Thursday, September 10, 2009


The history, role and function of the ABC is an interesting area of study. All the elements are ultimately as contended as any in the history or cluture "wars". The first distinction is whether the ABC exists as a piece of social welfare designed to ensure national availability of news and radio, a feature that one could argue is no longer required given the coverage of commercial outlets. A second distinction is whether it is designed to be some kind of higher form of broadcasting than that supported by mere popularity versus the idea that it too should be judged by its popularity. A final distinction is whether its role is to be a totally dispassionate broadcaster "of record" or whether a slightly pinkish hue is warranted to balance the interests of the owners of commercial media.

Alongside these contentions are questions of governance and ongoing questions of exactly what control the Board should, or does, have. At the same time it has always had an unhappy relationship with the commercial news organisations. When it first commenced the ABC was providing its news service by basically reading from newspapers, and then from the wire services (AAP) that supported the news. It was only in response to the denial of access to these services that the ABC started to build its own, now much vaunted, international news gathering network.

Now the battle is on again, with James Murdoch criticising the "chilling" growth of the BBC into new services and stiffling the opportunity of commercial operators. Reportedly ABC CEO Mark Scott is preparing to rebut Murdoch's claim.

Meanwhile however the ABC seems quite intent on pursuing aggressively their digital media strategy, seeking open access to the NBN, expanding their relationship with ISPs to deliver iView and reports that they have recruited Annabel Crabb for their digital channels.

Personally I am sure I want my ABC to be available in these channels, but am concerned about the idea that we need to rely on the Government owned media for "investigative reporting".

So at this stage I'm merely troubled and perplexed.

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