August 07, 2003


The government’s questioning of how the ABC spends $750 million of our money every year is “censorship”, evidence of “ideological extremes”, a “blatant ideological battle”, “frightening”, and a “crackdown on civil liberties and free speech”, according to Peter Manning. He also sees an upside:

In Howard's new all-American Australia, the ABC will have as much impact as the Public Broadcasting Service has in the US: nil.

Posted by Tim Blair at August 7, 2003 03:36 AM

" ...the ABC will have as much impact as the Public Broadcasting Service has in the US: nil. "

Sounds like a step in the right direction to me.

In this day and age, with so many channels on the TV, why any Western nation needs public funded TV or radio is beyond me. I'm not sure how much the US taxpayers 'donate' for our PBS, but any amount is too much. Our PBS should be able to stand on its own or fail. So should the BBC and the ABC.

Put the money given to publicly funded media to better use.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at August 7, 2003 at 04:07 AM

Chris, here are some PBS stats.

In 2002, PBS received $77.9m from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Department of Education, and that appears to be the extent of its direct government funding. It received ~$153m from "member assessments" (i.e. Viewers Like You) and $216m from "program underwriting" (i.e. corporate sponsorships). Its total revenue was $534m. (All figures in USD.)

Now this is only for the television component of US public broadcasting, but this isn't much more than the ~US$490m that the ABC receives from the taxpayer, for a country with less than one-tenth the population of the US.

But perhaps it's fairer to make comparisons with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which oversees PBS, NPR and other public broadcasting services. Of its $2.2b budget, only 32.8% (~$721m) comes from taxpayers one way or another. Again, all figures USD. The taxpayer-funded portion of the CPB budget is equivalent to $1.1b in Australian dollars, 46% greater than the ABC receives. Then again, the audience for US public broadcasting is probably larger than the entire Australian population.

PBS and NPR put on some great programs, too; I'd guess that the quality of their output rivals that of the ABC. So what, again, was the rationale for a 100% taxpayer-funded public broadcaster?

Posted by: murray at August 7, 2003 at 04:57 AM

Reading the Paul Higgins' article in The Age today, I noticed his bio:

"Paul Higgins presents the weather on ABC TV news, and was the longest-serving presenter of Behind the News."

Gotta tell you something about how serious and important BTN was that it's longest-serving presenter was 'promoted' to weather girl.

Posted by: James Dudek at August 7, 2003 at 05:12 AM

The first sentence of Manning's article reads:

When I looked just after 10pm at the ninemsn site question of the day, "Should the Government be doing more to support the ABC?", the answers were running 75 per cent in the ABC's favour among the 25,498 respondents. That was on Tuesday on a commercial online site. If Richard Alston or John Howard were ordinary politicians, they would take notice.

No they wouldn't, because even the dumbest politicians know that online polls are bogus (uh, present company excepted, of course :). Boy (I thought to myself), the ABC is scraping the bottom of the barrel if they have to enlist this guy on their behalf. Who is he again? Oh look -- "Peter Manning, the adjunct professor of journalism at UTS, is a former head of ABC TV News and Current Affairs."

Uh, wow.

Posted by: murray at August 7, 2003 at 06:04 AM


Thanks for link and info. on PBS. I was never quite sure how much taxpayer money it received. There are many programs I enjoy on PBS. I'd be willing to give voluntarily to keep them on the air. I believe they could compete without resorting to taxpayer money. There's an excellent program about Sparta on PBS that I intend to watch tonight. I don't have cable (don't want it) so I depend on PBS for good programming. Doesn't bother me at all to pay to keep it on the air. Just *don't* take my tax money for this.

I've always wondered about the popular programs that are on publicly funded stations .. why don't the PBS stations receive a % of the money made via merchandising? For example Sesame Street, I believe is licensed world wide and must have made a ton of money on all the Sesame Street merchandise sold. Why can't PBS support itself through getting a % of the profits or giving some % back to the public?

Sesame Street is only one example. Many of the PBS children's shows, which *are* good, have merchandise tie-ins. I bet 'quite a few' dollars are made each year from the merchandise licenses.

Same goes for the BBC. Many of its non-news shows are fantastic. Generally you can purchase a video or DVD of the show. Some shows have other merchandise tie ins as well. No way do I believe the BBC couldn't stand on its own if it wanted to.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at August 7, 2003 at 07:54 AM

Don't forget that PBS has the odious Bill Moyers. Ugh.

Posted by: Carlos at August 7, 2003 at 08:07 AM

The problem for any government is that to create a fairer media environment they'd need to cut the ABC adrift, letting it fend for itself, and simultaneously free up the airwaves, allowing market forces to decide who wins. This would rally the forces of the Left (ABC and friends) and the Big Broadcasters against anyone who dared to touch the status quo.

