The ABC fails the Adam Smith test

I had this piece at SBS yesterday.

The government is picking a fight with the media, actually its own wholly owned corporation, the ABC. It would be easy to simply dismiss this as being simply a case of “Another government; another stoush with the media”. But there is more to this fight – the ABC is not just another media outlet, it forms part and parcel of the government. This stoush raises questions as to the role of government generally.

The latest flashpoint is a story about naval personnel allegedly torturing boat people on the high seas. The Prime Minister took the view that the ABC was instinctively taking sides against Australia. In short the ABC was being unpatriotic. Subsequently an efficiency study of the ABC has been announced. This could easily be interpreted as being some sort of ‘punishment’.

The problem is that it isn’t clear that having the ABC being ‘patriotic’ is a good idea. I’m happy to accept that government would like a patriotic media – and a pro-government media while we’re at it. I would expect, however, that the Australia Network – the media organisation that broadcasts to the region – should broadcast pro-Australian propaganda (if it broadcasts at all).

I’m even happy to accept that taxpayer funds should be carefully and wisely expended and that ‘efficiency studies’ should be the norm and not a ‘punishment’.

To my mind the question is why we have an ABC at all? The argument we see a lot these days is that the industry is in trouble, business models are failing, and the government needs to step in. People making that argument could attempt an appeal to Adam Smith – although they never do. He had argued that government should undertake those activities that are ‘advantageous to a great society’ while not actually being profitable.

While we know the ABC is not profitable – by choice – it isn’t clear that having a public broadcaster is advantageous to a great society. This may strike many readers as being somewhat counter-intuitive. After all public broadcasters exist to entertain, educate, and inform. Economists refer to this line of logic as the ‘public interest’ argument.

There is a ‘public choice’ argument too; public broadcasters facilitate the diversion of public resources to political elites and narrow interest groups or distort and manipulate information to benefit and entrench those elites.

In a paper published in the prestigious Journal of Law and Economics a group of Harvard University and World Bank economists untangled those two arguments using an extensive database of 97 countries, including Australia. They found that the data tends to support the notion that public broadcasting is an elitist activity that benefits political elites.

Surely not in Australia? We keep hearing that the ABC is a one of our most trusted institutions. Well, yes. But what does that actually mean? ABC audiences are small. On 2013 television figures over 75 per cent of audiences were watching something other than the ABC. Not too much entertaining there. Most damning, however, is that the ABC did not make it into the top 5 news and current affairs shows. So much for educate or inform.

A bigger issue is that it isn’t clear that the ABC occupies any market niche that the private sector doesn’t or couldn’t occupy. Even emergency radio broadcasts can be subcontracted out.

Of course there is no reason why the ABC couldn’t be profitable if it were run on a commercial basis. Several media organisation are profitable and don’t have anything near the lavish taxpayer support that the ABC enjoys.

In short, the ABC doesn’t meet Adam Smith’s criteria for government support.

It is true that some business models within parts of the (print) media industry are under threat. Here, however, it isn’t clear that having a government owned media organisation is an innovative solution to that problem. Generally we accept that industries evolve over time and, from time to time, entire industries may cease to exist as we know them. It may well be the case that the media, in order to survive, will have to move to a patronage model.

Patronage is well-known as a model in Australia – The Conversation has a consortium of universities as patrons, Crikey has Eric Beecher, the local version of the Guardian has Graeme Wood, The Monthly has Morrie Schwartz. Fairfax could have Gina Rinehart if it wanted.

Need I point out that the ABC itself has the federal government as its patron? Although, as I have argued above it isn’t clear this is in Australia’s best interests.

The thing is this; if it is honest the efficiency audit will find a large sprawling organisation with a small audience and no apparent reason for its existence other than political inertia.

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67 Responses to The ABC fails the Adam Smith test

  1. Blogstrop

    The problem is that it isn’t clear that having the ABC being ‘patriotic’ is a good idea.

    I’ll tell you what’s not a good idea: having a taxpayer funded national broadcaster which attacks the conservatives whether in government or opposition, while being “patriotically” – perhaps that should read pathologically – unable to apply themselves in the same manner to the idiocies visited on us by the Green Left parties.

  2. Badjack

    Doing the job they are paid to do would be a good start,ie, investigate, research, deliver the facts (truth).
    Telling lies just to support your ideology (left or right) is childish,naive and downright dumb. Shouldn’t that be what Libertarianism is all about.

