With letters of agreement between the ABC and Google and Facebook regarding news payments due to be finalised this year, there is speculation about what it will all mean for the ABC’s bottom line.
The two internet giants are due to sign the agreement, which will see payments made to the ABC so that both Facebook and Google can broadcast ABC news content on their sites.
The ABC Managing Director is soon expected to front Senate Estimates to reveal the exact amount of money the ABC will earn from the tech platforms.
But according to ABC journalist stalwart Quentin Dempster, there are fears that the multi-million dollar deal may have an impact upon the ABC’s next triennial funding agreement.
In a piece published in John Menedue’s “Pearls and Irritations” public policy journal, Quentin Dempster wrote:
Anderson, obviously suspicious that the Morrison government will discount this commercial revenue in the next ABC appropriation, says the Google/Facebook money will be spent on “new public interest journalism initiatives for regional Australia” likely to be announced by the board after the money drops into the ABC’s bank account.
Quentin Dempster also says local quotas are also to come under the spotlight:
While there is undoubted hostility between the Morrison government, the Liberal Party and the ABC over the reporting activities of Four Corners, particularly the items on the PM and QAnon and the bitter Christian Porter v ABC defamation action, it is now clear the ABC wants its next triennial funding negotiation later this year to concentrate on Australia’s capacity to make home-grown programs and for the ABC to become an underwriter of a local production industry decimated by the pandemic lockdowns and the market incursions by global streamers.
So far Fletcher has not responded to requests that the government mandate local production quotas on the global interlopers. The Canadian government recently passed legislation requiring the video streamers to spend 30 per cent of revenues derived from Canadian consumers on content to be produced locally.
And then there is the enduring fear present about why the government is keeping its plans for the ABC quiet as an election approaches.
There is no certainty on continuation of what is known as enhanced news gathering (ENG) tied funding for regional news resources ($14.8m per year). The ABC board still does not know the Morrison government’s future intentions towards an “indexation pause” first applied by former communications minister Senator Mitch Fifield from the 2018 federal budget onwards.