In the case of the current government, they'd have a concerted media campaign against them from all sides. Then we'd end up with Labor in power, returning a few favours to ABC and the commercial Broadcasters.

Howard's got balls alright, but after the GST and the War they're probably a bit bruised.

Posted by: The at August 7, 2003 at 08:37 AM


I don't care for everything on PBS. Some of the *news* programs and *documentaries* have made me spitting mad because their bias is so apparent. But, they do have good programming that I like and watch it.


You do have to pick when the time is best for certain battles. Perhaps not now for the ABC, but sometime in the future? I'd sure love it if someone were to try and pry our PBS away from the public trough.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at August 7, 2003 at 09:22 AM

Peter Manning is just another rat that deserted the sinking ABC ship. Now safe in his well-paid, underworked job for life with a university, he can snipe to his heart's content at the Government.

With turkeys like this teaching them, no wonder courses in Media Studies are such a joke.

Posted by: Rob (No 1) at August 7, 2003 at 12:37 PM

It doesn't really matter how good or bad the ABC is, it must be a waste of money because a releatively small % of people watch or listen. Clearly we have heaps of media already and so there is not basis to keep putting a hand in my pocket to help pay for the damn thing.

Posted by: PJ at August 7, 2003 at 02:09 PM

"ABC Newsradio" (1026 in southern Victoria) is able to bring us pretty much straightforward and balanced coverage of news, current affairs, and politics. Ocassionally an excerpt taken from another ABC area ("AM", "PM", "7.30 Report", etc) may rankle, otherwise the facts are usually well presented.
Why can't the rest of the ABC attain this standard?

Posted by: robd at August 7, 2003 at 05:10 PM

So that's 1026 News Radio, ABC local radio (e.g. 774 Melbourne, ABC Radio National (Melbourne 621), Triple J National, ABC Classic FM, SBS Radio. Any more?

How many ABC stations do we need funded by Terry Taxpayer for God's sake?

Combine them all into one network of AM local stations and one national FM network.

Posted by: ilibcc at August 7, 2003 at 05:24 PM

Looks like it's party time at the Club House for Brown Shirts.

You lot must be lost for words at the thought of the ABC being stripped program by program of any serious news content. I hear they want to rebroadcast Fox News and have our very own "Great Right Hero" Tim Blair host an all new Fox and Diggers segment.

It sure is Springtime For Howard and Australia, and the gangs of wannabe Brown Shirts who now roam Australia like a pack of attack dogs putting the bite on anyone who doesn't follow the politically right line as prescribed by the "Great Right Hero" Tim Blair as his fellow priests of approved thought.

Come on Tim tell us what I should be thinking today. What unBlair thoughts am I guilty of today. Please Tim I truly do await your latest edict as to what I should be thinking.

Posted by: White Bread at August 7, 2003 at 08:28 PM

If you're influenced in your thinking by ABC editorial content, you're one poor sad git.
I'm influenced by Anacho Bolshevik Collective reportage to the extent that it causes a seething rage, folled by a raging thirst for anything containing alcohol.

Posted by: Habib Bickford at August 7, 2003 at 08:50 PM

White Bread:

What's so wrong about people asking a network to stand or fall on its own merit? All I see is people complaining, just like me, that we are forced to support something that could support itself.

I don't see anyone trying to make you believe anything. It seems you are still free to voice your opinions. Do you fear Australia is on the verge of Martial Law? Will people knock on your door at night and drag you away?

If you *really* believe Australia is on the verge of doing this ==> leave now before it's too late.
Why take chances? If the government is as bad as you have stated and BrownShirts are out in force, why remain in Australia?

Pick a better country. Not the US, please. Move there. You will be safe from the BrownShirts.

Hope you feel better as soon as you move to a more 'progessive' country. I hear Cuba is quite progressive. You may want to try it out.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at August 7, 2003 at 09:04 PM

OK, White Bread. Today you should be thinking:

"Where are all those voices coming from?"

"Oh no! My pants!"

"This much fungus cannot be normal."

"Left shoe has the 'L' written on there."

Those are the things you should be thinking today. Please write tomorrow for your complete list of Friday thoughts.

You're welcome.

Posted by: tim at August 7, 2003 at 09:05 PM

White Bread looks a lot like that crazy freak who was stalking the site recently under various scatalogical pseudonyms. Maybe he's matured: he's taking his first steps toward some simple irony, and can change email all by himself. And the writing, while still devoid of any meaning, is at least starting to look like real words.

All the same, I wouldn't make any sudden moves.

