Public broadcasters, public broadsides.

bullfightsWhy is it our two public broadcasters ABC and SBS can’t seem to get along?

We always seem to be hearing about digs from one side of the fence to the other with about as much regularity as Sydney and Melbourne or Holden and Ford. Is it not clear to both that there is a place on our screens for two networks?

We love the light entertainment on the ABC. We love its news and current affairs. Those British period pieces and crime thrillers are terrific. And on SBS Top Gear is an institution. We would be lost without Eurovision, Iron Chef, Skins, RocKwiz and its wonderful ‘arthouse’ progamming.

It’s back in the public spotlight after SBS moved to defend its need for advertising, amid calls by a Greens Senator to minimise its ads.

A (nameless) SBS spokeswoman told The Australian today, “Increasingly we do have to be reliant on (advertising),”

“If the government did remove it, it would have to increase our (funding).”

Fair enough. But in a dig at the ABC, the spokeswoman added, “The ABC doesn’t choose to be commercial-free.

“That’s a policy decision.”

The comments follow ABC chief executive Mark Scott giving a speech to commonwealth broadcasters in London last week that it was a mistake for public broadcasters to accept advertising, as around the world it generally meant governments stopped increasing their funding.

“I remember meeting with the heads of the Korean and Canadian public broadcasters, both reliant on advertising as well as government funding for their television services,” Mr Scott said. “Their experience was the same. Effectively, they had experienced no government funding increase for a quarter of a century. They are told if they want more money, they should get it themselves.”

Network rivalry is usually confined to commercial networks who are all chasing advertising dollars. But if we’re to presume the public broadcasters get hot under the collar over government funding then maybe they should remember that triennial issue was resolved in May for the next three years.

At the time there was even talk both might have to share some resources in administration. And then there was the case of ABC backtracking on a deal to give SBS access to archival footage over two John Howard documentaries.

It seems there’s always a prickly response whenever these two networks are placed in the same sentence.

How our 5 Free to Air networks ever negotiated their way through a playing field for Freeview is one of the industry’s newest mysteries.

Maybe Senator Conroy ought to summon these two to his office and bang their corporate heads together. Or at least tell them to get a room…

Source: The Australian


  1. …forgot to add I probably get more value from my taxpayers cents each week with ABC and SBS than I do with most other federal sevices which I never access/use. Better value than Foxtel!

  2. I’m glad we have the ABC and SBS and appreciate them both for many of their shows. The commercial channels could be offshoots of a US network and most people wouldn’t notice the difference – They seem keen on any content at the lowest prices whereas the ABC and SBS clearly are looking to educate, provide focussed content and provide quality current affair/investigative content where they can. Some of us stil have thinking brains and need a little stimulus now and then not just syndicated fodder.

  3. I am glad that sbs & abc fight for their share of the pie.
    I like their pluck. I like their diversity and at least they let most shows run in order and in full.

  4. I am grateful that we have 2 diverse and excellent public broadcasters.Enjoy.

    As for ads on SBS so what….how many “commercials” does the ABC air between programs – lots.

  5. So are you saying Paull that 7, 9 and 10 are more Australian than the ABC? The one network that actually has Australia in its name? The one network (apart from SBS) that actually respects the viewers and is respected by the viewers for too many reasons that it is possible to list? If any one network is intrinsically Australian it would undisputedly be the ABC. From where I see it, people who never watch the ABC have no sense. Think about it, what did the ABC ever do to them? Then think about what the three commercial networks did to them…

  6. SBS very much chose to go commercial, even if it was encouraged by a Howard Governmnent.

    I beleive the best thing that could happen to SBS is:

    1a) Stop waisting money on google ads, billboards etc if your so short of money.

    1) Spill the board and management. Find a board that reflects the interests most of content and the special needs of the community. Too many people in the commun ity are upset by the current board and director.

    2) Government to increase funding once the community and its special needs iare properly reprosented

    3) Get rid of advertising during any program that is not designed for it like Movies, many docos etc at the minumum but could be apllied to everything. Yopu could do what they have done in France and get rid of advertsing in prime time. There are a few options including reverting back to no breaks at all.

    4) Galvernise the charter with new ammendments against the commercialisation of broadcast. Including advertising and content. We already have commercial free to air networks and we dont need another one.

  7. With digital multi-channeling, is there really need for two government funded networks? Give all the money to the ABC. They could just as easily play a few Friday night French movies on ABC 4.

  8. Not that the ABC (or sbs for that matter) is ever on in my household, but I sure hope they never turn to advertising for extra revenue.

    As for SBS, it has too much of a european flavour too it. It’s like comparing soccer fans to football fans in australia. Footy (all 3 codes), like 7, 9 and 10, will always be more popular because theyre intrinsically australian. But soccer, which does have a small following here, won’t catch on to the masses. Just like sbs, which normally carries a 5% audience share.

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