ABC: no more Mr. Nice Guy

ABC: no more Mr. Nice Guy

THE ABC and SBS could for the first time charge viewers to watch content under a proposal put forward by the government-commissioned review of the public broadcasters.

This story was originally published by The Australian

We’re entering an era where audiences expect to be informed and entertained for free and now Australia’s broadcasting stalwart ABC is crumbling under that expectation. The Australian reports the ABC and SBS could, for the first time, begin to charge viewers for content.

An eight-page executive summary of the review, which identifies tens of millions of dollars’ worth of potential savings and new revenue streams, includes the ­option of creating a shared ABC and SBS back-office entity with a private sector partner to deliver extensive administration savings. The review says the SBS could also be allowed to increase the number of minutes of advertising it could run.

One of the most controversial proposals in the summary, obtained by The Australian, is the creation of a “pay-per-view service” once programs have run for free on television and online “catch-up” services for a certain period.

Viewers, who are currently able to access an extensive catalogue of ABC programming for free through its popular iView service, could also be asked to pay for programming delivered in high-definition or material from the ABC archives. The efficiency review, conducted by former Seven West Media chief financial officer Peter Lewis at the behest of Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, provides recommendations for the ABC to deliver additional cuts beyond the 1 per cent ­efficiency dividend demanded by the May budget. Further cuts to the ABC budget are now likely to be 4 per cent and any savings implemented at the ABC and SBS will not be injected back into the broadcasters.