Pirate Party Australia and implementation of Public Broadcasting Policy

As consulted with Brendan and Mozart, and as suggested by Mozart himself, I would like to propose that we devise a policy for Pirate Party Australia on Public Broadcasting.

Since I raised this issue with Mozart and Brendan, it has been agreed upon that it will be put forward at the next National Council meeting to see whether the Party can adopt a new policy in regards to Public Broadcasting.

For those who are new to this conversation, I wish to post some text from a recent paper I wrote, of my concerns specifially related to ABC funding and related concerns.

It is now clear that the Policy in which should be proposed and eventually devised for Pirate Party Australia, should not be specifically related to solely the ABC network, but a broader range of Public Broadcasting.

Whilst we prepare to seek to get this policy implementation underway with the Party, we are seeking some input from our fellow PPAU Members.

The paper composed reads as follows:

Why the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Must Remain Independent and Government Funded -

Australia’s media is intended to be as open and free as democratically possible. Recent changes to media and publishing laws in Australia, as part of the Counter-Terrorism Amendments lawslegislation, has restricted the rights of journalists and publishers to a certain extent.

Despite the changes, from a general perspective, free media still exists in its intended democratic form.

Restrictive totalitarian countries such as North Korea, China and Russia (among others) essentially control or very heavily influence all media entities and what the respective countries citizens are exposed to, through intimidation or state-owned media. The structure of free and open Australian media can not be compared, especially the ABC television and radio network. This is how it must remain.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) is such an important media entity in Australia’s media landscape.

The ABC is Government funded in-full, yet it remains a completely independent media outlet which is not influenced by the Australian Government bureaucrats. However, it is influenced by law and bound to follow the law. Therefore, is only influenced by matter of what all Australian media entities are influenced by the outset law.

The ABC is facing continued Government funding cuts, accompanied by continued commentary, devaluing the importance of a Government funded media entity in Australia.

The Government-backed commentary is shrouding ABC funding with claims that it is receiving too much money and the national budget bottom-line can not cater for such funding.

The truth and reality remains, the budget allocated to the ABC is a very small expenditure out of theGovernment’s total national budget, for a independent and free media entity to exist in Australia.

It holds true that the ABC can make changes internally, to cut its expenditure. And it is doing exactly that. But the ABC needs to be very careful at what programs and scheduling it does cut, in order to achieve the required budget measures. It should not be cutting important news and current affairs programming as those specific programs play a major role in Australia’s media landscape.

What the ABC achieve with its relatively small budget at current, is astounding and commendable. The quality of content is excellent, on both television and radio platforms. All content is backed up by digital content to complement the main programming and almost all the ABC content is available in the form of free-to-download digital video and audio files.

Finally, we can’t stress enough of the absolute importance of the media transcripts the ABC provide; Freedom Publishers Union are just one media entity which refers to and relies on these transcripts from many ABC news and current affairs programs. The transcripts provide valuable information and content which is used as source material and research.

Many other media outlets, mainstream and independent, also utilize and quote ABC transcripts on a regular basis.

It has been suggested the ABC can be privatized and become another commercial-based network. This would have a massive and direct effect on the quality of its news content. Digital content for which the ABC has gained much respect for, is almost certain to be reduced under a commercial-based structure. The aforementioned transcripts will almost certainly also no longer be provided under a commercial-based ABC media entity. Again, transcripts are of fundamental importance for source and research information.

Current mainstream Australian-based networks do not provide digital content and transcripts for news and current affairs that rival what the ABC provide.

Mainstream Australian networks are heavily influenced by business, political and higher agenda. It’sabout commercial advertising to generate revenue to continue to increase profit margins for their shareholders. It is simply how the mainstream commercial networks’ business models are built and how they function.

Mainstream commercial networks also have interests in newspapers and magazine and all the respective news is essentially controlled by the very nature of the business model; Profits need to stay and advertisers need to be satisfied.

If the ABC were to be privatized, the entire ABC network of news and current affairs will undoubtedly fall into the same commercial pitfall. Australia can not allow this to happen.

Freedom Publishers Union strongly opposes any privatization of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It must remain free and independent of commercial influence, in order for it to continue to deliver quality journalism, news and current affairs in a non-biased, non-influenced manner.

Freedom Publishers Union will be lobbying Electronic Frontiers Australia and Pirate Party Australia in an effort to gain traction, momentum and support on this issue and present the facts to a wider Australian audience on why the ABC must remain independent and under the Australian Government funding model.

