I find it most amusing when commercial media dinosaurs reveal their failed plans for world domination and then whinge when audiences are not quite as easy to manipulate as they imagined. The ABC is planning to build 50 regional sites bringing together its existing regional content with local radio, and from that to build online regional communities. This sounds like a great idea, but the cretins at APN (the Australian), Fairfax and News Ltd think it sucks because it could reduce the audiences for their proposed commercial regional products.

The ABC wants to use taxpayers money to empower local communities to generate their own news. Given that regional and remote communities have suffered a lack of services due to technological restraints in previous eras, I love the idea of the ABC using digital media to help them catch up. The dinosaurs of commercial media don’t want the ABC to give regional audiences more choice. It wants regional audiences to continue to suffer with whatever mediocre scraps of lame commercial content corporate media chooses to give them.

Smaller audiences for their antiquated advertising infested products means less profit for them. Their primary goal is profit, not providing a better service to regional communities. As a (relatively) non-commercial publisher and broadcaster, the ABC can focus on its primary role of delivering media as a community service.

We urbanites alreay take our broadband and mobile phone services for granted, and the kinds of interactive connectivity we enjoy because of these. We complain when we go to a winery for a weekend in a regional area and find ourselves off the grid. Many people never have the chance to get on the grid. The ABC is doing something positive to build user generated local content for regional communities. It deserves our support, and the commercial retards trying to stop it deserve our scorn. Stop buying their newspapers.

The ABC, media and community

14 thoughts on “The ABC, media and community

  • 10 August 2009 at 3:24 pm

    I’m interested in your opinion about how we can protect journalism. What would you say to Murdoch’s statement: “Quality journalism is not cheap. An industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalising its ability to produce good reporting.”

    • 10 August 2009 at 3:37 pm

      Investigative journalism in areas such as politics, business and international events is certainly not cheap and requires many resources. Howver, commercial media is very inefficient, such as when every channel sends camera crews to film the same event, such as a natural disaster. Why don’t they share a film crew and footage and then add their unique flavour in their analysis of the event?

      At the moment the ABC has the best business model because we pay for it via taxation and get comprehensive reporting in return. In contrast, commercial media has a much more complicated and fragile business model. Advertising is collapsing. Subscription is collapsing.

      A lot of what the commercial media used to control, such as classified advertising and local news, can now organise itself online. A lot of traditional ‘journalism’ doesn’t need protecting. Much of what the commercial media produces is pointless drivel. No wonder no one wants to pay for it!

  • 11 August 2009 at 12:15 pm

    So, you contend three things: News collectors could use fewer labour resources than they currently do in order to save money; it can be good for journalism when the government funds media; only a small proportion of traditional journalism as it’s generally defined needs ‘saving’. Is that right? I don’t want to misconstrue what you’re saying.

    Assuming you accept that quality journalism and news gathering activities are under threat, I’m wondering: when you dismiss “antiquated advertising infested products”, what are you personally advocating as a desirable future for journalism?

    • 11 August 2009 at 12:55 pm

      I’m not primarily concerned by or interested in journalism. I am interested in how the information needs of the community can best be met, in the most efficient and unhindered manner possible.

      Media corporations could certainly save money and be more financially efficient by sharing otherwise duplicated resources, such as film crews. I don’t think the audience is best served by seeing 5 equally windswept reporters standing in front of event x. Give me analysis from the studio plus vision (which could be shared). That’s what I as an audience need.

      Government should not be the only source of media production or funding, but the model we have in Australia where the government engages in very little political interference of the content of the ABC and SBS, then the audience is well served by paying for media via taxation.

      Take a traditional newspaper. Remove real estate classified ads (best done online). Remove car classified ads (best done online). Remove employment classified ads (best done online). Remove the bland generic restaurant reviews and other ‘local’ content (best done by bloggers and content distributed by social networking). Remove world news (best done by accessing international news online rather than having it filtered through the eyes of a mediocre Australian news editor). These products employ a lot of journalists we no longer need.

      What do you have left? Australian political, social, business and sport news. That is the unique product best done by our national public and private media corporations.

      There is no desirable future for many journalists or media corporations. Hyperlocal news sites allow members of a community to read, write, publish and share their own news. We don’t need a media corporation to publish a bland local newspaper full of ads for carpet cleaners and brothels. We can fulfill local news needs without commercial mediation.

  • 11 August 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Do you really think that such a parochial media could produce anything of any value? If you aren’t all that interested in journalism, how do you know that world news is best done by accessing international news online rather than having it filtered through the eyes of a ‘mediocre’ Australian news editor? (Cultural cringe showing?)
    Presumably this process would repeat itself in other countries as well, so that there wouldn’t even be any international news to view online.

    Or are you saying that Australia is so especially mediocre that it should satisfy itself with the parish pump, and leave trying to understand the world to the clever countries?
    As far as local media goes, you are entirely correct, however.

    It may well be that journalism that is well and insightfully written, and has the time and resources to uncover deeply hidden truths (or lies), and makes the world suddenly clearer to us, is unsaveable. But let’s not delude ourselves that this is anything other than a terrible shame.

    • 11 August 2009 at 1:59 pm

      I mean by international media that if I want to know about what is happening in another country I will read news coming from that country, eg read the Guardian or the SF Gate, or watch the ABC.

      Have a look at news.com.au. Is there anything of merit there? Bogans fighting, bogan radio hosts who humiliate teenagers, bogan celebrities and their false body parts, baby animals, hypocritical sexual outrage, dubious moral posturising, etc. Nothing about what’s happening in Afghanistan. Nothing I need to know. Nothing worth paying for.

      Serious investigative reporting that exposes political corruption and corporate crime (eg James Hardie’s appalling treatment of asbestos workers with cancer) is usually done by the ABC. This is what I want to pay for, and I would be willing to pay more tax if it increased the budget of the ABC and SBS.

