The ABC has welcomed the Federal Government’s focus on reforms to the Australian television and screen industry and called for greater consultation on finding effective measures to ensure the future sustainability of the sector.
The ABC’s response to the government’s Media Reform Green Paper highlights the continued importance of free-to-air (FTA) television services, noting that 75% of Australians watch FTA television for an average of 21.3 hours a week, compared with 12.4 hours for online video-on-demand (VOD) viewers.
David Anderson, ABC Managing Director, said: “We welcome the Green Paper’s recognition of the essential role that FTA television plays in making Australian news, culture and stories available to all Australians.
“As the nation’s biggest backer of homegrown content and creativity, the ABC agrees that broadcast television is important for most Australians and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
“We look forward to further consultation involving the government and FTA broadcasters to find the best approach to ensuring a sustainable future for the Australian television industry across the next decade and beyond.”
The ABC’s response to the Green Paper proposes principles that should be applied to developing a future roadmap for television, including:
- Maintaining the Australian television broadcasting system and the distinct roles that national and commercial broadcasters play in it;
- Equitable distribution of spectrum in each broadcast market; and
- Ensuring consistent access to ABC services for all Australians across metropolitan, regional and remote areas.
In response to the Green Paper, the ABC says the proposal to shift broadcasters to delivering services through shared multiplexes, reducing the number of 7MHz channels allocated for broadcasting, will require broadcasters to reduce the number and/or quality of the channels they offer audiences.
The ABC also submits that the Green Paper model removes any future growth path for FTA television, by preventing broadcasters from offering television services in higher-resolution formats to meet audiences’ expectations and remain competitive with online platforms.
The ABC welcomes the invitation in the Green Paper to propose other means of ensuring a sustainable Australian broadcast television sector.
The ABC submission makes the following points:
- In combination with other funding sources such as Screen Australia, state screen agencies and the producer offset, additional funding for the ABC of $30 million per annum over the next three years would deliver more Australian stories on television screens. That funding will support the production of an extra 36 hours of Australian drama, factual and children’s content and 30 hours of arts, music and specialist programming a year.
- The ABC strongly supports the introduction of regulatory mechanisms to ensure the presence and prominence of FTA broadcasters’ services on connected-TV platforms, which are becoming a new type of gatekeeper for Australian media services and content.
- The ABC acknowledges the merit of the proposition that major international VOD services should contribute to the Australian production sector. Both content commissioners and audiences benefit from a thriving independent sector, and the Corporation supports measures that would sustain and grow it. The ABC would support regulation that would require SVODs to contribute to an Australian content fund. Careful design is required to ensure that it does not add to inflationary pressures already affecting the production sector.
- Legislating an explicit requirement for the national broadcasters to provide new Australian programming is unnecessary. In the absence of any quota, the ABC is already a major investor in Australian content and a key partner to Australia’s independent production sector. Further, the imposition of an explicit content obligation risks affecting the ABC’s operational independence.
The ABC’s response to the Media Reform Green Paper is available via https://about.abc.net.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/ABC-Green-Paper-submission-May-2021.pdf