The Turnbull government has been accused by Labor of attempting to review the charters of the ABC and SBS by the “back door” with a high-powered probe into the commercial activities of the public broadcasters.
The move has been welcomed by Australian Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi who has long advocated much-needed reform and major cuts to the more than $1 billion annual funding of both organisations.
The Australian newspaper reports the release of a 17-page issues paper late last week prompted shock and disbelief among executives at both public broadcasters.
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the inquiry is greatly needed due to the breakneck pace of change in the media landscape.
Among the issues on the table is how the public broadcasters plan to justify why they should continue providing free online news and catch-up television services to viewers over concerns about imperial ambitions that undermine commercial rivals.
In recent years, both public broadcasters have made a relentless online push, where their marginal overheads costs are minimal and their content is now freely available to audiences on any platform they desire. But the strategy is creating tension with commercial media rivals. Critics say the concept of public service as enshrined in the ABC and SBS charters is at odds with the new reality of a fragmented audience base in the digital age.
The Australian Conservatives argue the public service ideal is obsolete and that the protected status of the public broadcasters should end.
The competitive inquiry, which will take six months to consult with market participants and will include a call for public submissions, forms part of the historic media reform package.
To read Darren Davidson’s full article, click here.
To read the Australian Conservatives policy on the ABC and SBS, click here.
To have your say on the Government’s inquiry into the ABC and SBS, click here.