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May 5, 2008

Wikipedia: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Australian Broadcasting Corporation logo
Type Broadcast radio, television and online
Country Australia
Availability National
International
Owner Commonwealth of Australia
Key people Maurice Newman, Chairperson;
Mark Scott, Managing Director
Launch date 1932 (radio)
1956 (television)
1995 (online)
Former names Australian Broadcasting Company (1929-1932)
Australian Broadcasting Commission (1932-1983)
Website
www.abc.net.au

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) is Australia’s national public broadcaster, known previously as the Australian Broadcasting Commission. With a budget of AUD$823 million annually, the corporation provides television, radio, online and mobile services[citation needed] throughout metropolitan and regional Australia, as well as overseas through the Australia Network and Radio Australia. Through its commercial arm, ABC Commercial, the corporation runs a chain of retail outlets, selling books, audio and video recordings, and other merchandise related to its programs.

Founded in 1929 as the Australian Broadcasting Company, it was subsequently nationalised and made a state-owned corporation on July 1, 1932, becoming the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Following this, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983 [1] changed the name of the organisation to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation effective July 1, 1983.[1] The corporation produces programmes and information services, broadcasting nationally on television, radio, and the Internet.

Contents

History

Main article: History of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

1920s to the 1940s

See also: Australian Broadcasting Company

The first public radio station in Australia opened in Sydney on November 13, 1923 under the call sign 2SB with other stations in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart following.[2] A licensing scheme, administered by the Postmaster-General’s Department, was soon established allowing certain stations government funding, albeit with restrictions placed on their advertising content.[3]

Following a 1927 Royal Commission inquiry into radio licensing issues, the government established the National Broadcasting Service which subsequently took over a number of the larger funded stations. It also nationalised the Australian Broadcasting Company which had been created by entertainment interests to supply programs to various radio stations.[3] On July 1, 1932, the Australian Broadcasting Commission was established, taking over the operations of the National Broadcasting Service and eventually establishing offices in each of Australia’s capital cities.[3]

The ABC's Perth headquarters in 1937.

The ABC’s Perth headquarters in 1937.

Over the next four years the stations were reformed into a cohesive broadcasting organisation through regular program relays, coordinated by a centralised bureaucracy.[4] The Australian broadcast radio spectrum was constituted of the ABC and the commercial sector.[4]

In 1942 The Australian Broadcasting Act was passed, giving the ABC the power to decide when, and in what circumstances, political speeches should be broadcast.[5] Directions from the Minister about whether or not to broadcast any matter now had to be made in writing, and any exercise of the power had to be mentioned in the Commission’s Annual Report.[5] It was used only once, in 1963.[5] In the same year, “Kindergarten of the Air” began on ABC Radio in Perth, and was later broadcast nationally.

1950s to the 1970s

See also: ABC Television

The commission commenced television broadcasting in Sydney and Melbourne in 1956. ABN-2 Sydney was inauguratedby Prime Minister Robert Menzies on November 5, with ABV-2 Melbourne following two weeks later on November 18. These two stations were later joined by additional services in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart, and eventually Darwin.

James Dibble reading the first ABC News bulletin in 1956.

James Dibble reading the first ABC News bulletin in 1956.

Although radio programs could be broadcast nationally by landline, television relay facilities were not put in place until the early 1960s.[6] This meant that news bulletins had to be sent to each capital city by teleprinter, to be prepared and presented separately in each city, with filmed materials copied manually and sent to each state.[6] Other television programs at the time included the popular Six O’Clock Rock hosted by Johnny O’Keefe, Mr Squiggle, as well as operas and plays.[6]

The January 1, 1975-December 31, 2000 'wavelength' logo.

The January 1, 1975-December 31, 2000 ‘wavelength’ logo.

