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Adequately funding the ABC requires that we look at advertising revenues

By Christopher Pyne - posted Tuesday, 19 August 2003

The Labor Party needs to read the tea-leaves and recognise that the ABC must find an additional revenue source and introduce "between-program advertising".

The ABC cannot sustain its current reckless programming priorities unless it is prepared to find supplementary income.

Russell Balding's decision to axe the children's educational program, Behind the News on the same day it announced production of a new lifestyle program called Mondo Thingo hosted by Amanda Keller, demonstrates that the ABC has become a narrow-caster.


This view is not exclusive to members of the federal government. In an article which appeared in The Daily Telegraph on 9 July 2001 Labor's Mark Latham wrote:

The problem with the ABC is that it broadcasts solely for Symbolic Australia. It has failed to fulfil its charter as a truly national broadcaster.

In terms of geography, the ABC concentrates on the romanticism of the bush and the trendy issues of the inner city. The areas in between - the vast, working class suburbs of our big cities - barely rate a mention.

Governments and government bodies are operating in a new paradigm. The days of funding largesse and blank chequebooks are long gone.

The ABC's belly-aching about not having enough taxpayers' money can be solved by introducing "between-program advertising". The revenue raised from this exercise would allow the ABC to pursue some of its more esoteric programming pursuits in addition to its core programming responsibilities.

Yet it would also create an incentive for the ABC to broaden its appeal to the large numbers of Australians whom, as Mark Latham rightly states, it is currently overlooking.


The virtue of introducing between-program advertising on the ABC is that we know it is a concept that has worked well on SBS.
There have been no credible complaints by commentators or the Labor Party about the editorial independence of SBS. No-one has mounted a serious argument that limited advertising on SBS has compromised that broadcaster's values and capacity to meet the standards and benchmarks set out in the in their charter.

It is a sign of the times when a renowned defender and Friend of the ABC - as well as occasional ABC commentator - Professor Robert Manne - comes out in support of this proposal.

Creating a new revenue stream for the national broadcaster will help the ABC face the reality that their appetite for government funds is greater than the government's capacity to sate that appetite.
It would be a much lesser evil to have between-program advertising than it would be to cancel excellent programs like Behind the News.

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Article edited by Sue Cartledge.
If you'd like to be a volunteer editor too, click here.

This article was first published in The Age on 12 August 2003.

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About the Author

Chris Pyne is the Federal Member for Sturt (SA).

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