ABC and SBS brawl over Howard years

Both SBS and the ABC are making documentaries that reflect on ‘the Howard years’ but a stoush has broken out over the use of archival footage.

The ABC has been accused of reneging on an agreement for SBS to access film footage from ABC archives for a documentary it began working on in early 2007. Its documentary is to be presented by Gary Sturgess, journalist, lawyer and documentary maker.

The ABC, which in April last year agreed to sell archival footage, has suddenly decided to put conditions on a sale apparently designed to make sure that the SBS series is not screened before one the ABC is now planning.

According to the Canberra Times, the ABC intervention appears to have involved both the ABC board, and the ABC managing director, Mark Scott.

ABC management are said to have stalled and delayed answering questions about what was happening, and it was only on August 4, after appeals to the board, that Mr Scott wrote to deny that any agreement had ever been made, while holding out an ”appropriate” agreement on conditions.

Nick Torrens, co-producer of the Liberal Rule program sold to SBS, says that Frank Haines, his fellow producer, had negotiated a normal access and rights agreement with the ABC archive 16 months ago. Mr Torrens, who said that his team was now scrabbling to find footage from commercial television archives, said yesterday that Australian public broadcasters had a mandate to act within the public interest.

”The ABC Archive is a public resource, publicly funded,” Mr Torrens said. ”What justification could there be for the ABC to place an embargo on the use of the ABC Archive by an independent documentary producer and to reject as well the commercial opportunity of archive recoupment to the ABC?”

For more on this story check out the excellent article at Canberra Times

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