ABC, SBS respond to green paper proposals in Senate Estimates

David Anderson at the Senate Estimates.

ABC managing director David Anderson reiterated his opposition to local content obligations for the broadcaster at Senate Estimates on Tuesday, describing it as a “breach of independence”.

Both Anderson and SBS managing director James Taylor faced questions about the future of their respective services in the context of the Federal Government’s green paper, for which submissions are due in May.

As part of the reforms outlined in the paper, the ABC and SBS’s broadcasting acts would also be amended in order to impose an explicit obligation to provide new Australian programming, with the intent to bring both in line with other services, such as the commercial networks.

When asked about the ABC’s response to the proposals, Anderson reiterated his claim from an address to La Trobe University last week that quotas were not “an issue of intent” for the ABC, but “a question of budget”.

“What [green paper] does do is surface issues around what is possible and when it is possible,” he said.

“But I do fundamentally take a position on content quotas and that imposition on the ABC. 

“I think it is in breach of our own independence when it comes to the activities of the ABC that is determined by the board and management as to where our investment goes.

“And I think content quotas is certainly not an issue for us with the amount of money the ABC already spends on Australian content and that it will always seek to.”

Anderson’s testimony was followed by that of Taylor, who described the green paper as “the start of the conversation”, adding that SBS was “working through a process to provide a comprehensive response”.