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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

public broadcasting in the 21st century « Previous | |Next »
March 20, 2009

In Public Broadcasting looks for a future Margaret Simons says that the challenge is coming not from government, not from the cultural warriors of the right (or not only from them) but from pay television:

The pay television sector understands that the commercial free-to-air business model is broken. Commercial free-to-air television cannot afford to compete with pay television in providing multiple channels of specialised content to niche audiences. To do so would fragment the audience and remove the motivation for mass market advertisers to spend their bucks on television commercials.Public broadcasters are a different matter. They are, potentially, the main competition for pay television....This battle between public and pay is not only about government money, but also about spectrum and government favour.

In its submission to the commonwealth governments Review of the future of Australia's two national broadcasters, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) ASTRA, the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association, says that that the ABC and SBS should receive government money for new channels only in cases where there is a clear market failure.

Even if there is a market failure, ASTRA says, then the money to address it should not go straight to the ABC and SBS. The required services should probably be put out to competitive tender. Likewise spectrum. If that is available, it too should be put out to competitive auction, not given to the public broadcasters.

Simons says that the ASTRA submission directly challenges almost every leg of the ABC’s funding pitch and vision. Mark Scott has used words like “market failure” at virtually every opportunity to press his claim for government money for children’s content, investigative journalism and more Australian content.

What role then for public broadcasting? An socially innovative one---ABC and SBS have led the way in multichannelling and in use of the internet and pioneering innovative drama--- as this takes us beyond market failure argue argue Terry Flew, Stuart Cunningham, Axel Bruns, and Jason Wilson in their submission:

In the 21st century digital media environment, where all media outlets are multi-platform and digitised in their modes of content production and delivery, it is better to understand the ABC and SBS as public service media organizations, rather than public service broadcasters. This emphasizes how it is the services provided, rather than the delivery platforms, that are at the core of rationales for public support of the ABC and SBS.

Social innovation refers to user-created content strategies, particularly in the provision of online services; hyper-local content; content innovators in the provision of news and information utilizing user created content strategies. The ‘people formerly known as the audience’ are increasingly finding their own means of producing and distributing content and the ABC and SBS can help to shape this activity.

Terry Flew in his blog says that:

The development of the Internet draws attention to a second vision of social innovation, where it comes from the margin and it built incrementally rather than being the product of large-scale, conscious organizational design. Whatever were the original intentions in developing the Internet, it has proved to be a radically decentralized informational and communications system, where innovation arises from the ad hoc and unco-ordinated actions of myriad individuals whose activities become interconnected in the complex networked ecology to a whole that is exponentially greater than the sum of its parts.

The ABC and SBS can effectively harness both of these models of social innovation. To do so, however, he agues that there should be a substantial opening up of both organizations to user-created content. By becoming more participatory public service media organisations, there is the scope to stimulate more public participation, creative output, diversity of sources and, ultimately, more public support for both the ABC and the SBS.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:37 AM | | Comments (2)


Its an exciting vision---Flew says that the ABC:

can help to shape this activity [of user-created content] in ways that generate greater quality, reach wider audiences, and enable more significant conversations among Australians about matters of shared local, national and international importance.

Not much user generated content on Foxtel---its still content from the centre in the form of a choice of packages.

yeah I agree. The packages are quite limiting and it is a take it or leave it---you cannot put together your own package.