  3. Percy

    The thing is this; if it is honest the efficiency audit will find a large sprawling organisation with a small audience and no apparent reason for its existence other than political inertia.

    Fat chance, unfortunately.

  4. Samuel J

    It was interesting to watch the 1930 report and find people arguing that a public broadcaster was essential to democracy because only it would hold a government to account!

    What baloney. It is the rare public broadcaster which does that – most are the mouthpieces of government – say that in North Korea, Russia, China etc.

    Democracy is best served by private broadcasters. It is in countries that have private broadcasters that corruption is least present and governments most held to account.

    Yet the lefties would have it that a public broadcaster is the guarantor of liberty.

  5. manalive

    The Conversation has a consortium of universities as patrons …

    And the major source of university funding is the Federal Government.

  6. Ed

    We keep hearing that the ABC is a one of our most trusted institutions. Well, yes.

    Public opinion is turning against the ABC, particularly among conservative-leaning people. Its status as a ‘trusted institution’ is waning, and will continue to decline.

    Our political elites continue to behave as if the trust value is the same today as it was in 1980. It’s not.

  7. entropy

    Why is the ABC budget twice the size of channel ten’s revenue?

  8. Retailing socialist propaganda is not a public good.

    There are plenty of private investors willing to invest.

    The poor shouldn’t be taxed to fund advertisement free socialist propaganda.

  9. JohnA

    EVERY operational area where we see public and private involvement is begging for the government to be removed from the playing field.

    Government should be limited to Law and Order, and civil and military defence. Period. It should be ONLY the umpire, never the player.

    So health, education and welfare should be all privatised, along with business welfare and media, public-private partnerships and so forth.

    Law and Order could include natural monopolies such as infrastructure, AS LONG AS government did not then become a player – Telstra and Australia Post should go too.

    But the NBN, the backbone exchange network, the satellites (maybe) should be part of the common carrier infrastructure, with the same wholesale fee structure to everybody who can connect (and no “deals” for volume connections to favour the big guys).

    The road and rail network, air and sea ports should also be common carrier infrastructure with transparent user charges for all. Everyone who wants to move stuff or people from point A to point B should have reasonable non-discriminatory access to the infrastructure, whether they are doing it for themselves, or offering a service to paying customers.

    The water and power utilities are the most obvious demonstration that “competition policy” doesn’t work with natural monopolies. Retail level competition in these doesn’t work because the commodities are indistinguishable from the point of origin to the place of consumption, which is different to say couriers and parcel companies using the roads.

    And finally the provision of abstract services such as media and “entertainment” (aka bread and circuses, probably including the broadcasting of Parliament) is definitely not government territory. As long as the communications infrastructure can reach the whole population, the government should not be putting out content in competition with the private sector.

    Sadly, we would need the Fairy Queen from Iolanthe to ensure that Strephon could enact this idealistic society structure…

  10. rickw

    The ABC should be able to broadcast whatever it likes. If it isn’t able to, then it is true state run media, which is a more horrible thing than it already is.

    However, I take extreme issue with two aspects of the current model:

    - I help fund it, whether I like what it broadcasts or not, I have no choice regarding participation.
    - There is no economic consequence for action, either for the corporation or the individual.

    The solution of course is to privatise it, as this perfectly addresses these two principal issues.

    There would be choice regarding investing in the privatised organisation. There would also be consequences for actions, viewer numbers would impact on advertising revenue and in turn, if individuals were particularly offensive or stupid, they might decide to sack them in an attempt to mitigate the viewer switch off.

  11. Badjack

    Sam J, is there less corruption in America than in less democratic countries. Corruption is rife anywhere and in all walks of life. It is how the judiciary deal with it that allows it to go unchecked or is controlled.

  12. Rabz

    It is true that some business models within parts of the (print) media industry are under threat.

    No, all three FTA commercial channels are on the brink of insolvency, for very good reasons – the most obvious one being the contempt with which they treat the suckers gullible enough to still watch them. SBS of course, massively unwatched as it is, still suckles on the gubberment teat.

    The FTA channels are only still operating due to the massive amount of taxpayers’ money they were gifted by the previous labor squandermonkeys. The FTA channels were gifted this money solely so that they would be more sympathetic to the squandermonkeys and support their insane inexplicable idiocy.

    Which brings me to the ALPBC. In it’s current (and seemingly only) incarnation it is both beyond reform and redemption.

