ABC role in new media questioned

The ABC is an important institution, but new media opportunities should be reserved for private-sector organisations, according to News Corp's Australian chief executive, Julian Clarke.

The ABC is an important institution, but new media opportunities should be reserved for private-sector organisations, according to News Corp's Australian chief executive, Julian Clarke.

Speaking after the ABC was criticised by senior federal ministers and News Corp's Australian for teaming up with a publisher, Guardian Australia, to publish alleged phone-tapping of the Indonesian President, Mr Clarke said the ABC was not responsible for the deep troubles of traditional media organisations.

But he said questions ought to be asked about how appropriate it was for the ABC to move further into areas the private sector could fill.

"How we grow advertising revenue has got nothing to do with whether the ABC exists or not," Mr Clarke told a Melbourne Press Club lunch.

"The question is, whatever comes in the future, should they [the ABC] continue to push into that area?

"And at that point you have to ask the question, 'Why is a government-funded business doing this?' People will have different responses to that."

Mr Clarke said that despite today's media challenges - the fragmentation of audiences and advertisements, the rise of social media and aggregators - he was upbeat about News Corp's position.

He pointed to opportunities for print and digital, funded by both advertising and subscription.

And he said News Corp was happy to compete with media challengers, the Guardian Australia and the soon-to-be-launched Mail Online, saying: "It'll be on.

"I think the competition is heating up by the day . . . The beaut part about what's happened with all this segmentation and fragmentation is that it's tough for everybody to either sustain their current business or to enter into a new market.

"So they're going to have their hands full, and I would think from Fairfax's point of view, certainly from News' point of view, we're happy to have the blue."

Fairfax publishes BusinessDay.

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