ABC MD Mark Scott on independence


Barry Tucker                    4 April, 2014

“When I started here the coexistence of commercial and public [media] had settled in quite happily … and it worked. Now the intensities around the battle for digital have meant competition for audiences and competition for revenues.”  — ABC MD Mark Scott

Scott was being interviewed by former employee and one-time staff-elected board member Ramona Koval, for The Saturday Paper.

He explained criticism of the ABC by the commercial news media, mainly News Corp, alleging unfair competition:

“If the ABC disappeared, Fairfax and News Corporation would have as much trouble getting people to pay for their websites. Their problem isn’t us, it’s the hundreds of millions of websites out there, news aggregators, Google News. The ABC is a red herring in this argument, but we’re a convenient red herring for some who want to make the ABC smaller or less relevant,” Scott said.

He said then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott had been quite clear during the 2013 election campaign that there would be no cuts to the ABC’s funding and had since confirmed that in parliament. This story, in The Australian, has Labor saying that Abbott would be breaking an election promise if ABC funds were cut.

In the same report, Abbott was quoted as saying: ”It dismays Australians when the national broadcaster appears to take everyone’s side but our own, and I think it is a problem.” He was speaking on Sydney radio station 2GB. These remarks related to the ABC working in conjunction with The Guardian online in the publication of revelations of Australia spying on Indonesia. Notice that Abbott uses Murdoch’s Fox News technique of the collective noun [“Australians”] without providing statistical evidence. It’s not clear what he means by “our own” [side]. Does he mean Australia or the Liberal party? By “… I think it is a problem”, he is saying it is a problem that the ABC broadcasts news that concerns Australians. In other words, it’s a problem that ABC News does the job it is supposed to do.

That report in The Australian is worth reading for the comments made by Abbott’s Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, Greens leader, Senator Christine Milne, and Labor’s Deputy Opposition Leader, Tanya Plibersek.

In an election-eve interview with SBS Mr Abbott promised ”no cuts to the ABC or SBS”. A few days earlier, his shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, said ABC would not be sold but any “waste” would be cut from its budget. The issue of what constitutes “waste” will presumably be made by Hockey.

Frankly, what Abbott says one day may be completely different the next. Immediately before the 2013 election Abbott said the Opposition was “on a unity ticket” with the caretaker Labor government on Better Schools (Gonski) education funding. After the election Abbott said he would keep the promises he made, “not the promise people think we made”.

A brief biography for Koval can be accessed by clicking on her byline in The Saturday Paper story. @ramonakoval | Website