In the early years of television, the ABC had been using Lissajous curves as fillers in-between programs. A staff competition was conducted in 1963 to create a new logo for use on television, stationery, publications, microphone badges and vehicles.[7] After a suggestion by space engineer, Doug Rickard,[8] the ABC’s senior graphic designer, Bill Kennard, submitted a design in 1965 which was part of the waveform of an oscilloscope.[7] The letters A-B-C were added to the wavelength design and it was adopted as the ABC’s official logo.[7] Kennard was paid A£25 for his design.[7]

In 1975, colour television was introduced in Australia, and within a decade, the ABC had moved into satellite broadcasting, greatly enhancing its ability to distribute content nationally. In the same year, the ABC introduced a 24 hour-a-day AM rock station in Sydney, 2JJ (Double Jay), which was eventually expanded into the national Triple J FM network.[9] A year later, a national classical music network was established on the FM band, broadcasting from Adelaide. It was initially known as ABC-FM – referring both to its ‘fine music’ programming and radio frequency.[9]

1980s to the 1990s

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983 [1] changed the name of the organisation from the “Australian Broadcasting Commission” to the “Australian Broadcasting Corporation” effective 1 July 1983.[1] At the same time, the newly-formed Corporation underwent significant restructuring – program production in indigenoushot affairs, comedy, social history and current affairs was significantly expanded, while the Corporation’s output of drama was boosted.[10] Local production trebled from 1986-91 with the assistance of co-production, co-financing, and pre-sales arrangements.[10]

The changes also led to the split of television and radio operations into two separate divisions, with an overhaul of management, finance, property and engineering undertaken.[10] Geoffrey Whitehead was the initial Managing Director, however following his resignation in 1986, David Hill (at the time chair of the ABC Board) took over his position.

A new Concert Music department was formed in 1985 to coordinate the corporation’s six symphony orchestras, which in turn received a greater level of autonomy in order to better respond to local needs.[10] Open-air free concerts and tours, educational activities, and joint ventures with other music groups were undertaken at the time to expand the Orchestras’ audience reach.[10]

ABC Radio was restructured significantly in 1985 – Radio One became the Metropolitan network, while Radio 2 became known as Radio National (callsigns, however, were not standardised until 1990). New programs such as The World Today, Australia All Over, and The Coodabeen Champions were introduced, while ABC-FM established an Australian Music Unit in 1989.[10] Radio Australia began to focus on the Asia-Pacific region, with coverage targeted at the south west and central Pacific, south-east Asia, and north Asia. Radio Australia also carried more news coverage, with special broadcasts during the 1988 Fiji coup, Tianmen Square massacre, and the First Gulf War.[10]

The ABC's Sydney headquarters in Ultimo.

The ABC’s Sydney headquarters in Ultimo.

In 1991, the Corporation’s Sydney radio and orchestral operations moved to a new building built by Leighton Holdings[11] on a single site in the inner-city suburb of Ultimo.[12] In Melbourne, the ABC Southbank Centre was completed in 1994, and now houses the radio division in Victoria as well as the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.[12]

The ABC Multimedia Unit was established in July, 1995, to manage the new ABC website (launched in August). Funding was allocated later that year specifically for online content, as opposed to reliance on funding for television and radio content. The first online election coverage was put together in 1996, and included news, electorate maps, candidate information and live results.[12]

By the early 1990s, all major ABC broadcasting outlets moved to 24 hour-a-day operation, while regional radio coverage in Australia was extended with 80 new transmitters.[12] Live television broadcasts of selected parliamentary sessions started in 1990.[12] ABC NewsRadio, a continuous news network broadcast on the Parliamentary and News Network when parliament is not sitting, was launched on October 5, 1996.[12]

International television service Australia Television International was established in 1993, while at the same Radio Australia increased its international reach.[12] Reducing funding in 1997 for Radio Australia resulted in staff and programming cuts.[12]

Australia Television was sold to the Seven Network in 1998, however the service continued to show ABC news and current affairs programming up until its closure in 2001.[13] The ABC’s television operation joined its radio and online divisions at the Corporation’s Ultimo headquarters in 2000.[14]

2000s

In 2001, digital television commenced after four years of preparation.[14] In readiness, the ABC had fully digitised its production, post-production and transmission facilities – heralded at the time as ‘the greatest advance in television technology since the introduction of colour’.[14] The first programs to be produced in widescreen were drama series Something in the Air, Grass Roots and In the Mind of the Architect.

At the same time, the ABC’s Multimedia division was renamed ‘ABC New Media’, becoming an output division of the ABC alongside Television and Radio.[14] Legislation allowed the ABC to provide ‘multichannels’ – additional, digital-only, television services managed by the New Media division. Soon after the introduction of digial television in 2001, Fly TV and the ABC Kids Channel launched, showing a mix of programming aimed at teenagers and children.

