Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mark Scott, Australian Broadcasting Corporation: public funding for public purposes

Australien ist flächenmäßig etwa 90 mal größer als Österreich und hat gut zweieinhalbmal soviele Einwohner. Der öffentlich-rechtliche Rundfunkveranstalter, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), betreibt derzeit zwei nationale Fernsehkanäle, vier nationale Hörfunknetzwerke, 60 lokale Radiostationen und ein internationales Service (Radio Australia) auf Kurzwelle und im Internet sowie diverse Online-Angebote. Nach dem letztverfügbaren Jahresbericht (Finanzjahr 2007/2008) betrugen die Gesamteinnahmen von ABC AUD (umgerechnet etwa 619 Mio EUR) - zum Vergleich die Gesamteinnahmen des ORF im Jahr 2008: rund 925 Mio EUR, also fast ein Drittel mehr.

Im internationalen Vergleich öffentlich-rechtlicher Runfunkveranstalter ist ABC insofern besonders interessant, als es seit rund sechzig Jahren nicht mehr aus Rundfunkgebühren, sondern durch direkte staatliche Zahlungen finanziert wird. Mark Scott, Managing Director der ABC, ging gestern in einer Rede vor der Commonwealth Broadcasting Association auf diese Besonderheit ein und betonte die Vorteile der direkten Staatsfinanzierung und der Werbefreiheit. Hier ein paar Ausschnitte aus dieser "alternative success story to that of the BBC" (die ganze Rede findet man hier):

1. Große Sportereinisse bleiben den Privaten: "There is a vibrant commercial market for televised sport and the opportunity cost for us bidding, in terms of other programs we want to put to air, is too high. The market provides, and in areas where the market cannot deliver or will not deliver, the ABC provides. We cover women’s sport, sport where disabled athletes compete, regional sport without big corporate dollars or mass audiences. ... Our radio and online presence reflect the breadth and depth of our sporting coverage across the country, but on television, others are in a better position to deliver. And we let them do so."

2. ABC als Talentschmiede, auch wenn die Talente dann zu Privaten wechseln (nicht umgekehrt!):
"Of course, at times, it means we have to endure the frustration of seeing talent developed with the ABC moving to commercial networks – sometimes, but not always – to great success. We will always be the nursery for talent ‐ we may not always be the home. We have neither the money nor the inclination to outbid commercial networks most of the time. Our bigger question is whether we have in development the next stars and programs ready to capture the imagination of the nation."

3. Angebote, die der Markt nicht liefert (zB Australian drama): "The providential position the ABC finds itself in today was no accident; it was the result of a deliberate strategy to set out the services the ABC could provide that others could not, to make up for increasing losses within Australia’s civic and cultural life that market conditions were responsible for. ... working in partnership with the independent production sector, we had been able in recent years to leverage our money, increase our output and give the Australian public a sense of what else we could deliver if further funding was available."

4. Lokaler Content und Web 2.0-Angebote: "The spine of the ABC is its local radio network, 60 local stations reaching 99% of Australians. ... And we have in place, through the ABC’s local radio network, an existing connection with local communities that will only be deepened through Web 2.0, with the ABC able to act as not just a host, but a catalyst, encouraging and educating audiences to create and publish their content through the ABC. We see the ABC as Australia’s town square, a place where all Australians can come to listen and learn, to speak and to be heard. The Government has funded the ABC to create regional broadband hubs – to work with communities to help them develop local broadband content and distribute it across their communities and beyond."

5. "Being Defined as a Public Good: An Alternative to Licence Fee Funding":
"There is no question that it [the licence fee] is, in effect, a regressive tax – the burden falling hardest on those who can least afford to pay it. ... A licence fee is seen as a fee for services provided to everyone. In Australia, the funding of public broadcasting is seen another way ‐ as a public good, a part of the greater public good that is funded through taxation. Not everyone watches or listens to the ABC in Australia, but almost universally, everyone is glad it’s there. ... That public benefit is funded by the taxpayers, out of taxation revenue and is appropriated byGovernment. And just as your tax dollars do not necessarily directly relate to your own individual consumption or benefits, but provide instead benefits for the society as a whole – so it is with taxpayer support of the ABC. ...
Our budgetary situation means we have to make choices. We can never go down the populist path, although some of our programs are very popular. We have to let the market provide where it can and invest wisely to ensure we deliver where we must. ... This is the central difference between trying to represent value as a public good rather than a service from which everyone feels – as they do about the licence fee – that they must extract personal benefit to justify direct personal expenditure."

6. Zum Wunsch der Privaten, sich um öffentliche Finanzierung zu bewerben ("Contestability"): "the ABC has no difficulty with the idea of contestability, since the contests we are prepared to enter are those where we believe the market will not be able to provide. We believe in some areas: like commercial free children’s programming and like international broadcasting as an arm of the Government’s soft diplomacy – that the public broadcaster, operating without a profit motive, and building on a record of integrity developed for generations, is the only organisation that can deliver. I’m with them on this: I believe in public funding for public purposes. I do not want the ABC to go down the path were we take an aggressive commercial line, including advertising, to fill our coffers and fund our ambitions."

7. Zur Werbefinanzierung von öffentlich-rechtlichen Programmen: "The experience of public broadcasters around the world that have attempted to complement public funding with advertising revenue is not happy ... if you are dependent on advertising revenue to fund your growth, your programming choices naturally focus on attracting audiences to sell to advertisers. At the ABC, I think most of our programming passes a test that says only the ABC would develop or buy and then broadcast the program over time. That is much harder to do when, like your commercial competitors, you are dependent on advertising revenue."

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