21, 2006 at 3:13 pm

  31. ‘I ask again do you believe Kerry interviews anyone from the Government differently than he does from the Opposition.’

    Yes, I do believe he is tougher on the Coalition than the ALP. Althlough he was very tough on Latham after losing the 2004 election.

    Do you know that people can buy DVDs of ‘Millionaire’ but not election night coverage. I’d love to be able watch the 2004 ABC coverage again. and again.

    Sinclair Davidson

    October 21, 2006 at 3:53 pm

  32. Sinkers you just loved the Liberals big spending and big taxing record and couldn’t stand for lower spending and taxes under labor!

    did you ever see kerry interview Keating on Lateline?

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 21, 2006 at 4:18 pm

  33. BBEP it was evident last fed election flicking from ABC – ch9 – ch7 that Kerry was visibly disappointed at the outcome.

    rog

    October 21, 2006 at 5:15 pm

  34. “Sinkers you just loved the Liberals big spending and big taxing record and couldn’t stand for lower spending and taxes under labor!”

    I can see you are coming from the purest place of honour and righteousness when you throw this old trick out….. (not).

    Lets face it. The government is hard-wired to be a major-league thief.

    They are thieves. Not just the people we vote in. But the whole wider apparatus.

    Sinclair linked a 1980 paper by Buchanan.

    Now the Nobel Prizewinner isn’t going to put things quite the same way as me.

    But just what is a government that is assumed to be a TAXATION-MAXIMISER?

    What is a taxation maximiser.

    Well thats an evil blood-sucking beast that is going to steal just as much as it can.

    That means that they WOULD steal even more but hold off on the basis that ATTEMPTING to steal EVEN MORE would reduce the actual amount they were able to steal.

    Now we just have to get real about this institutional tendency and deal with it the best way we can.

    What we don’t want to do is get involved with some sort of idiots fantasy that any but a small proportion of this thieving could ever be justified.

    GMB

    October 21, 2006 at 7:10 pm

  35. Homer always likes to try on this trick. It’s true enough as it is but when it comes down the crunch, he doesn’t walk the walk himself.

    Jason Soon

    October 21, 2006 at 7:16 pm

  36. no trick Jase.Any evangelical is a small government man.
    Iron Mark produced a small government program which all these ‘rightwingers’ and ‘leftwingers’ didn’t see because they had a patch over one of their eyes.

    rog evidently saw something few else did.

    Reminds me of Ken Begg back in 74 saying were back and people saying he was an ALP man because of that when the bleeding obvious was that the coverage was back.
    Funny how it was only Kerry that had Keating flummoxed on Lateline.

    All these apologists see is their man being hit rather than the incompetence of ‘their’ man.

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 21, 2006 at 8:48 pm

  37. It was a glorious night, they all got it wrong;

    The existence of denial was evident in the mannerisms and comments of Kerry O’Brien, who fronted ABC TV’s election-night Australia Votes broadcast. He chose to editorialise favourably about Latham at the very moment when the Prime Minister was on his way to the Wentworth Hotel to make his victory speech – and when wails and gnashing of teeth could be heard from Labor’s true believers. According to O’Brien, Latham “grew through the campaign”. The problem was that the electoral scoreboard told a different story.

    http://www.theage.com.au/news/Gerard-Henderson/How-the-Canberra-gallery-got-2004-all-wrong/2004/12/13/1102787011190.html

    rog

    October 21, 2006 at 9:40 pm

  38. rog,

    one can win a campaign but lose an election.
    one can grow through an election but lose an election.
    most people thought Latham campaigned well.

    Gerry would be more believed if he said things before rather than considerably after the event.

    Can I say the main people that got it badly wrong were all the party men on both channels who predicted almost to a man a win to the government by a very very small margin.

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 21, 2006 at 9:57 pm

  39. From the Sunday Age:

    ‘Mr Beazley pledged to make the ABC truly independent of government.’

    So maybe the ALP will be privatising the ABC. Mind you, Beazley’s intentions are not pure, he is ‘[a]ppalled by the ABC’s decision to introduce strict program guidelines to clamp down on perceived political bias’.

    Sinclair Davidson

    October 22, 2006 at 7:45 am

  40. ‘Mr Beazley pledged to make the ABC truly independent of government.’

    He doesn’t mean that though. What he means is he won’t let conservatives outside of the ABC…. he won’t let their concerns TROUBLE anyone WITHIN the ABC.

    Institution A funds Institution B

    Institution B has people who would be thrown out of work if Institution A cut funding.

    Is Institution B independent from Institution A?

    No of course not.

    And when we think of the Government we ought not just think of the elected reps. Though probably man for man the elected officials have far more influence, we want to sometimes look at it as elected officials and augmented tax-eater super-structure.

    From that perspective the ABC cannot be independent of government. Since it is part of the blood-sucking beast.

    GMB

    October 22, 2006 at 8:28 am


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