    Shut. It. Down.

    Fire. Them. All.

    Now.

  13. Dan

    How much content on the ABC is locally produced?

    We constantly hear about the kids channels but it’s from all corners of the globe, same with the adult content. The news service is subpar, Christ, they don’t even screen APAC. We get half arse uni comedians peddling shit and the dregs of triple J.

  14. Rabz

    There would be choice regarding investing in the privatised organisation. There would also be consequences for actions, viewer numbers would impact on advertising revenue and in turn, if individuals were particularly offensive or stupid, they might decide to sack them in an attempt to mitigate the viewer switch off.

    See my point above about the FTA commercial broadcasters.

    The FTA commercial channels exhibit no acknowledgement of the consequences of their incredibly stupid actions, their viewer numbers are through the floor and if offensive talentless idiots faced the sack, there would be no “the Project” for example.

    The FTA channels are zombies, awaiting the coup de grace. Their entire business model is kaput.

    Under no circumstances whatsoever, should the current government be allowed to prop them up – and if idiots aren’t happy about the FTA commercial channels collapsing – I have this message:

    Tough titties, dinosaurs.

  15. james

    The FTA commercial channels exhibit no acknowledgement of the consequences of their incredibly stupid actions, their viewer numbers are through the floor and if offensive talentless idiots faced the sack, there would be no “the Project” for example.

    Amen.

    If channel ten collapses up it’s own arse I will be very happy to see Charlie-scumbag-Pickering et al lose their jobs even at the cost of the rather lacklustre Bolt Report.

  16. Rafe

    Bring back Blue Hills, keep rural broadcasting and sell off the rest to the highest bidder.

  17. Aussieute

    Regardless of content bias the ABC has a monumental bias that is NOT available to any media organisation.

    Here are just some of the limits put on private media companies, as explained on the parliamentary website:

    Television

    A person must not control television broadcasting licences whose combined licence area exceeds 75 per cent of the population of Australia, or more than one licence within a licence area (section 53)…

    Radio

    A person must not be in a position to control more than two licences in the same licence area (section 54)…

    Cross-Media Control

    Under section 60 a person must not control:

    – a commercial television broadcasting licence and a commercial radio broadcasting licence having the same licence area

    – a commercial television broadcasting licence and a newspaper associated with that licence area

    – or a commercial radio broadcasting licence and newspaper associated with that licence area.

    I could go on but I figure you get my drift … the state-owned ABC can do what no private media company is legally allowed and yet continues to squeal Murdoch and Abbott at the slightest sign of loosing ground.

    The truth requires no defence … me think they doth complain way too much

  18. Dan

    Answered my own question

    Children’s programs and entertainment made up the largest number of hours broadcast on ABC2, at 2,006 and 698 hours respectively. News followed with 655 hours. The Australian share of these genres was 14.7 per cent of children’s, 55.7 per cent of entertainment and 100 per cent of news.

  19. Rafe

    For cultural illiterates. Blue Hills.

    Re-live the dream. The final episode.

    A taxi driver in Sydney of turban-wearing provinence was listening to the Country Hour and I asked him if he was interested in farming. He just wanted to improve his English to help his kids with written and spoken work, he is an engineer from Kabul who used to manage a small factory. He wants his kids to do well on the education road.

  20. .

    “Yet the lefties would have it that a public broadcaster is the guarantor of liberty”

    What they erroneously call “liberty”…

  21. .

    “A taxi driver in Sydney of turban-wearing provinence was listening to the Country Hour and I asked him if he was interested in farming. ”

    The poor bastard. How much was your taxi fare? $500?

  22. .

    Cross media ownership laws may be the dumbest thing Keating ever did. The FXJ F2 netowrk was killed in utero because of that. It gives little incentive for foreign investment and competition (along with the FIRB rules).

    The gifting of digital spectrum for worthless channels to the pre-existing FTA mob was the worst thing the Nuclear Milkman and sook, Senator Conroy ever did. (If public outrage wasn’t high enough, the internet filter may have been).

  23. Stephen Williams

    Why does the ABC have a radio station that broadcasts only classical music and another (RRR) that only broadcasts crappy new music. I can’t see the need for either or if they want keep them they should have golden oldie, 50′s, jazz and a whole range of stations to cater for everyones taste.

    All the ABC music stations should be shut down asap.