Brilliant. I jumped on the forum tonight with the intention of posting a question about a PPAU policy towards the ABC, so great to see the discussion has already begun :slight_smile:

Personally I’m open to the idea of allowing limited advertising on some ABC services as a way of providing an additional revenue stream that could be used to fund new and expanded services, such as expanded localised content.

Maintaining the ABC’s national presence, particularly as an independent news and current affairs source, I think is very important, and although the media landscape is rapidly evolving, the traditional media platforms of TV and radio are still going to be around for a few years yet and still reach significant audiences, so these need to be maintained and integrated with expanding online content.

It’s worth remembering too that the ABC provides, if you like, a competitive baseline for commercial media. Commercial media does compete with the ABC for audience share. It’s interesting to notice for example how the advent of ABC News 24 spurred an increase in news programming from the commercial networks, and has particulalry noticeably been in a competitive struggle with Sky News, which before the competition arrived was largely just rebroadcasting segments from the previous night’s Seven and Nine news bulletins. After a decade of little expansion, the competiton from ABC News 24 has seen Sky rapidly increase its numbers of reporters and quantity of live coverage, although it has also increasingly turned towards effectively being an Australian version of Fox News Channel in the style of some of its programming and commentary. My point is though the advent of ABC News 24 brought about a long overdue sizeable expansion of live news coverage in Australia by the whole sector.

I’d also point out that almost every country in the world has a major state-owned broadcaster, which even in western countries is often the country’s dominant broadcaster. Australia isn’t unique in having a major public broadcaster, in most countries commercial media have to compete with a major public broadcaster.

The other issue I think is important here is the importance of the ABC in delivering localised content. In many parts of Australia ABC Local Radio is effectively the only significant local broadcast news source, and it is generally unrivalled in delivering emergency information. I actually want to see a significant expansion of the ABC’s localised content to help fill an increasing void in local media in many areas. In regional Australia in particular there’s been a significant reduction in local commercial TV content since the 1990s, and there have been few significant developments in terms of high penetration online sources of quality localised news and information. Access to local news and information is important in giving people a sense of connection with their community, and in an age of increasingly centralised news and information sources I think there’s a significant public interest justification for an increased role for the ABC here.

I’d like to see the ABC producing local TV/online streamed news programmng right across Australia, eg in equivalent areas to its current local radio programming. In fact why not shfit the focus of the ABC’s localised content to online, with an expanded role for their localised websites as hubs for local news and events, with live video and audio streaming (and of course the flexibility to offer multiple streams eg for coverage of live events).

The ABC of course already does some of this. It already has localised websites with varying degrees of local content, it already streams much of its radio programming, and it produces local TV news outside the 5 big cities in Tasmania, the NT and Canberra, so I’m not talking about a radical shakeup of the ABC, just a significant deepening and expansion of what they already do. And it would create competitive pressures that would push commercial media into producing more localised content. How to fund it? Well that’s why I’d be happy to accept some limited advertising.


I agree with most of that with the proviso that we need to ensure the SBS experience is not repeated - no gradual creeping of ads until it’s basically a commercial station in state drag. When broadcasting institutions have to maintain commercial relationships with advertisers it creates all kinds of subtle editorial pressures.

We should be against privatizing the ABC or hacking away its funding. If we absolutely have to save money in public broadcasting the alternative is to merge our broadcasters and reincarnate SBS as a digital channel within the ABC. Digital channels are much cheaper and SBS with its niche audience probably would have started out that way had the technology been there at the time.

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Would a return of the TV License/Subscription Fee (i.e. Britain(BBC) and Germany(ARD)) be considered?
Probably not.

Maybe some way to have more feedback and more transparency so that a concerned citizen (e.g. Mrs Agnes Crumplebottom of Toorak Gardens) can have a better say on how The ABC is run.

Can we find/fund a study, that can determine bias on the ABC in an most impartial way so that even News Corp readers can not say that the study is flawed.

Sorry for the rambling stream of words.

‘Bias’ tends to be in the eye of the beholder. Everyone in politics at one time or another complains about media bias when the coverage doesn’t reflect their spin on events. The best we can aim for is a diversity of views and analysis and quality journalism that incorporates multiple sources/perspectives in reporting.

At the time of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 the ABC was under venomous attack from the Howard government, but subsequent reports revealed the ABC had actually received more complaints about their coverage being too pro–war.

Conservatives want their moral wordlview promoted, so they don’t like the idea of public money going to a broadcaster that isn’t doing that, and is competing with outlets like Sky who are doing that. No amount of ‘facts’ about bias will change some hard-line conservatives’ moral objections to the ABC.

And yes whilst I said I’m open to considering advertising options, I’d prefer it remained advertising-free.

