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Overhaul ABC, SBS charters: media CEOs

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A review of the charters of the ABC and SBS is needed, as the public broadcasters continue to intrude on the digital operations of commercial publishers and broadcasters, according to a consensus of a panel of CEOs at the INFORM Media News Summit.

The CEO discussion panel included News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller, Stuff NZ’s Sinead Boucher, Australian News Channel’s Angelos Frangopoulos, Ten Network’s Paul Anderson and Macquarie Limited chief operating officer Adam Lang. Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood had to withdraw from the panel for personal reasons.

The panel discussed a range of topics including the Australian government’s proposed media reforms, as well as the need for an overhaul of the ABC and SBS charters, which were described as “outdated” and “irrelevant”.

From left: Stuff NZ Sinead Boucher, News Crop Australia’s Michael Miller, Network 10’s Paul Thompson

Mr Miller believes the government should investigate the ABC’s current rules and restrictions and modernise them to bring the charter into the 21st century. The News Corp Australia head likened the changes needed to the total overhaul to the BBC, which occurred last year. The sentiment was supported by the Ten Network’s Paul Anderson.

Mr Frangopoulos was critical of the public broadcasters encroaching on commercial space. The issue particularly revolved around programming, with commercial media businesses questioning the use of taxpayer funds being used to acquire oversees content and the offering of on-demand streaming sites.

He also criticised the funding of niche content, describing The Food Channel and SBS Viceland as “a bit of a joke really”.

“There’s no way that those two services tick the boxes of what SBS is about,” he said.

From Left: Macquarie Limited's Adam Lang and Sky News' Angelo Frangopoulos
From Left: Macquarie Limited’s Adam Lang and Sky News’ Angelo Frangopoulos

Macquarie Limited COO Adam Lang also questioned the ABC’s advertising spend, rejecting the public broadcaster’s notion that it does not acknowledge ratings.

Sinead Boucher, CEO of Fairfax NZ’s recently rebranded Stuff NZ, suggested that Australia could learn from New Zealand about how best to approach the struggles of public broadcasting.

New Zealand does not have a public broadcaster. While there are two state-owned television channels, public broadcasting funding is provided through NZ On Air. The government controlled fund was established in 1989 and allows any news media organisation to apply for funding to tell high-quality New Zealand stories.

The INFORM Summit featured trust expect Rachel Botsman as keynote speaker, who spoke about trust becoming horizontal rather than hierarchical and how institutional trust isn’t designed to thrive in the modern media landscape.

Other presenters included News Corp Australia’s Nicole Sheffield and Fairfax Media’s Chris Janz discussing the current media landscape, INMA CEO Earl Wilkinson, acclaimed newspaper designer Jacek Utko, and mobile journalist Yusuf Omar.


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