  24. The national broadcaster should be impartial and stick to facts.

    Abbott stating the obvious that the ABC is anti-Australia does not mean that he wants it to be patriotic.

  25. Ingrid

    Simple fact is….
    there is no reason to keep the ABC but there are many to get rid of it.

    We have had a gut full of this mob who has become unbearable after TAbbott got into office. Privatize it and spend that money where it is needed on hospitals or wherever.
    There is no justification for keeping the ABC any longer.

  26. Rococo Liberal

    I keep saying it, but the best solution is to sell off the ABC news/current affairs division. It is that division which creates all the controversy. Then we elites who pay for the ABC through our taxes could get all the good BBC programs and Classic FM.

    That would be just the ticket for us members of the real elite. After all it is we upmarket, liberal voters who pay most of the tax in this country. We deserve something back for it.

  27. Then we elites who pay for the ABC through our taxes could get all the good BBC programs and Classic FM.

    It’d be cheaper, and of superior quality—without the song over the credits of a programme, for example, being drowned out by yet another tiresome promo—, to send everyone DVDs of their favourite BBC shows along with CDs (or, if they prefer, MP3 players) full of their favourite tunes.

  28. A Lurker

    Since I primarily lurk (and not post) I read a lot of very good suggestions on what to do with the ABC. Since Abbott is hogtied by a Senate-From-Hell, any formal legislation changing the ABC is unlikely to be passed so he needs to find other alternatives.

    Suggestions that I’ve read and I think might be workable within the confines that Abbott finds himself are:

    Physically move the ABC away from their inner-city comfort zones and out into the regions where they’ll have to deal with real Aussies on a day to day basis, and are hundreds of kilometres away from their inner-city support base.

    Moving the ABC out of Communications (and away from the influence of Turnbull) and into the hands of a hard-nosed, no-nonsense, ABC-loathing Conservative Minister.

    Use Lawfare against various ABC employees in regards to the undermining of national security and the national interest in regards to the Indonesia spying scandal, the RAN lies, and the Live Export issue.

  29. cuckoo

    In short the ABC was being unpatriotic.

    Abbott, as usual, was verbally crippled by having to weigh every word against what the commentariat would twist it into. So he picked the hopefully voter-friendly idea of ‘patriotism’ instead of speaking the blunt truth which is that the ABC has been at open war with the Coalition since it was elected. Try to imagine the shitstorm if Abbott just got up and stated this patent truth.

  30. Demosthenes

    What they erroneously call “liberty”…

    As far as I can tell, their argument is basically that an informed population is a prerequisite for maintaining liberty in a democratic system, and that a public broadcaster plays a key role. Does it really?

    A media outlet that has no profit motive and no competition has the obvious negative consequences noted by others above. However the Left see positive consequences as well – is not dependent on “corporate masters” and so has no incentive to avoid conflict with their owner’s interests.

    I’d say theoretically that has merit (although it ignores other sources of bias), but empirically the low audience numbers for ABC TV show that its mission to keep all Australians informed has failed, and that Australians have voted with their eyeballs, and declared the service to be unnecessary. Radio and the ancillary departments are separate matters. Either way, by rights the ABC will be unrecognisable or non-existent sooner rather than later.

  31. Token

    the 1930 report

    Great work Samuel, that one is going into the reportoire.

    It is the “values” of the big names of that decade which that show & the ABC has internalised.

  32. Token

    A media outlet that has no profit motive and no competition has the obvious negative consequences noted by others above.

    The lack of independent oversight is another factor which has material consequences.

    It was easier to get The Fonz to same he was wrong.

  33. gabrianga

    Please assist. Have lost my italics ,bold etc toolbar and would like to find, Have used my very limited knowledge to try to re-install but no good.

  34. brc

    In reality the ABC is largely a ’1%er’ network. The goat cheese belt people don’t want to watch home and away, or get theirs news from a current affair. They want to watch ABC news and Q&A, and they don’t want their BBC reruns spoiled with crass ads for carpet emporiums. The also want to firewall themselves from the unfahsionalbe views of people from outside their electorate.

    What they are actually doing is taxing the general home and away watchers so that they don’t have to watch ads. The exact same principle that makes them agitate for home and away watchers to pay more for electricity so they can show off their solar panels to friends. It’s a classic insider vs outsider situation.

