ABC – for Kicks!

I recently stepped into a taxi to be greeted by the strident tones of talkback radio host Ray Hadley of Sydney’s 2GB railing against the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, labelling the government-owned broadcaster a “retirement home” and claiming that only those who worked in commercial media knew what hard work really was. The comments were made against the background of proposed budget cuts to the ABC and multicultural broadcaster SBS.

I commented to the taxi driver that the ABC was really receiving a kicking that week.

“So it should,” he replied. “It’s about time. It’s full of communists and femo-Nazis who want to bring on world governance.”

He then went on to deliver more sermons from the bunker – on Islam, on young people and various other plagues that, no doubt, will trigger the apocalypse. I left the cab wondering if taxi companies shouldn’t do more to integrate drivers back into society and that, instead of clearing community TV broadcasters from the airwaves, the Government should look at auctioning off parts of the AM band.

And, so, late 2014 saw ABC MD Mark Scott announce the loss of 400 jobs and other cut-backs as the organisation attempts to work within a Federal Government funding reduction of some AUD$254 million.

While this may be of some cheer to those on the right carrying a “bias” grievance or those at News Corporation who see the National Broadcaster as a “commercial” threat, it cannot be denied that, throughout its history, the ABC has pioneered new forms of content and technology, and perhaps helped create markets that would have been otherwise overlooked by commercial interests.

Let’s not forget some of those market-creating milestones:

  • 1932: The Australian Broadcasting Commission was launched at 8pm on 1st July, 1932. There were 12 stations initially, broadcasting live music, sport and information programs for about 11 hours each day. By mid-1939 there were 26 stations broadcasting around 16 hours a day, a total of 132,158 hours over the year.
  • 1936: A News Editor, Frank Dixon, was appointed. He championed an independent ABC news service
  • 1956: On November 5, 1956, ABC Television launched.
  • 1958: Experimental Children’s television programmes broadcast for schools in Sydney and Melbourne.
  • 1961: Four Corners launched, along with a new concept in the treatment of Australian news, Current Affairs.
  • 1966: PlaySchool launched. Still going.
  • 1975: Launch of Double J, the ABC’s first 24-hour rock music station, which evolved into triple j, on the FM band (40 years old in 2015).
  • 1991: ABC airs first Wiggles TV show – they go on to become the country’s most successful entertainers.
  • 1995: On August 14 ABC Online goes live on the internet at www.abc.net.au

Building on its pioneering Internet presence, the national broadcaster spent the 2000s using emerging internet technologies – podcasting, vodcasting, video-on-demand and streaming. This included:

  • 2002: ABC launches Australia’s first Internet digital radio station. This now includes mainland capital cities, four national networks, metropolitan local radio services – as well as digital-only services.
  • 2005: Launch of a new free-to-air digital TV channel. This followed with the launch of ABC digital channels for ABC1, ABC3 and Australia’s first free-to-air 24-hour television news channel ABC News24.
  • 2008: Launch of the free internet TV service, ABC iview, allowing people to catch up on all ABC programming at a time of their choosing.

While the ABC hasn’t been idle since then, DAB+ radio for example, 2008’s launch of iView really did open up consumers to the idea of web and tablet catch-up viewing. Since then, it has been joined by other players in the space, including Plus7, tenplay.com.au, 9jumpin.com.au, and Foxtel Go/Play/Anytime.

Then there’s the recently announced, much anticipated 2015 Australia-New Zealand launch of Netflix. The U.S. Internet giant Netflix has been drawn by the mature ANZ market – after quietly benefitting from rights-infringing early adopters – but, given the number of local services now available and the content deals done by these operators, it does leave one wondering if Australia will not prove to be Netflix’s “Starbucks Moment”.
We’ll see in the New Year.

Thanks for Reading

Phil Sandberg
Editor/Publisher

papers@broadcastpapers.com
T: +61-(0)414 671 811