Cut ABC Digital Radio funding says Lewis Review

The ABC and SBS are under pressure to cut costs as a result of the Lewis Review.

Of particular interest to the radio industry is the recommendation that digital radio transmission funding be cut and replaced with more internet streaming.

Give that the cost of audio streaming increases the more listeners there are, while free to air digital transmission costs remain steady no matter how many people are listening, the review’s sums may be a little off.

A radioinfo source familiar with the report says there are costings in it, but that they are “rubbery” and the report does not understand the requirements of the ABC’s charter.

ABC Managing Director Mark Scott has formed an internal project team to respond to the recommendations in the review.  Expenditure under the spotlight includes:

  • Cut Digital Radio transmission
  • Increase focus on online radio streaming
  • Charge users for some iView content using a subscription model
  • Merge the ABC and SBS online players
  • Sell OB vans and studios
  • Merge various back office functions of ABC and SBS
  • Outsource more TV production and sell TV production studios
  • More advertising on SBS
At a recent conference, CRA’s Joan Warner outlined the differences between digital free to air broadcasting and audio streaming, saying: “Radio audiences number in their millions, all listening at the same time, so apps and streaming cannot cope with the kind of numbers that listen to free to air broadcasting. A hybrid solution where there are receiver chips in phones to provide the audio, combined with apps is the solution. Hybrid functionality will ensure a bright future for the industry.”
Warner revealed that listening via streaming in metro areas of Australia is about 9%, while in regional areas streaming listening is about 2% (before streaming was switched off due the the current PPCA dispute). The majority of radio listening is still via free to air broadcast, with DAB+ listening being three times as much as online streaming listening.

In an interview on Radio National this week, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann (pictured) did not necessarily endorse the recommendations of the review, saying “this is not a policy of the government, it is not something that we’ve put out there, it is something that somebody out to the government.”


He said it is a policy matter for Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Listen to the full interview here.

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