I know too little about media policy but as I watch the manoeuvering by the ABC Board, I am reminded by something my cousin told me when I visited Canada in July. He is a sound technician with the CBC in Toronto and the Chairman had just given a speech in which he had said that of the eight priorities the CBC had, television and radio came last. Here is a story from The Globe and Mail from around that same time that seems to show a kind of parallel shift taking place in our own ABC with that in Canada. It’s a story titled, Why does the CBC compete with newspapers? Here’s what I think is relevant:
The CBC strategy calls for TV/radio to be the lowest priorities and Internet and “mobile” services to be given the highest priority and predicts that by 2020 twice as many people, 18 million per month, will use CBC digital/mobile services.
Until a year or two ago CBC was open about its ambitions to compete with daily newspapers for readers. Here are some past statements by Hubert Lacroix, president of CBC, which show that his current strategy was developed as early as 2008:
“We must be a content company. Don’t think of us…as simply a radio or television broadcaster.”
“…we are now much more a content company than a broadcaster.”
“That means offering audio, video and text content on multiple platforms… We are an integrated content company.”
Compare and contrast with this from the editorial in The Australian today:
The creation of ABC Digital Network is a reckless development, pushing the broadcaster further into the most dynamic area of the media world. Start-ups like Mamamia and Buzzfeed, the entry of Guardian Australia and others, and expansion into apps by traditional media, among other innovations, mean there is more media competition than ever. The ABC is not there to compete against and crowd out new and existing entrants in ultra-competitive areas.
I can only say to you folks in the commercial media you are being surrounded by a billion dollar octopus that will put you out to pasture if it can. A bit of self-interest by the commercial media operators would go a long way to contain what will be an overgrown ideological monster that will be very hard to contain if it is not stopped now.
And just to remind us of the stakes for the Coalition, ABC cuts: Bill Shorten vows to increase funding. There are many ways to get rid of Murdoch and a free press, but the best one of all is to compete them to death through government funding its own media organisation.
Unlike promising no carbon taxes, nobody voted for the Coalition because they promised not to touch the ABC. Circumstances change, and if this is not strangled at birth, you will live to regret this for a very long time to come.