Just watching Mark Scott appearing before Senate committee this evening. Apparenlty the ABC pays Foxtel to carry its channels! What a joke. Pay TV providers, for however long until they die out, should be required to carry the ABC and SBS instead of being paid to do so.

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That seems like a good start. This party generally disapproves of unjust rent seeking, and making Australians pay twice for free to air TV is definitely that.

Mozart said it will be proposed at the Policy Development Committee meeting, which did not meet quorum the other night and was cancelled, so will be considered at the next meeting.

The National Council does not intervene in policy development unless necessitated by circumstances, which has happened once ever so far.

And not to mention the local channel 31 in addition to Aurora Community TV… also maybe allow Foxtel users access to all the FTA Channels maybe via VAST (on the same Satellite: Optus D3/C1) as wasn’t “pay-TV” (Cable and Satellite) meant originally to allow those who lived in broadcast shadows access to TV?

Thank you. It would bring me great pleasure to see a policy implemented into Pirate Party Australia. Considering what a hot topic of debate and its related importance, I think it just makes sense to have a Public Broadcasting policy.

It’s also great to see so many people jumping on board to support the ABC.

Just a couple of notes I’d like to add;

I don’t think that a TV subscription or licensing model is going to be of any help whatsoever to the Public Broadcasting landscape in Australia.

Also, I don’t like the idea of implementing advertising into the ABC. The problem you have with this approach is once the door opens for 1-2-3 advertisers, marketing departments get a sniff of what potential there is to essentially make dollars from the ABC. The side-effect is undoubtedly going to be the very issues I have outlined in my paper.

This is not a direction I personally would like the ABC to follow. I suspect the PPAU would concur with me on this front.

Hi @chrisjonesfpu. I’m part of the Cultural Policy Working Group, and the policy development committee were talking about the Public Broadcasting Policy you’ve written. At the moment, we were thinking about folding this policy and the ideas within it into the current Cultural Policy we are working on. Please contact us on policydev@pirateparty.org.au if you are interested. We will next meet up to discuss the Cultural Policy on Monday the 8th of December at 8:30pm on #ppau-pdc on IRC, so you can just hop on there if you like.

Thanks for your very detailed policy text. Hope to see you soon.

Hi @thesunnyk I sent an email to the address you posted. It’s directly related to a draft policy that I have drawn up. Please read it. If you think we should publish the policy here, we can do that for public consultation too. Let me know.

Feel free to post the link.

I’m not in the loop insofar as to what @thesunnyk has said about folding in a public broadcaster policy into cultural policy, so perhaps he could link to the relevant minutes of the meeting where said folding was agreed to.

Thanks @piecritic

For interests sake, the Draft Public Broadcasting Policy can be found here

Sorry to bang on about this policy I proposed, but it seems to have dropped off the radar and forgotten about.

I understand the policy needs much attention and amending before being considered, which is in part why I post about it here today.

If I were to amend to policy into shorter format, would I be amending it as a indivudual policy in its own right?

Altrernatively, and as suggested by @thesunnyk it could be integrated into our Cultural Participation Policy. Initially, I was not impressed with this idea but would be willing to compromise if it means getting the policy through in some form. Why? Because I think Public Broadcasting is an important part of Australia’s media landscape. It’s important and I believe we, as a party, almost look silly not having a policy on it. Now, more-so than ever before.

To close, it was mentioned that this policy could be brought to attention at the PDC meeting on Dec 8, 2014. Unless I am missing something, there seems to be no minutes for the PDC meetings anything past Sept 24, 2014.

Therefore, I have no idea whether this was even spoke about more or as I said at the beginning, has it just been placed in the too hard basket for now.

Public broadcasting has been discussed and a rough policy draft is being nutted out. It has drawn on the suggested policy posted here, but the final version will be reformatted to our regular style, & will be shorter. It will note that a press wholly under commercial influence is not ideal, and that public broadcasting makes an important contribution to art and culture. It will advocate protecting public broadcasters from political interference and reversing the cuts to their funding.

Anywhere I can get access to view this draft?

The draft is still being nutted out. You can view rough notes and half-written material under discussion here.

It doesn’t really capture the underlying policy conversation through. Please feel free to stop by and join us in that, we’re always keen for new ideas.

I don’t believe the implementation of Public Broadcasting into the Cultural Policy goes in-depth enough. In fact, nowhere near enough. It’s much too vague.

Here is the latest Submission I have drafted for a Public Broadcasting Policy of its own. The two linked documents are highly revised from my original submission. In fact, they have been halved in text length. The original was over 700 words in-full. This one, is approximately half of that.


Please let me know your thoughts.