Posted by: The at August 8, 2003 at 08:41 AM

Funding is a different issue to bias. Whilst the ABC's lefty leaning gets annoying at times (ok, really really annoying lots of the time), it is still infinitely preferable to most of the complete crap pumped out by the commercial stations. And as for funding: have you ever tried going into Woolworths and asking for "the stuff without the TV advertising costs because you don't watch 7/9/10"? Make no mistake, we are forced to pay for all of them, and cannot avoid paying for the ones you don't watch.
Its all very well to pick on Indira's pay packet, or Philip Adams (may he go to Cuba when he dies, or earlier if possible), but they aren't paying those commercial TV news and weather "personalities" the minimum wage either.

Posted by: PQ at August 8, 2003 at 11:01 AM

The commercials serving up rubbish doesn't excuse the fact that, via the ABC, taxpayers are forcibly paying - a heap - for someone's political line on too many State-owned radio and TV station outlets.

Posted by: ilibcc at August 8, 2003 at 11:25 AM

Its all very well to pick on Indira's pay packet, or Philip Adams (may he go to Cuba when he dies, or earlier if possible), but they aren't paying those commercial TV news and weather "personalities" the minimum wage either.

The thing is, though, PQ, channel 7/9/10 are all private organisations, and if they want to pay their weather personalities the maximum wage, and then some, then its perfectly within their rights to do so. With the ABC, things couldn't be more different. It's publically owned and taxpayer funded, and it's owners - ie, the people who pay their 'four cents a day' - are completely within their rights to complain about paypackets and the quality of various shows.
It's also fairly obvious that the ABC, while they are given a huge competitive advantage by the government, are in commercial terms unsuccesful. They just aren't able to get the ratings! Something is pretty wrong here.

Posted by: TimT at August 8, 2003 at 11:30 AM

Funding commercial broadcasters is entirely discretionary- don't buy any goods and services promoted on these outlets if you don't want to fund them, and ignore the ads as most people do. Funding the ABC is extortion by legislation. Funny that the Friends of the ABC, who are convinced of the worth of the network and the huge public support for same, run like poodles if the idea of subscription comes up- the ABC would have to become popular to attract funding, and that ain't gonna happe with the current management and crew.
Big Ted could run the place better than the chimps running the place now.

Posted by: Habib Bickford at August 8, 2003 at 11:52 AM

In fact, Big Kev could run the ABC better.

Posted by: Habib Bickford at August 8, 2003 at 11:52 AM

No one person runs the ABC. It is the ultimate Stalinist workers' collective existing in a glorious time-warp, a mid-twentieth-century ivory tower from which pronouncements can be made and aspersions cast in all directions.

How ironic. One of their boring mantras, so often repeated, is that John Howard wants to 'drag us back to the 'fifties'.

Posted by: ilibcc at August 8, 2003 at 12:28 PM

"don't buy any goods and services promoted on these outlets if you don't want to fund them,"

That probably only leaves roots and berries...

Posted by: PQ at August 8, 2003 at 01:03 PM

And I don't recall saying the ABC is well run: it does seem to have turned into one of those bureaucratic cosy clubs like so many public service departments do if allowed to.
My point is only that the funding of all free to air broadcasting is paid by us, regardless of whether or not we watch/listen to a particular station.

Posted by: PQ at August 8, 2003 at 01:05 PM

Not many products and services can afford the cost of advertising on commercial TV; there are heaps of things you can buy without supporting Kezza 1, Kezza 2 and whatever runs 10. If a product has an especially obnoxious ad campaign (Lynx deodorant for example) I purposely avoid it at all costs- discretionary spending. I avoid tax wherever possible, but the salaried component of my income is subject to full marginal rates, over which I have no control, therefore I don't have any say about funding Indira Naidoo's wanderlust and Wil Anderson's absence of a sense of humour.

Posted by: Habib Bickford at August 8, 2003 at 01:15 PM

Who are you supporting if you buy a Bananas in Pyjamas video at an ABC Bookshop?

Posted by: pooh at August 8, 2003 at 01:36 PM

If a product has an especially obnoxious ad campaign (Lynx deodorant for example) I purposely avoid it at all costs

So that's what the smell is...

Posted by: Robert at August 8, 2003 at 01:59 PM

I use dung- I have a bizarre sexual fatish involving flies, and this works better at attracting blowies than "Lynx" does in making girlies swoon.

Posted by: Habib Bickford at August 8, 2003 at 04:03 PM

The problem with government supported broadcasting is that (at least in the US) most of its viewers/listeners -- excluding, perhaps, children's programming and some specials -- tend to be higher income (and lean left politcally). Yet the same people who are against across-the-board tax cuts, but (sometimes) claim to favor buts for "working families" (i.e., the middle class) have no problem requiring these same middle class families to subsidize broadcasting the upper class prefers.

Posted by: Chuck T. at August 8, 2003 at 06:03 PM

You're not the Chuck T. who's currently president of Liberia?
I love your gymboots.

Posted by: Habib Bickford at August 8, 2003 at 09:03 PM