  35. Louis Hissink

    brc,

    The elite actually don’t want to watch or hear the advertisements on the commercial stations. I’ve seen them turn the sound off immediately a commercial comes on, and then waiting like a hovering gnat, for the commercial to finish so the sound can be turned on again.

    It never occurs to these elite lefties to get up, go to the toilet, or do something in the kitchen while sort of ignoring the ad but at the same time being aware of a change in sound when the program comes back on.

    Instead they become slaves to the TV and become a rather useless variable volume controller. What more evidence does anyone need to have to conclude that they are, when all said and done, not the brightest tube in the TV (Whoops LED in the plasma).

  36. Empire Strikes Back

    and another (RRR) that only broadcasts crappy new music

    Stephen – I think you mean JJJ. Triple R is a Melbourne community broadcaster that depends largely on subscriptions and sponsorship for funding. They were (I assume still are) the indirect beneficiary of some state funding via RMIT and direct funding under a program to assist community broadcasters to acquire digital broadcast technology.

  37. Rabz

    only broadcasts crappy new music

    I think you mean JJJ

    Another correction – Triple J broadcasts crappy music from a range of decades, not just ‘new’ music.

  38. Viva

    In reality the ABC is largely a ’1%er’ network. The goat cheese belt people don’t want to watch home and away, or get theirs news from a current affair. They want to watch ABC news and Q&A, and they don’t want their BBC reruns spoiled with crass ads for carpet emporiums. The also want to firewall themselves from the unfahsionalbe views of people from outside their electorate.

    Hate to tell you brc – it is possible to want to be firewalled from screaming ads, The Biggest Loser and reality shows and still be a conservative. I was forced over to channel 7 to watch Downton Abbey and the ads nearly drove me crazy. I was reduced to yelling “Isn’t this the sort of program the bloody ABC should be showing.” Sorry about that.

  39. Viva

    I’ve seen them turn the sound off immediately a commercial comes on, and then waiting like a hovering gnat, for the commercial to finish so the sound can be turned on again.

    Louis with the ability to record your favourite programs on Foxtel IQ you can now simply fast forward through the ads.

  40. Rabz

    The ads on FTA commercial channels are truly excruciating and a major reason (apart from the utter shite they broadcast) why I refuse point blank to watch them.

    The only FTA TV I watch is SBS’s broadcasts of the Champions League – and they’re recorded on the HD recorder so I can expunge or fast forward through the ads.

    Even the ads on Fox aren’t as bloody annoying.

  41. Token

    The ads on FTA commercial channels are truly excruciating and a major reason (apart from the utter shite they broadcast) why I refuse point blank to watch them.

    It is amusing to see the people who serve us up that crap lecture on the Gruen Transfer.

    I found it funny when I heard Gerry Harvey ignores the industry and produces all Harvey Norman ads in house. He gets the same results without paying the overpriced monkeys.

  42. Squirrel

    A small, niche, publicly funded broadcaster – TV, radio, online – which provided a genuine (i.e. not tendentiously leftist) range of cultural, historical, philosophical offerings could, in my view, be justifed as being advantageous to a great society (or one which aspires to be). I appreciate the argument that all of this stuff is (or is said to be) freely available online – it may be for people who have the time and the skills and the internet access to find it – but not for all in our society (Rafe’s taxi vignette has some relevance here).

    I imagine this could all be done quite easily for a few per cent of the current ABC budget, overseen by a balanced board. Something would also need to be done for people in regional and remote areas – but, as others have noted in comments on related threads, the ABC, as it currently operates, is not necessarily the ideal or only solution for such folk.

    I do understand Rococco Liberal’s sentiment, but noting Deadman’s subsequent comment, I would prefer to get the BBC etc. stuff I want by other means (some of it might even end up on commercial stations if the ABC wasn’t there) and have the comfort of knowing that my taxes were not being used to purchase appealing programs which serve as a bait and sugar coating for political and other opinions which I do not share.

  43. Pedro

    “The problem is that it isn’t clear that having the ABC being ‘patriotic’ is a good idea.”

    It’s probably better to clearly understand what we mean by patriotism, which ought to be adherence to the values of Australia. In war time that means toeing the line with the govt to the extent required for the war effort, but generally the media ought to respecting the values of a great democracy, which include the openness and accountability of the govt.

    A mistake ought to be acknowledged and apologised for; but if the story had been correct then telling it would not be unpatriotic.

    I agree with Sam J that Scott ought to resign.

