Well, well, well. The news coming out about the ABC shenanigans continues.
- Kevin Rudd calls for a Royal Commission into the ABC.
- Former Chairman and former advisor to Gough Whiltman, James Spigelman, has been advising Michelle Guthrie.
But honestly, is anyone really surprised. An ungovernable, unaccountable, bureaucratic behemoth that is ….. to big to manage. Yes too big to manage.
The media industrial complex, ABC division, is usually the first to call for and support government mandated structural solutions, especially when they apply to the private sector. Perhaps it is time for the ABC to look inward because it is time for the structural separation of the ABC.
It happened with Telstra. It is being argued for with the banks and energy companies. Supermarkets are only a matter of time. But what is the argued virtue of structural separations? Simplification of governance, diversification of risk and dilution of power. And where else can these benefits be achieved …. you got it. At the ABC.
Much as Spartacus admires the work and thinking of Sinclair Davidson and Chris Berg in their recent book advocating for the privatisation of the ABC, sadly Spartacus does not think it will happen. Privatisation that is. As a second best solution, structural separation should be considered.
Spartacus would suggest that there are more than 1 separation models, but anyone of them would achieve benefits.
Infrastructure vs Content – ABC can be split along the content distribution and content production lines. That way, the distribution part of new ABC (internet, television and radio pipes) can purchase content from other other part of ABC (eg the news division, the drama division). The benefit of this would be that ABC-Distribution could source content from places other than just ABC-Content.
Radio vs Television – the business models of radio and television are different. ABC-Radio and ABC-Television could/should be structurally separated. The ABC “talent”, and Spartacus uses that word advisedly, would need to pick a team or alternatively become contractors offering services to both media, but also experiencing the employment risk that the most other Australians face.
State vs State – ABC is meant to be a national service. Perhaps it be broken in to state/territory lines. Separate management and separate boards to deal with separate local conditions and issues.
Most importantly, any structural separation should not cost a cent of additional money to the tax payers. Ideally funding should be cut or frozen, but Spartacus won’t hold his breath.
Prime Minister Morrison has been presented with a once in a generation opportunity to do something important and creative. If his government is not going to do the privatisation thing, they must consider something other than the status quo ante. The ABC is too big and too complex to manage and govern. If the government can’t get money back (through budget cuts), they should at least ensure that the ABC operates efficient and in compliance with legislation. You know, like the ABC would like the banks to do.