      By ‘mediocre’ Australian news editor I mean someone who thinks they can decide for me what international news I should be exposed to. I can now make that decision for myself.

  • 11 August 2009 at 6:21 pm

    While I’m all for people setting up a voice online I think 50 new regional sites is an utter waste of money.

    Do we really need an online precense for:

    August 8th, 2009: Tumbleweed rolled past.

    August 9th, 2009: Some cow in that guys paddock sneezed at noon.

    August 10th, 2009: Pub ran out of beer.

    August 11th, 2009: Sally got married.

    August 12th, 2009: Pub has beer back in stock.


    There’s a reason commercial interests don’t cover these towns, because there’s not enough interest. I don’t think taxpayer money is being put to good use when, if given an internet connection these people have the same access to services everyone else has.

    • 11 August 2009 at 6:24 pm

      Commercial media does nothing in regional areas because it is not profitable. This has nothing to do with the information needs of the people who live there or who visit. You’ve misssed the point entirely and assuming that there’s nothing to say about regional areas is not true.

      When did you last plan a holiday in regional Australia? Have you been to somewhere like Echuca or Margaret River? The online content about the towns is appalling, out of date, inaccurate and rubbish. Greater content about regional areas would be great for locals and tourists alike.

  • 11 August 2009 at 7:32 pm

    I’ve been camping at echuca and I don’t think reading up about the local gossip would have influenced my decision.

    Are you wanting tourist content or content for the locals? I doubt the locals are going to care much about information on the tourist areas unless of course they rely on them for income.

    Generally when something isn’t commercially viable online, as far as tourism goes, it’s because of a lack of traffic. I don’t see why we need to pump taxpayer dollars into providing tourism information online when there is a lack of interest.

    As far as local content goes see my comments re. Tumblweed Daily.

    There’s a distinction here and you need to be clear about what content it is you’re wanting regional areas to empower themselves with.

    • 11 August 2009 at 8:14 pm

      The ABC plans to stimulate regional communities to engage with, create and use social media like we do in the city. They want to add capacity, resources and inspiration to places that have been overlooked. I think this is a very positive thing and taxation well spent. I’d like to read the kinds of social reviews I can access for Brunswick about Orange, or Karratha or elsewhere.

  • 11 August 2009 at 11:19 pm

    I think part of it is computer literacy and the fact that day to day, nothing much of interest happens.

    Are the ABC going to hire people to come up with the content or just provide what’s already accessible to the people living in regional areas?

    Nothing’s currently stopping them making their own blogs and creating content on their localities if they have internet access.

    Throwing taxpayer funds at it isn’t going all of a sudden create computer literate locals.

    • 11 August 2009 at 11:45 pm

      Part of the oney would be spent on training. The 2009-10 budget statement reads:

      ABC Local Regional Broadband Hubs

      The ABC will receive $15.3 million to encourage and assist the development of user generated content and to establish community web sites and portals, creating ‘virtual town squares’ for communities to share experiences.

      The funding provides for more than 50 enhanced regional broadband hubs to be rolled out over the next three years. Funding will be used to identify and employ local producers to work on cross‑media stories and to train audiences to create their own content.

      I think the idea has merit.

  • 20 August 2009 at 10:58 pm

    I’m a subject of the commonwealth living in a regional area, Lakes Entrance, East Gippsland, Victoria.

    I run the local lakes entrance dot com tourism website. When i first took it over, 6 months ago, I researched sites like this, local news publishers.

    My idea was to provide not only accommodation information for city dwellers as yourselves, but also local “news” content for locals.

    I’ve since found, the local news content in this, and no doubt many regional areas is still satisfied by the local newspapers. They may be owned by larger corporate structures, but ultimately, 90% of the news content is local. Not false body parts or non-existent egos.

    Because nothing much does happen in the country, the weekly paper is anticipated by all. And it fills the gap nicely.

    The only online content i’ve found of any interest to the locals are specific reports, such as the weekly fishing report. Or, more detailed information on sand movements and the like for fishermen.

    I suspect the ABC regional push will fall pretty much dead in the water. Great idea, but I don’t believe country people are ready for it. There’s just no need as yet for local news on the net. Our local paper has an online presence, but you have to pay to get access. You can imagine how popular that is.

    The local Shires are also trying to fill a role in providing local content on their websites, however the material becomes out of date, not updated and thus becomes a useless turnoff. Too much staff turnaround, promotions, new positions created, then destroyed. They never seem to really get their teeth into something for the long haul.

    In closing, I would say Brian and Soapbox are on the right track, so is the ABC – not enough happens to make content fresh in an on-line environment. We wanna keep our weekly paper!

    PS. Brian, your site, your reviews are an inspiration. I’m currently re-building lakesentrance dot com in joomla, and will release my “masterpiece” soon. Cheers and good luck.

  • 21 August 2009 at 10:59 am

    I’m surprised to hear you say nothing much happens in the country! I think there is a lot that you could do. More about fishing, reviews of local markets, shire council politics, school events, local sport. The local paper can’t cover everything, and certainly not for all readers.

    Good local news partically created by locals would in my opinion be a great marketing thing to encourage more tourism.

    If the ABC gave some training and a site on which to post news and discussion I think lots of people, particularly younger people, who embrace it. Imagine for example kids from local schools being loaned digital cameras and being asked to report on their own sports carnival, or you as the webmaster keeping track of what bloggers may be writing about and posting a summary and a link to their work.

    Prominent Melbourne food blogger Melbourne Gastronome has recently been in Gippsland, and I am sure more of these kind of reviews will be published over time.

    I see great opportunities in this area. If people want more news and information than antiquated institutions like the shire can provide, they will need to create it for themselves.


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