  44. HK_Brother

    So what’s the role of Govt?

    So far…
    * Defend the Nation against outside threats.
    * Settle disputes (law) on the inside.
    * Maintain order. (Law enforcement).

    …Everything else it gets involved in seems to result in unforeseen consequences that often hurt a Nation in the long run. (See the record of Gillard being Education Minister and Prime Minister, Pink batts, etc. Much waste and death with little to show for it.)

    Others will say: “What about the poor?”

    I always respond: “What are charities for?” …”Do you donate to The Smith Family or St Vincent de Paul Society?”

    (Often, I find those who ‘chant for the poor’ do NOT donate at all. They seem to only be eager in taking other people’s money via the force of the Govt.)

    As for broadcasting?
    => Tell both sides. Let the people judge for themselves.
    => Provide practical/useful information
    => Entertain.

    …But you can’t have that with Left-leaning oriented media. They know what’s best for you. They tell you what they think you should know! No wonder why they are unsustainable as a business model!

  45. Simon

    Throughout history most great art has been funded by the government, whether aristocratic or otherwise, independently rich people tend not to waste money on pleasing the public. This is just a rehash of the bread and circuses argument. The academics are trying to pass off their “circus” as “bread” to the masses and nobody but them is buying tickets. The problem is that those in the executive like to think of everything they do as bread to the masses so this must be too. They also know that if they marketed it as circuses it would sound dispensable and nobody would come to see it either, a sort of politically correct smug fringe circus lacking interest.

  46. H B Bear

    Paul Barry ABC takes its medicine

    The ALPBC needs a high pressure enema.

  47. Viva

    Re patriotism and affection for the home team remarks:

    The ABC (and the Left) goes looking for ‘trouble at mill’ not because of concern for the mill workers and seeking the truth but because it hates the mill owner’s guts.

  48. Cold-Hands

    Not many comments over at SBS so I went and stirred the possum.

  49. dismissive

    I may have misunderstood the patriotism/un-Australian bit but I thought it was in reference to the Australia Network not the ABC in Australia per se. This would make sense as you would prefer your soft diplomatic network didn’t show off dirty laundry as a default action.

  50. Rabz

    Update: ALPBC Staff Salaries Identification Convention

    Some of us here have been using a convention identifying the salaries of various ALPBC staff members based on the 2011-12 salaries table kindly provided by the ALPBC to News Limited in September last year.

    As these salary rates are clearly out of date*, I will now commence identifying salary rates of ALPBC staff that include two nominal annual ‘productivity’ increases of 4%. The new salary rate is for the 2013-14 year.

    For example: Chunderland, Alan, (now) Director Editorial Policies ($350,978) ($379,618)

    *Jon Faine ($308,525) on ALPBC radio, September 2013.

  51. stackja

    The thing is this; if it is honest the efficiency audit will find a large sprawling organisation with a small audience and no apparent reason for its existence other than political inertia.

    TA is tolerating the ABC. How much longer? Depends on the ABC providing a reliable service. At the moment the ABC is failing to provide a reliable service.

  52. brc

    I hate ads as much as the next person, but I don’t expect other people to fund a network free of them so I can watch what I want.

    Any person who watches FTA TV and doesn’t purchase a TiVo is certifiable. A TiVo is the greatest productivity enhancer since the steam engine. Why stick to the TV schedule and watch ads? Condense your TV viewing and recover hours of lost time. Zip through opening credits, ads and closing credits and your favourite Seinfeld espisode is barely twenty minutes long. Watch the news and cut out the ads, stupid stories, ALP politicians, sports you don’t follow and you can get it down to ten minutes max.

    Any appearance by Ms Gillard always got the familiar ‘blip-blop’ of the FF button in my house.

  53. Notafan

    I might be wrong but the new release drama series in the US seem to be on cable channels and you have to pay
    If you don’t want advertising then pay TV seems to be the better option
    If FTA can’t cut it it can go people will have to pay for the shows they like.
    At the very least the government should be moving the ABC to Geelong or Adelaide or Shepparton
    If all they are doing is showing content produced elsewhere it can’t be that hard.
    Then some valuable land in Ultimo and Ripponlea can be freed up for luvvies housing,
    It’s a win win

  54. David

    ‘Samual J’ says both of the following:

    While we know the ABC is not profitable – by choice – it isn’t clear that having a public broadcaster is advantageous to a great society.

