The story's a little old now, but it brings up some interesting points about the way the ABC has started commissioning programs, especially Children's programs given the success of Bananas in Pyjamas. At the February Senates estimates committee hearing one of the issues that didn't get as much play in the media was Tasmanian Labor Senator Kerry O'Brien's questions regarding children's programming and what commercial and marketing factors are involved in deciding which ones get made and which ones don't.
Senator O'Brien's concerns were, quite rightly, that the ABC had started giving greater consideration to programs that could be onsold or produce some commercial return rather than give consideration to the educational quality of the content. ABC MD Russell Balding agreed that if there were two programs of equal quality then the one that would get the nod would be the one that promised the greater economic return. Given the ABC's Charter and philosophy on non-commercialism this didn't sit well with Senator O'Brien.
O'Brien: "... The point I'm seeking to make, and I think you are confirming it, is if two programs are potentially good quality programs and one has better ancillary rights exploitation potential then the one with the ancillary rights exploitation will getup."
Balding: "Most probably, yes, if I can only afford to invest in one of those two projects."
The author of the piece then goes on to say that he suspects that
"many parents would much rather ABC Enterprises had no role in commissioning children's television content."
I can't argue with that. I'm sure it is the case and if I was outside the ABC I'd be let down if I felt that children's programming on "my taxpayer funded station" was driven by commercial considerations rather than validity of content. However, I'm not. I know that any commericial or corporate leanings the ABC has come to is as a result of many decades of government, both Labor and Coalition, reducing funding, choosing particular representatives and generally pushing the ABC towards this methodology. As a result, the ABC has found that to survive, given the lack of government funding, it needs to think commercially as funding from these programs goes back into program making.
I find it quite tasteless that after decades of pushing the ABC towards commercialism the government, regardless of political affiliation, has the hypocrisy to point the finger, especially after the reign of former Media Minister Richard Alston. If you want a non-biased, commercial-consideration-free ABC, give it the money it needs to do its job independently. Otherwise just admit that the government is hobbling the ABC so it can be sold off as "an irrelevant and outdated model of state run bureaucratic waste."
Here endeth the aggro...
The Australian: Why ABC loves a toy story [February 24, 2005]