In 2002, the ABC launched ABC Asia Pacific – the replacement for the defunct Australia Television channel operated previously by the Seven Network. Much like its predecessor, and companion radio network Radio Australia, the service provided a mix of programming targeted at audiences throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Funding cuts in 2003 led to the closure of Fly and the ABC Kid’s Channel.

ABC2 launched on March 7, 2005.

ABC2 launched on March 7, 2005.

ABC2, a second attempt at a digital-only television channel, launched on March 7, 2005. Unlike its predecessors the new service was not dependent on government funding, instead running on a budget of AUD$3 million per year.[15] Minister for Communications Helen Coonan inaugurated the channel at Parliament House three days later.[16] Genre restrictions limiting the types of programming the channel could carry were lifted in October, 2006 – ABC2 was henceforth able to carry programming classified as comedy, drama, national news, sport and entertainment.[17]

A high incidence of breast cancer in female staff working at the ABC’s offices in Brisbane led to the closure of the site, based in Toowong, on December 21, 2006. Sixteen women were diagnosed with the disease in a period spanning 1994 to 2007.[18] A progress report released in March, 2007, by an independent panel formed to investigate the occurrences found that the rate of occurrence for breast cancer rate at the offices was eleven times higher than elsewhere[19] – since the closure of the site, the ABC’s Brisbane-based television and radio operations were moved to alternate locations around the city, inclued Ten Brisbane’s studios at Mt Coot-tha. The ABC’s Managing Director, Mark Scott, announced in August, 2007 that new studios would be built on the site, following the final release of the Review and Scientific Investigation Panel’s report.[20]

At midday on February 8, 2008, ABC TV was rebranded as ABC1, complementing the existing ABC2 digital-only channel which was launched on March 7, 2005.[21][22]

Corporation

Structure

Below is the divisional structure of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.[23]

ABC Secretariat Director of Editorial Policies Chief of Staff Director of Corporate Development General Counsel
Stephen Collins
Chief Operating Officer
David Pendleton
\uparrow
\uparrow
\uparrow
\uparrow
\uparrow
\uparrow
ABC Board
Managing Director
Mark Scott
\downarrow
\downarrow
\downarrow
\downarrow
\downarrow
\downarrow
\downarrow
Innovation
Director
Ian Carroll
Radio and Regional Content
Director
Sue Howard
Television
Director
Kim Dalton
News and Current Affairs
Director
John Cameron
International, Corporate Strategy & Governance
Director
Murray Green
Commercial
Director
Lynley Marshall
Communications
Director
Gary Dawson

Management

Main article: ABC Board

The operations of the ABC are governed by a board of directors[24], consisting of a Managing Director,[25] five to seven Directors,[25] and until 2006, a staff-elected director.[26][25] The Managing Director is appointed by the board for a period of up to five years, but is eligible for renewal.[27] The authority and guidelines for the appointment of directors is provided for in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983.[28][1][29]

The board’s members, since January, 2007:

  • Mr Mark Scott – Managing Director, appointed 5 July 2006[30]
  • Mr Maurice Newman AC – Chairperson, appointed January 1, 2007[30]
  • Mr John Gallagher QC – appointed 9 December 1999[30]
  • Dr Ron Brunton – appointed 1 May 2003[30]
  • Ms Janet Albrechtsen – appointed 24 February 2005[30]
  • Mr Steven Skala – appointed 6 October 2005[30]
  • Mr Peter Hurley – appointed 14 June 2006[30]
  • Mr Keith Windschuttle – appointed 14 June 2006[30]

Funding

As opposed to many of its international counterparts such as the BBC,[31] the ABC is funded entirely by the Australian government, in addition to some revenue received from ABC Commercial. In the 2006-07 federal budget, the ABC received AUD$823 million of government funding.[32]

Until 1948, the ABC was funded directly by radio license fees – amendments were made to the Australian Broadcasting Act that meant the ABC would receive its funding directly from the Commonwealth government. License fees, however, remained until 1973 when they were abolished by the Whitlam Labor government, on the basis that the near-universality of television and radio services meant that public funding was a fairer method of providing revenue for government-owned radio and television broadcasters.[15]

