ABC Media Watch, 16 August 2010
, Jonathan Holmes: "Sky News ... has got its eyes on another very precious ABC asset, which is the overseas Australia Network, which is funded, largely, by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Sky thinks it should be allowed to tender for that channel, why shouldn’t they be allowed to? Mark Scott: Well if there’s a tender for it, Sky will be able to bid for it and the ABC would bid to keep up with the service. But we have in our charter the fact that we are to broadcast internationally. We’ve been doing an outstanding job for the best part of 10 years or so with Australia Network. But the Lowy Institute recently did a review of international broadcasting around the world. There’s a big increase in the levels of international broadcasting and it’s being delivered by public broadcasters around the world. Jonathan Holmes: What, exclusively? Mark Scott: Exclusively. Jonathan Holmes: Well I mean CNN and people like that are not public broadcasters. Mark Scott: Yes but CNN is a private company, they receive no government funding to do that service and so if Sky News wants to run its own international service, there’s no inhibitor on that as well. But governments fund public broadcasters. Jonathan Holmes: But why couldn’t Sky do that? Mark Scott: What the Lowy Institute found was that the public broadcasters had the credibility and the independence to deliver that service. We have no other commercial agenda, we have no other business in those countries, there’s no distraction by commercial interests. All we have to do is deliver as an independent public broadcaster and nowhere else in the world, nowhere else in the world is this put out to tender. We don’t put our embassies out to tender, we don’t put our defence force out to tender and other countries don’t put their public broadcasting and their international broadcasting out to tender."
I'm not convinced by Mr. Scott's logic. There's no distraction by government (as sole funder) interests? I'm partial to private international broadcasting, because there is no government funding to fuel doubts about credibilty, and because it costs the taxpayers nothing. However, in languages such as Burmese, Bangla, Hausa, there is little or no commercial potential for international broadcasting. There is, on the other, a demand among audiences in those places for reliable news. Hence, the need for government funded but autonomous international broadcasting. See previous post about same subject.