ABC stands its ground against government inquiry

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 3 July 2018
Michelle Guthrie

The ABC has reinforced its value to the media sector, Australia and public broadcasting in its recent submission to the Federal Government’s inquiry into competitive neutrality.

The inquiry into the competitive neutrality of the national broadcasters is set to address views on whether Australia’s national broadcasters (ABC and SBS) are operating in line with competitive neutrality principles.

The submission rejects any notion that the ABC has an unfair advantage or is crowding out commercial media companies.

ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie said Australia's mixed media model "contributed enormously" to media diversity, a well-informed public and a "richer" culture.

She also acknowledged the broadcaster's "privileged" position in Australian society but denied that it uses it to mislead the public.

The ABC uses its government funding efficiently and effectively to deliver on its charter obligations to provide comprehensive and innovative public broadcasting and digital media services to Australian audiences," Guthrie said in the submission.

“It rigorously supports the principles of competitive neutrality – that public and commercial sector entities should function on a level-playing field – and applies them appropriately."

The ABC also stated that it takes into account the interests of the commercial and community sectors in all of its activities, focusing on providing distinctive content, and actively taking account of services provided by the commercial and community sectors.

"The ABC’s activities do not crowd out commercial and community content suppliers," the ABC stated.

"To the extent that there is any competitive overlap between the ABC and commercial and community sectors, the ABC enhances competition and innovation, resulting in better outcomes for audiences."

Guthrie added that the "transformed" media landscape was affecting all media organisations.

As people consumed more content online, the ABC had a public responsibility as well as a legislative remit to ensure its taxpayer-funded output was accessible to as many Australians as possible.

“Any move to curtail the ABC’s activities would serve only to punish Australian audiences who trust and value us,” she said.

"The ABC looks forward to engaging further with the panel and having an opportunity to respond to the concerns raised by other participants in the inquiry.”

Most recently, Guthrie also fired back at the Liberal Party, shooting down the suggestion that the national broadcaster should be privatised.

Speaking at the Melbourne Press Club, Guthrie addressed the recent policy motion by the Liberals which stated there was "no redeemable value in the public investment in the ABC".

She said the idea carried a "misplaced notion" of both privatisation and conservatism.

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