The term “where your 8 cents a day goes” is often used in reference to the services provided by the ABC.[33]

Politics and criticism

See also: ABC Board

The ABC has often, in recent times, been accused of left wing bias[34] by Coalition members of parliament[35] and right-wing commentators such as Andrew Bolt,[36] Piers Akerman,[citation needed] Tim Blair and Gerard Henderson.[36] In 2003, former Communications Minister Senator Richard Alston lodged sixty-eight complaints with the Independent Complaints Review Panel against ABC’s AM radio program for its coverage of the US-led invasion of Iraq.[37] The panel upheld a small fraction of the lodged complaints,[37] overall finding no evidence of biased and anti-Coalition coverage. Of the seventeen complaints by the Minister that were upheld, twelve displayed serious bias on the part of the reporters or the program’s presenter Linda Mottram.[37]

Managing Director Mark Scott formally released a new set of editorial guidelines covering news and current affairs, opinion programs, factual programs and performance pieces in October, 2006.[38] The ABC must express “a full range of views in opinion-based programs and ensure that when an opinion is expressed, it is clearly marked as an opinion.”[38] The guidelines came into effect in March 2007.[38]

A 2004 Roy Morgan media credibility survey found that twenty-five percent of Australian journalists viewed the ABC as Australia’s most partisan media outlet, second only to News Limited. At the same time, the poll found that ABC Radio was seen as the most accurate news source in the country.[39]

A number of former journalists and presenters have moved from positions at the corporation to politics. State and federal Labor MPs Bob Carr,[40] Alan Carpenter,[41]Clare Martin,[42] Mary Delahunty[43] and Maxine McKew,[44] as well as the Liberal Party’s Pru Goward and [45] and Eoin Cameron[46] all held, or hold, positions at the ABC. Research undertaken by the broadcaster has indicated that out of a total of 19 former staffers moving into party political positions, 10 have joined the Labor Party, and 9 the Liberal Party.[47]

Conservative Liberal Party governments in the 1960s and 1970s attempted to influence the Corporation’s political coverage by threatening to reduce funding for its news and current affairs division,[48][49]. while the Hawke Labor government unsuccessfully proposed to merge it with the Special Broadcasting Service.[15]

Appointments to the ABC Board made by successive governments have often resulted in criticism of the appointees’ political affiliation, background, and relative merit.[50][51] Past appointments have associated directly with political parties – five of fourteen appointed chairmen have been accused of political affiliation or friendship, include Richard Downing and Ken Myer (both of whom publicly endorsed the Australian Labor Party at the 1972 election[15]), as well as Sir Henry Bland. David Hill was close to Neville Wran, while Donald McDonald was considered to be a close friend of John Howard.[52]

Soon after coming to office in 1996, the Liberal Party government of John Howard reduced the ABC’s operating grants by ten percent.[53] From 2003 it also made several controversial appointments to the ABC Board, including prominent ABC critic Janet Albrechtsen,[54] , Ron Brunton,[55] and Keith Windschuttle.[56][51]

In 2006, a restructure of the ABC Board, undertaken by the Howard government, abolished the position of staff elected director.[26] This drew criticism from the Labor Party, Australian Greens, and the Democrats, who saw it as a ‘revenge measure’ taken against the Corporation.[57]

Services

Radio

Main article: ABC Radio and Regional Content

The ABC operates 46 local radio stations, in addition to four national networks and international service Radio Australia. In addition, DiG Radio launched on digital platforms in 2002, currently offering three separate stations.

ABC Local Radio is the Corporation’s flagship radio station in each broadcast area. There are 46 individual stations, each with a similar format comprised of locally-presented light entertainment, talk back, music, sport and interviews, in addition to some national programming such as AM, PM, The World Today, sporting events and Nightlife.

ABC Radio National broadcasts over 60 special interest programs per week covering a range of topics that includes music, comedy, book readings, radio dramas, poetry, science, health, the arts, religion, social history and current affairs.

ABC NewsRadio is a rolling news service, previously known as the Parliamentary and News Network. The station was originally set up to broadcast Parliament, with the network’s news content built around it. PNN was originally set up to relieve other ABC Radio networks from covering Parliament when it was sitting. The station broadcasts news on a 24/7 format with updates on the quarter-hour. Most of its news content is produced by the ABC itself, however many programs are relayed from the BBC World Service, NPR, Deutsche Welle, Radio Netherlands and CNN Radio.

