The traditional arguments for government funding of public broadcasting include the need for a form of media and content accessible by all the public, regardless of cost of provision; independence from commercial and corporate influence; and, diversity in the delivery of content for which there is no incentive for commercial broadcasters to produce or distribute.
The Commission acknowledges that there is no ‘right’ level of funding that should be provided to the ABC and the SBS, or ‘right’ level of services that should be provided by the public broadcasters.
However, it considers that both organisations have the ability to improve their efficiency and better target expenditure than may currently be the case. The case for reconsidering the level of support for the public broadcasters is underpinned by advances in technology, societal changes and an expectation of achieving efficiencies and value for money.
At present, the Government does not have a mechanism to harvest the benefits of efficiencies from the public broadcasters. Any efficiencies that are found, including through technological advances or market changes, are currently reinvested by the ABC and the SBS in their own operations. Unlike commercial broadcasters, no dividend is returned to public broadcasters’ shareholders – the government and people of Australia.
Given the significant difference in the amount of funding provided to the public broadcasters, the Commission proposes that the ABC and SBS be benchmarked against each other and the commercial broadcasters. This exercise should provide a sense of the efficiency of operations and the potential savings that could be achieved without compromising the capacity of the public broadcasters to deliver services including to remote and regional Australia. Future funding decisions should be informed by the benchmarking outcome.
La radio, nel complesso, rappresenta attualmente un quinto della spesa di ABC (e circa il 28% dei fondi pubblici allocati). A me sembra concreto il rischio che le considerazioni fatte a proposito dello scarso valore attribuito alla tv satellitare di Australia Network nella revisione dei "costi della diplomazia" vengano presto estese alle trasmissioni radiofoniche di Radio Australia, anche se al momento valutazioni specifiche non ce ne sono. Staremo a vedere, ma la storia degli ultimi dieci o quindici anni non incoraggia all'ottimismo.