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News calls for ABC and SBS charter review

News Corp Australia is pushing for a statutory review of the ABC and SBS charters and an examination of their digital practices within commercial environments in its submission to the Australian government’s inquiry into the competitive neutrality of the public broadcasters.

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The recommendations outlined in the eight-page submission call for the panel to reassess the appropriateness of the broadcasters’ charters in the current media landscape, prohibit the broadcasters from providing news content in commercial environments and to consider the promotion of the ABC and SBS’ news content in commercial environments.

“Public broadcasters – who are now news publishers – are advantaged … due to their taxpayer funding models and the out-of-date charters that require a holistic review in the digital context,” the document states.

Submissions to the inquiry were made available on Monday, granting the public access to the views of individuals and business entities on whether Australia’s national broadcasters are operating appropriately within competitive neutrality principles.

Fairfax Media’s submission condemned the ABC’s “aggressive expansion” into the commercial media landscape, which it said skewed competitive neutrality through digital promotion and clickbait content.

Similarly, News Corp Australia criticises the role digital platforms play in publishing and distributing news and the effect they have on commercial publishers’ revenues, contrasting its impact on public broadcasters.

“Public broadcasters are able to utilise these [digital] platforms – unavoidable trading partners of the digital economy, and gateways to the internet – to distribute content without having to consider the revenue implications and opportunity cost of doing so,” it said.

The submission additionally urges the panel to consider the “appropriateness of public broadcasters promoting news content in commercial environments in direct competition with commercial news organisations.”

The publisher argues the investment in digital marketing and services such as AdWords work to the unnecessary advantage of the public broadcasters, creating an imbalanced playing field for the distribution of news content online.

SBS defends the promotion of its programs by arguing it is crucial in captivating audiences and defining SBS in a highly competitive market.

SBS additionally emphasises its 0.6 per cent share of Australia’s total advertising market as a reason the broadcaster fails to “meet a materiality threshold for SBS to compromise competitive neutrality principles”.

The conclusion of the ABC’s submission warns the panel against attempts to misidentify the forces that threaten the business models of traditional media organisations.

“It is not the ABC but new market entrants like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google that have fundamentally disrupted traditional media business models the world over.”

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