    Democracy is best served by private broadcasters. It is in countries that have private broadcasters that corruption is least present and governments most held to account.

    What are the assumptions underlying these views? Mostly importantly, that corruption is bad because it does not serve ‘Democracy’. So, let’s ask, what it is about ‘democracy’ that is ill-served by a wholly owned state-media: Diversity of views. Diversity of views is the overarching good the media serves.

    Let’s flip things around now that we have identified the overarching good of the media.

    The question now becomes: Is diversity of opinion encouraged or stamped out by the ABC, in the actually existing context of the current spread of media in Australia? Well, considering one guy (a Mr Murdoch) owns something like 70 per cent of newspaper and television media, I think we can see that the presence of the ABC in fact enhances diversity of opinion (and hence ‘democracy’).

    Back to one of the quotes:

    Democracy is best served by private broadcasters. It is in countries that have private broadcasters that corruption is least present and governments most held to account.

    I would submit that this purported generalization omits an important fact. Democracy is only served well by private broadcasters in the presence of a public broadcaster as well. One without the other is sub-optimal.

    The ABC may yet (pending further discussion) pass the ‘Adam Smith’ test.

  55. David

    Of course, the author is ‘Sinclair Davidson’, not ‘Samual J’. My mistake!

  56. KevFromCanberra

    I never watch the ABC now because its not worth putting up with the bias and the sneering, patronising way they deal with anyone not sharing their left wing views. Yet, I still have to pay their bloated wages via my taxes!

    http://youtu.be/7D8nPyARV1I

  57. Sinclair Davidson

    David – you seem to be extraordinarily confused – you first quote SamuelJ and attribute his quote and argument to him, then change you mind and attribute his comment to me.

  58. lem

    Hi Sinclair, as a doctor I can proudly say that I have read at least half of The Wealth of Nations, I have it in my book case )I am probably the only medico who does, except maybe Dan). It was great, just what I’d expect from a lad from Edinburgh, but not having quite finished it (probably got called away to some meaningless emergency) can you tell me, did he have a position on open borders?

    Because I would probably have agreed with it, he seemed so sensible.

    xxxx

  59. Dan

    Well, considering one guy (a Mr Murdoch) owns something like 70 per cent of newspaper and television media,

    Wrong dipshit, it’s closer to 36%

  60. Dan

    From a website you undoubtably trust

    According to the Finkelstein Review of Media and Media Regulation, in 2011 News Corp Australia (then News Limited) accounted for 23% of the newspaper titles in Australia.

    News Corp Australia titles account for 59% of the sales of all daily newspapers, with sales of 17.3 million papers a week, making it Australia’s most influential newspaper publisher by a considerable margin.

    So people buy newscorp in fucking droves because they don’t write shit and employ staff who are, with notable exceptions, competent journalists.

  61. lem

    Also, Sinclair (and thanks Dan for coming on line like that) if Adam Smith had a position on open borders, how would it have differed from yours?? Or been the same? Because I still haven’t read yours, but as you know I have an abiding interest in it. And, you know, I love to have my own opinions changed from time to time. Etc. :)

  62. Sinclair Davidson

    I don’t recall Smith ever actually addressing the issue of open borders directly – but he did write about colonies (more or less approvingly although he did suggest that they should be allowed to manage their own affairs).

    Also the Adam Smith Institute supports open borders.

  63. lem

    What sort of open borders would the Adam Smith Institute support, Doom Lord? Completely open, just slip over in a boat, no problems if you lack a passport and can’t vouch for, say, a lack of criminality? Do you have a reference for that policy? Does that policy relate to the 18th century or the 21st?

    Sinclair, I have a great deal of respect for your opinions, which is why I so much want to give you the opportunity to convince me that your stated but undefined open borders philosophy is defensible. Whatever it is. But you are being so…coy! :)

  64. David

    Sinclair – Yes, but I don’t think that has anything to do with the content of my comment.

  65. Jannie

    Pay TV also has adverts. My wife added the history channel to our foxtel package at Christmas. Still heaps of ads. Also lots of Leftist shit. Baldrick and flannery.

  66. Of course it has ads. Ads are necessary because most programs are designed to leave space for ads. Without ads their programming would not last the full hour and they would have run filler program.

    Most ads you see on subscription TV channels like History channel (and the ABC) are ads for their other shows for precisely this reason. If they didn’t run ads they would have to run the test pattern.

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