Inquiry told there’s less money for ABC entertainment

Updated: Producers tell a Senate inquiry ABC's budget for entertainment shows has been impacted by the costs of ABC News 24, but ABC's Head of Policy denies the claim.

It’s enough to make you. Think.

A Senate inquiry into ABC cuts has been told the public broadcaster’s budget for commissioning entertainment shows has been impacted by the cost of running ABC News 24 and online content.

The submission representing Independent producers who have delivered ABC shows such as The Chaser, Summer Heights High, Enough Rope, Two Men in a Tinnie and The Gruen Transfer claim the commissioning budget for entertainment has dropped 40 per cent in four years, from $13.5 million in 2008-09 to $9.2 million in 2011-12.

“There’s less money now for two channels [ABC1 and ABC2] than there was when there was just one channel,” producer Nick Murray (Cordell Jigsaw) told The Age.

The submission calls for the ABC to adopt a commissioning model similar to the BBC, with 50 per cent of programs made internally, 25 per cent externally and 25 per cent up for competitive tender.

“If a show can be produced more effectively internally, then it will be favoured over a similar, external production … [on the condition that] internal programs be properly budgeted and resources charged at the same rate as the external programs are charged,” the producers say.

The Senate inquiry is due to table its report on October 12th.

A second article in today’s Age (and a very good read) also looks at why the broadcaster has been losing shows such as The Graham Norton Show, which is headed to TEN, and why BBC docos such as Inside the Human Body, Richard Hammond’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Polar Bears on Ice are increasingly appearing on commercial broadcasters.

”We will continue to lose shows,” ABC2 controller Stuart Menzies says. ”It’s upsetting but it’s not something you can wail about too much because there’s a definite ceiling we’re willing to pay for things. We’re a public broadcaster who’s about bringing value and a different audience to ABC2 and if a commercial channel wants to pay X times what we can pay then that’s what happens.”

Menzies recently acknowledged ABC had been outbid on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report by Foxtel.

UPDATE: Alan Sunderland, Head of Policy ABC writes on TV Tonight:
“For the umpteenth time, let me confirm that the funding for ABC News 24 was provided from savings achieved as a result of the introduction of new technologies, and not one dollar was taken from any other existing area of the ABC’s operations.”

14 Responses

  1. Johnson,

    ABC Television does have an output deal with BBC Worldwide & according to The Australian it’s about to expire:

    theaustralian.com.au/business/media/crikey-caught-out-on-contra-deal/story-e6frg996-1226119199622 (sixth story down)

    I read somewhere else that the current deal has only been going for two years. The question that some might ask would be whether their links with BBC are worth it considering the amount of programs that go to other networks. That said, I think it’s safe to say that ABC have never been interested in rubbish like Top Gear.

  2. Re: the second article from The Age. Unlike US program suppliers, UK networks like BBC and ITV do not have output deals with Australian networks, which is why you see BBC and ITV programs spread across various networks, e.g. Midsomer Murders (ITV) on the ABC, Downton Abbey (ITV) on Seven, and Top Gear (BBC) on Nine. This is compounded by the fact that BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the broadcaster, has interests in several pay TV channels in Australia. Given BBC and ABC are both public broadcasters mostly funded by taxpayers, surely ABC should have stitched up an exclusive supply deal with BBC sometime ago? Maybe ABC and SBS should join together to bid for first rights to ALL programs commissioned by the BBC? I would love to see the ABC regain documentaries such as Life in Cold Blood and Monarchy which aired on Nine.

  3. Imagine how much money could be sent back into programs if [thunder and lightning] the news operations of ABC and SBS were combined and enhanced. Just make sure Anton Enus keeps a prime newsreading position.

  4. No way, the ABC should be making Commercial decsions with the way they spend their money to extent with programming. They have have made some dumb decisions with taxpayers money! It doesn’t grow on trees unless you want a TV license fee. Even that scenerio isn’t perfect as a funding model with some of the garabage that they produce nowdays in the UK.

    They made the right move in ditching lawn bowls, loved to know how many tuned into that when its on. Likewise, with the Arty Farty show on Sunday. I reckon to save money they should roll SBS into the ABC, as that is more of a drain on the taxpayer with costs. Usually, I watch more on Aunty than any other network during the week.

  5. Regarding the ABC Head of Policy’s comments: That might be the case, but the savings the TV division made were “siphoned off” to help fund News 24. Then when there were other shortfalls (ie from ABC Commercial) they were left with no choice but to cut the Entertainment budget by 40% in the last 4 years. So the siphoning may not be direct, but has the same effect. The fact is that the funding for News 24 had to come from somewhere. Some of it has come from the Entertainment budget. So funding for the most watched programs on ABC TV is being impacted. At the same time, there is a campaign to retain a large national internal production facility infrastructure. The ownership of those facilities (including OB facilities) dramatically reduces the flexibility to actually commission shows for people to watch. What’s more important, the audience or studios and OB vans? Something has to give.
    Nick Murray

  6. I can understand commercial networks have more money to buy stuff that on the ABC, but it just amaze me why buy? What on earth does ten want Graham Norton show, how are they going to treat it!

  7. Sigh. We should return to licence fees. Look at the Scandinavian broadcasters! Multiple channels, radio, online, movies in countriess with populations between a quarter and half that of Aus. Also takes the political element out of the equation. The ABC, and SBS, shouldn’t have to go hat in hand to the govt to beg for money.

  8. Sigh…… if money really has been “siphoned off” from the commissioning budget for ABC News 24, I really wish someone would tell me where it went, and why we didn’t get it.
    The truth is that this did not happen, it is not happening, and it will not happen.
    For the umpteenth time, let me confirm that the funding for ABC News 24 was provided from savings achieved as a result of the introduction of new technologies, and not one dollar was taken from any other existing area of the ABC’s operations.
    Alan Sunderland
    Head of Policy
    ABC News

  9. It should be illegal for Pay TV to have exclusives unless they make it in this country themselves. Non-exclusives would be fine for the rest. By the way I hope the ABC can be funded properly for all their channels.

  10. This all comes as no surprise at all.The idiots who thought that ABC News 24 would be a tour de force should be sacked.No HD on there primary , all the good shows going.What will be next for this once great channel.I really miss The Colbert report and John Daly show , they were great.
    I wonder if ABC2 will continue to survive.I guess the budgets will keep getting cut each year.

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