ABC and SBS: do we still need two public broadcasters?

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In his final appearance at Senate Estimates yesterday, outgoing ABC Managing Director Mark Scott raised the question as to whether Australia still needs two public broadcasters.

Mr Scott believes it may be time for the Government to consider a merger of the ABC with SBS, saying that combining the two public broadcasters is, at the very least, “worthy of investigation”. He also claimed that it’s a “matter for government” as to whether SBS would still be able to serve multicultural needs if it was no longer an independent network.

“I suspect that the SBS of today which is more ‘general interest broadcasting’ means the distinction between the two broadcasters is not as distinct as it once was,” he said. “For example, I think it’s true to say on any reckoning that there is far less subtitled content on its main channel than 20 or 30 years ago.”

Earlier in the day, SBS Managing Director Michael Ebeid expressed his disappointment at the ABC’s airing of Foreign Correspondent at 9.30pm on Tuesdays – the same timeslot as SBS’ Dateline. Mr Scott’s statement may have been a retaliatory response to Mr Ebeid’s complaints.

Even though there has been a long-standing public debate over whether or not the two should merge, SBS has staunchly resisted calls to be absorbed into the larger ABC.

In 2014, Malcolm Turnbull, who was the communications minister at the time, called for the ABC and SBS to share offices to save taxpayer money as part of an efficiency review he commissioned. The ABC was in favour of the move – SBS was not.

Mr Scott served as ABC’s managing director for almost 10 years. He will be succeeded by Google executive Michelle Guthrie in April. He may throw more fuel on what could be a fiery debate when he delivers his farewell speech to the National Press Club later this month.

Do you think the SBS and ABC should merge? What do you feel we would lose as a result of such a merger? Is SBS still serving the needs of the multicultural masses?

Read more at The Age
Read more at The Australian

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?



Total Comments: 50
  1. 0

    My TV watching is predominantly SBS and ABC. I still see significant differences in the programming format and show types between the two broadcasters.Some of the shows currently on SBS are just brilliant. The Bridge, Bergen, are very much examples. I would much rather 7,9 and 10 merged than the ABC and SBS.

    Don’t have any problems with ABC and SBS sharing back room operations. But that would probably be the thin end of the wedge.

    • 0

      I appreciate that Bergen is not currently showing.

    • 0

      I have sort of swung over to these two as well Rob as the commercial channels have become boring and repetitive, riddled with sexism and display political polarisation and clearly promote right wing politics rather than air views.

  2. 0

    No, I would hate to see them merge. I think the difference between the two is still very distinct and each fulfil a very important role in what is otherwise a wasteland of superficial, advertisement-filled trash coming from the commercial organisations. Long live both the ABC and SBS — we REALLY need both.

  3. 0

    Keep SBS and get rid of ABC.

  4. 0

    I can see financial benefits for the budget in merging. But more importantly, have them both play a neutral reporting roll rather than a politically biased view as is now prevalent, particularly at the ABC

    • 0

      Good one, Mogo51: say something often enough and after a while even you will believe it. I assume you mean that the ABC is politically biased against the LNP, right? What is your evidence for this? Enquiry after enquiry has shown that it is not. These days it’s biased towards the Right. After years of unjustified threats by the LNP, Abbott’s petulant attacks, and Turnbull’s savage cuts last year, the ABC is running scared. Hence its soft interviews with Government ministers. Where is the balance in its reporting of the crisis in Syria, for example? It simply parrots the American and Australian government anti-Assad anti-Putin line. Its role should be to challenge the Government, be it Labor or Coalition, at every turn. SBS News is just as bad. Put them under the same roof and they will become even more homogenised than they are now.

  5. 0

    This is just another internal power struggle. Everyone knows they should be independent of each other, but all the political bottom feeders are sensing a personal advantage if an amalgamation takes place. Amalgamation, that’s a joke, one will win, one will lose. Somebody wants control over independent news broadcasting!!

  6. 0

    NO I like them both and watch both– SBS has many foreign shows — and also now has some adds– I am not interested in the foreign shows on SBS but it also has a lot of good shows and the ABC has so many good shows AND has no adds at all. I say leave them alone!
    What is with this Lib’ Government they always want to get rid of the ABC, I guess they are afraid that the ABC show more truth than other channels that are manipulated by BIG BUSINESS

  7. 0

    No, Mark, we don’t need both. Close down your ABC and have the employees do something more worthwhile like picking up litter.

  8. 0

    Yes, there would be advantages to a merger as SBS could take over one of the exisiting ABC Channels plus bring over one of their own. There must be savings from having two management structures, purchasing depts etc. Seems sensible to merge the two

    • 0

      “Savings from having two management structures”? – where did you EVER get this misconception? Have a look at the country’s political structure. There is duplication of management in every state and territory and it’s called (and very loosely) “government”! Are you a new migrant, Ted?

  9. 0

    So long as the SBS transmissions after midnight still do lots and lots of sex and culturally surprising stuff. Let the ABC keep on doing its politically correct balancing act during the day. It would be a great opportunity to get rid of some of the bubble headed ABC academics who pose as specialist interviewers and spent the whole time showing off – ie Book and Arts. Cathcart asks a question and then answers it and tells everyone how he can do everything too. Don’t know how some of these interviewers keep their jobs. Only a moron asks a question framed as: Was it this or this or this? A multiple choice question. As I said, idiot academics in the wrong place.

  10. 0

    Of course they should merge. Having two separate entities suckling off the public teat and essentially doing the same thing is ridiculous. Those people who say that they should remain separate because they have different programming have no idea how a broadcaster works. To use their logic, we should have an ABC for sport, another ABC for current affairs, another ABC for news, another ABC for childrens’ programs and so on.

    The one entity can handle all of the usual programs presently broadcast by SBS and the ABC by creating another department within the ABC and thereby releasing the administrators with a huge saving in taxpayers’ funds. By all means keep the separate channel(s) open to broadcast the programs so we still have an SBS as well as an ABC but have both administrations merged.

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