ABC Managing Director David Anderson told Senate Estimates last night that the ABC has reached a deal with Facebook and Google under Australia’s media bargaining code.
The deal will see the multinational digital companies pay Australia’s national broadcaster for using its content in search results and in social media posts, which the ABC intends to reinvest in regional services.
David Anderson told the Senate Estimates Committee:
I am pleased to announce that the ABC has signed letters of intent with both Google and Facebook. When these commercial deals are concluded, they will enable the ABC to make new and significant investments in regional services.
These investments will provide a huge boost to the regions at a time when many areas of regional and rural Australia have experienced a withdrawal of media services. The ABC’s commitment to serving regional Australia and connecting all parts of the nation is unmatched by any other media organisation.
The ABC received about the same amount of tax payer funding as last year in this month’s Federal Budget.
It is not clear whether the forward budget estimates took into account potential funding from these sources, although radioinfo believes there was no money from the bargaining code shown in the figures. We asked the ABC for clarification of this issue, but, at the time of publishing, radioinfo has not received a response to our question.
David Anderson told the Senate committee: “When these commercial deals are concluded, they will enable the ABC to make new and significant investments in regional services… [it] will provide a huge boost to the regions at a time when many areas of regional and rural Australia have experienced a withdrawal of media services.”
Senators also asked Anderson about the ABC’s policy on social media posts in light of several recent political comments by staff. The Managing Director said the national broadcaster does not have the right to “supersede people’s civil liberties” by preventing them from posting on social media, but he explained that the corporation’s editorial policies now include guidelines for what is apporpriate.
“We are editorially responsible for what we do on our own official platforms [but] we are not editorially responsible for what our staff do on their personal social media,” he said.
He went on to explain that the corporation’s editorial policies guide staff about comments that might bring the ABC into disrepute, might bring a perception of bias, or might compromise their ability to report in a balanced manner.
The ABC Alumni group has argued that the national broadcaster should not be taking any money from the digital platforms as it may editorially compromise the national broadcaster and may eventually decrease the amount of tax payer funding the ABC receives in the future.
The MD was also quizzed on several other issues, including outsourcing of OB Van services, compolsory sign ins for iView, which will begin next month, and coverage of the recent bombings in Gaza.
The ABC is considering outsourcing its television OB vans. The ABC has two vans left, one in Sydney, the other in Melbourne, and is considering not buying new ones when the useful life of the current vans ends. Instead the ABC will outsource to commercial OB van providers, as it does currently in other states. Issues raised by Senators about the vans included whether there would be redundancies of operational staff (most would be redeployed said Anderson) and whether the ABC would still cover major events such as Australia Day and Anzac Day (yes it will said Anderson). David Anderson said the decision, if it is confirmed, will save millions of dollars in capital costs for the national broadcaster.
Single sign on for iView was also an issue. From next month there will be a compulsory sign-in for all users of iView. Senator McKenzie said she was concerned about privacy, integrity of stored data and whether it was necessary. David Anderson said users will only be asked for basic data such as email address, gender, year of birth and postcode. The information will not be cross referenced to other data and will be stored securely. It will not be shared with other providers. It will be used to facilitate remembering where a viewer was up to in a program, watching across multiple devices, saving favourites and other benefits (See Why should I log in to ABC iview?). It is no more than ost other provides ask for according to Anderson and the storage of the data is governed by the ABC’s privacy policies.
Senator Abetz questioned the ABC on many examples of what he considered anti-Israeli bias in reporting, citing examples of news reports and complaints to the national broadcaster. He also made the point that complaints about anti-Liberal Party bias were more common than complaints about anti-Labor bias and that anti-Liberal “mistakes” were far more common that anti-Labor “mistakes” in reporting.