ABC Classic FM was the ABC’s first FM service. It was originally known simply as “ABC FM”, and for a short time “ABC Fine Music”. Its format borrowed heavily from community stations that eventually founded the Fine Music Network, as well as BBC Radio 3.

Triple J is the national youth radio network, broadcasting contemporary alternative and independent music. While the station play lists music from around the world, it maintains a strong focus on local artists. The station is targeted at young people, aged 18 – 35. Triple J was formerly known as “Double Jay” when it launched in Sydney on January 19, 1975.

ABC Radio Australia is an international shortwave, satellite and internet radio service with transmissions aimed at East Asia and the Pacific Islands, although its signals are also audible in many other parts of the world. It features programs in various languages spoken in these regions, including Mandarin, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Khmer and Tok Pisin.

Radio Australia bulletins are also carried on the World Radio Network, available via satellite in Europe and North America.

Television

Main article: ABC Television

Within Australia, the ABC operates two channels. ABC1, the Corporation’s original television service, receives the bulk of funding for television and shows first-run comedy, drama, documentaries, and news and current affairs. In each state and territory a local news bulletin is shown at 7.00pm nightly.

ABC2, launched in 2005, is a digital-only channel that shows repeated programs from ABC1, as well as some original content including news programs, children’s shows, animation, and music shows. ABC HD, a high-definition simulcast of ABC1 Sydney, is also available in most areas.

The Australia Network is an international satellite television service operated by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, funded by advertising and grants from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Aimed at the Asia-Pacific region, the service broadcasts a mixture of English language programming, including general entertainment, sport, and current affairs.

Online

Main article: ABC Innovation

An experimental Multimedia Unit was established in 1995, charged with developing policy for the ABC’s work in web publishing.[12] This unit continued until 2000, when the New Media division was formed, bringing together the ABC’s online output as a division similar to Television or Radio.[14] The division had over a million pages of material published by late 2003.[14]

In 2001 the New Media division became New Media and Digital Services, reflecting the broader remit to develop content for digital platforms such as digital television. In addition to ABC Online, the division also had responsibility over the ABC’s two digital television services, Fly TV and the ABC Kids Channel, until their closure in 2003.[58] In March 2005 the division oversaw the launch of ABC2, a free-to-air digital television channel, in effect a replacement for ABC Kids and Fly.

In conjunction with the ABC’s radio division, New Media and Digital Services implemented the ABC’s first podcasts in December 2004. By mid-2006 the ABC had become an international leader in podcasting with over fifty podcast programs delivering hundreds of thousands of downloads per week,[59] including trial video podcasts of The Chaser’s War on Everything and jtv.[60]

In February 2007, the New Media & Digital Services division was dissolved and divided up amongst other areas of the ABC. At the same time, a new Innovations area was created to manage ABC Online and investigate new technologies for the ABC.[61]

Commercial

Main article: ABC Commercial

ABC Commercial is the division of the ABC responsible for pursuing new sources of revenue for the Corporation.[61] It is comprised of ABC Retail, ABC Consumer Publishing and Content Sales, as well as ABC Resource Hire. ABC Commercial was established in 1974, with all profits from the sale of consumer product and production services returned to the Corporation to reinvest in program-making.[62]

Orchestras

Main article: Symphony Australia
Audio samples:
  • “Majestic Fanfare”
    The original ABC News and Current Affairs theme music, last used in the mid-1980s.
  • Problems playing the files? See media help.

Up until the installation of disc recording equipment in 1935, all content broadcast on the ABC was produced live, including music.[63] For this purpose, the ABC established broadcasting orchestras in each state, and in some centres also employed choruses and dance bands. This became known as the ABC Concert Music Division, which was controlled by the Federal Director of Music – the first of whom was W.G. James [64]. There are currently six state symphony orchestras:

  • Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
  • Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
  • Sydney Symphony
  • The Queensland Orchestra
  • Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
  • West Australian Symphony Orchestra

The orchestras were corporatised in the 1990s[12] but remain under ABC ownership, co-ordinated by Symphony Australia.

See also

  • Timeline of Australian radio
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