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Another call to merge ABC and SBS

Outgoing chairman of the ABC, Maurice Newman says that ABC and SBS should be merged.

Outgoing chairman of the ABC, Maurice Newman has told The Australian that ABC and SBS should be merged.

It’s a line that has been floated before, but curiously it wasn’t one that generated any traction under his own reign.

But with less than one month from his retirement, it’s now being raised again. He says he has been trying to convince the directors of the board to back a merger during his five-year term as chairman.

“I pursued it for five years and again during my previous term. I think it is an idea that has come but unfortunately not on my watch.

“SBS doesn’t need a separate broadcasting station. There’s only one underwriter and that’s the taxpayer,” he told the newspaper.

ABC is known to be far more reluctant on the idea than SBS, now managed by a former ABC exec, Michael Ebeid. Under punishing financial constraints, SBS is hoping for a lifeline in the May budget.

SBS has previously floated concepts for more multichannels, including an Indigenous channel, but funding is the key to any growth.

But the idea of a merger may only interest those who are closer to the problem. Across three Audience Inventory surveys on TV Tonight from 2009-11, the idea of merging public broadcasters has repeatedly attracted a “Not Important” vote from readers.

Newman’s replacement will be announced in the new year.

31 Responses

  1. TV playout & transmission distribution functions of both networks should have merged a long time ago. But now impossible owing to WIN MediaHub now doing ABC playout. Maybe when the MediaHub contract runs out in just under 5 years, both ABC and SBS might be in a position to do it then? The DAB+ transmission services of both ABC and SBS are a co-joined venture, have been from the start.There are too many vested interests and fiedoms at both ABC and SBS that would never entertain or be party to a full merger.

  2. Anyone who thinks that a merge would be a good idea clearly doesn’t understand the real purpose of having the two pubic broadcasters. If SBS was solely devoted to multiculturalism and foreign languages then you could easily merge the two without actually losing anything. However, as people have already pointed out, SBS also provides a lot of more mainstream services that overlap with a lot of the ABC’s services, and it is these programs that would be under threat in the event of a merge. This overlap of services is actually a good thing because it provides a safeguard against political interference and provides audiences with greater diversity. Just because the ABC doesn’t want to commission a program doesn’t mean that it can’t find a good home on SBS. Besides, ti isclear that most of those people who want the two stations to merge either never watch SBS or are opposed to its mere existence for political reasons.

  3. The problem with SBS is this. When they’re at their best (ie FIFA World Cup, Tour De France) they are unbeatable. But at the same time they let themselves down badly.

    For example there is terribly placed movies that would appeal to a young audience (ie Asterix & Obelix movies, yes they do exist!) that are shown on World Movies near midnight or worse on a school day and worse they are presented with subtitles and not English dubbed as most young people would demand.

    These movies are a potential basis for a “youth channel” for SBS but are wasted. If SBS was to merge with the ABC, I’m sure that the ABC would have these youth targeted movies shown in prime time during the school holidays and with English dubs. Sounds wierd? The recent French animated movie “Santa’s Apprentice” was English dubbed for a cinema release here.

    And I wonder how popular the ABC could make the French teen comedy movie “LOL” if it was given a chance to be seen on ABC3 in prime time and with an English dub.

    By the way, there was an American remake of “LOL” starring Miley Cryus (of Hanna Montana fame). It has been completed but no release date has been set yet.

  4. This topic’s got me on my high horse a little.

    I think the point should be made that in developed countries multiple public broadcasters are not unusual. Eg. UK: BBC/C4, Canada: CBC/TVO/Knowledge, France: France Television/ARTE, Germany: ARD/ZDF/ARTE.

    Each country has its own quirks but in each there are strong public policy reasons for maintaining separate public broadcasters.

  5. I think both the ABC and especially SBS should be independent of each other. And hope they can both be funded properly so they can continue into the future. I love them both and hope future generations can love them too. Maybe one day electronic graffiti free. 😉

  6. Is this the same Maurice Newman that wanted ABC to present “both sides” of the climate change debate? Leaving aside that there should even be a debate in the first place. Howard’s good mate sounds like he just wants to shut down the fearless & freethinking SBS that restores the balance in a mostly right-wing media marketplace.

    I love ABC Television, but they’re too gutless to commission programs like First Australians, Go Back To Where You Came From, Once Upon A Time In Cabramatta, or bold enough to produce Wilfred, East West 101 or co-produce The Promise. ABC even seem to pass on many international titles like, The War You Don’t See, Bush’s War, How Many People Can Live On Planet Earth (from ABC’s buddies at BBC), Mad Men, Skins or Big Love. With SBS’s limited budget, you’d imagine that ABC would’ve had first dibs on the last few I mentioned (with their $1 billion a year budget)? How are those programs meant to survive a merged ABC & SBS?

    The last people that should have their views considered on SBS’s future is Newman, The Australian, & TV Tonight posters who have hardly watched, listened to, or read (if at all) any of SBS’s excellent content. I consider Australia to be one of the most racist countries’ on Earth & we need SBS now more than ever to educate others to love rather than hate! Maybe ABC should prove themselves by employing more front-line staff that aren’t white, or picking up international programs that aren’t only from the UK & US.

    Good riddance to throwbacks like Maurice Newman!

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