The ABC’s chairman, Justin Milne, gave a speech today justifying the expense that is the ABC. That, and Michelle Guthrie’s speech last month, is a gift that will give for some time. Today I want to focus on his “dear-god-will-nobody-think-of-the-children” ploy. In the speech he says:
Those who would cripple or even abolish the ABC would clearly exacerbate that consolidation, leading to further homogeneity of voices. That may mean that pretty soon our kids only see American stories and perspectives to mould their morals, culture and behavior as adults. And those same kids would need to give up any aspiration to work in a healthy domestic production sector.
Perhaps we should leave the commercial media to entertain our toddlers, educate our students, define Australian culture, unite a nation, and serve regional audiences. Some would argue an enlightened private sector dominated by owners in the United States will find a way of marrying commercial and Australian national interest, and produce local content about the arts, sciences, religion or music. What could possibly go wrong?
Indeed – what could go wrong? But, let’s not digress.
Notice the snide anti-Americanism? That’s an attitude lefties take on thinking that it reveals their sophistication. But no.
Anyway what does the ABC serve up as children’s entertainment? I went to the ABC Kids website and checked out the schedule for today. (I’m not going to carry on about the term ‘kid’ being an Americanism itself). I don’t know if Wednesdays are unusual viewing days or not. I then made a list of all of the shows and the country of origin for each show. Today, the ABC had 65 shows on its kids channel. Of those some were different episodes of the same show (for example Bananas in Pajamas aired more than once, as did Sesame Street). Those 65 shows were associated with 83 countries of origin – some shows had more than one country of origin. Arthur, for example, is a joint Canadian/US show.
Four countries make up 73 of the different countries of origin; Australia (17), Canada (10), UK (34), and US (12). Ignoring that many Australian shows are jointly produced, the Australian contribution to kids TV is just over 20%. Well behind the UK at 41%. So this whole Australian voices telling Australian stories and moulding Australian kids is just nonsense. But for local content rules there would nothing stopping commercial television stations from presenting the same mix of kids television shows.
The great irony here is that because the ABC does not have to comply with local content rules, the ABC probably offers a better selection of children’s television. This, however, is not an argument for public broadcasting, rather it is an argument against local content rules.
That is the point Chris and I make in our book – everything the ABC claims it does, can be done easier and cheaper.