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Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
18/03/2013

MILLETT, Mr Michael, Director Corporate Affairs, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

SIMPSON, Mr Robert, Director Legal, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

EBEID, Mr Michael, Managing Director, Special Broadcasting Service

[12:42]

CHAIR: I welcome representatives from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Special Broadcasting Service. Thank you for talking to us today. Does either of the organisations wish to make a brief opening statement before we go to questions?

Mr Millett : Yes, the ABC would like to make a brief statement.

CHAIR: Mr Ebeid?

Mr Ebeid : Yes.

CHAIR: Let us put Mr Ebeid first.

Mr Ebeid : Thank you. Firstly, SBS welcomes the changes to update and modernise our charter and act. It is just a matter of reflecting the services we have been providing for many years now; so it is just bringing our act into line with what we are doing. Over the last few years we have had to invest a lot of money into our online services. Because they have not been part of our act, we have had to move money away from content or find other areas of savings to fund these online activities. So this is an important part of reflecting that in our charter to enable us, in future funding rounds, to talk to the government about helping us fund these growing online activities. So this is something we welcome. We are very comfortable with the changes.

CHAIR: Thank you. Mr Millett?

Mr Millett : The ABC welcomes the opportunity to address this committee. The corporation was an active participant in the two inquiries that have underpinned the legislation that the committee is reviewing today. Like other media companies, the ABC is grappling with the challenges of the convergence era: the transfer of power from producers to consumers; the emergence of new delivery mechanisms; and the new and intense globalised competition for audiences. In line with its charter obligations to be innovative and, above all, to be relevant, the ABC is doing its best to meet the demands of this new era.

One of the bills before you today is designed to assist the ABC in this task. The bill modernises the ABC charter, recognising that online is becoming an important delivery tool for the corporation and a vital means of communicating and interacting with its audiences. The tweak to the charter is not revolutionary in nature. After all, the ABC has been using the power of the internet to service its audiences since the late 1990s, when it became the first of the broadcasters to set up websites as an adjunct to its radio programming across the country. The ABC audiences readily accepted the corporation's presence in the online space. We have used it to fulfil the charter to inform, educate and entertain. A total of 3.7 million Australians now use the ABC's online services. Our catch-up television service, iview, now boasts 3.5 million visitors and 13 million program plays across all iview platforms in a single month.

The popularity of Peppa Pig as a download demonstrates the extent to which iview, particularly via its tablet app, has become the platform of choice for many of our younger audience members. Going mobile has become a way of life for other ABC demographics. Seventy per cent of ABC online visits are for news and other essential information. In February, the number of monthly active users of tablets and smart phones exceeded 500,000. In the same month, total downloads of the iview app exceeded 2.35 million. Today we are launching new iPhone and iPad apps to improve the watching and listening experience for mobile audiences. As the convergence report noted, it is not credible to imagine a media organisation operating without an online presence. Digital platforms and online services enable the ABC to provide innovative and comprehensive services accessible to all Australians. The convergence report acknowledged the ABC's ability to use its online services to connect with local communities, particularly in rural and remote parts of the country. The ABC's online services have been important to fulfilling its emergency services role.

In reference to the other wording in the bill, the ABC's charter requires it to broadcast to countries outside Australia in order to encourage an awareness of Australia and Australian attitudes. That is the fundamental essence of international broadcasting. The change to the charter acknowledges the government decision of December 2011 to award the Australia Network contract to the ABC in perpetuity on the grounds that it is best placed to provide this important service on behalf of all Australians. The ABC has now worked to provide a converged international media service across radio, television, online and mobile, effectively bringing close together the Australia Network and Radio Australia services to deliver across all platforms. The ABC is in a unique position to do this. Nowhere else in the world is international broadcasting funded by government and put out to tender by government. It is a role best delivered by public broadcasters who have no other shareholders or stakeholders but the government and the citizens it serves.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Millet. Senator Birmingham.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Thank you all for your time and your submissions today. Could I start with the particular provisions as they relate to the ABC—and this will not be a surprise to ABC officials here—as to the proscriptions around Commonwealth-funded international broadcasting that are proposed in the legislation. What would be the effect of these provisions?

Mr Simpson : At the moment it would mean that the Commonwealth could not enter into an agreement with another supplier of international broadcasting services. As far as the ABC is concerned, it would mean that, at the end of the current 10­year contract, either a new contract would be put in place or that contract would lapse and it would simply become another part of the appropriated funds available to the ABC.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: When we are talking about international broadcasting services, we are talking about the Australia Network here, in practice?

Mr Simpson : Yes, that is correct.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: The Australia Network has, up until recently, been determined by tender process—and most recently was somewhat determined by a tender process, although that tender process was aborted in the end with a direct Cabinet decision in favour of the ABC. Is that correct?

Mr Simpson : Yes, that is correct.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: The contract that the ABC has at present to deliver the Australia Network is for 10 years?

Mr Simpson : Yes, that is correct.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: And it is valued at $220 million, or something like that?

Mr Simpson : Yes, I think it is in that order.

Mr Millett : t is basically continuing the existing funding; so it is just over $20 million a year.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: This legislation seeks to put in law a restriction that would ensure that never again, without changing the law, could a government go through such a tender process for the Australia Network service.

Mr Simpson : Yes, I think that is the effect of it.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Mr Simpson, you just said that that would then mean that either a new contract would be entered into with the ABC, or potentially the funding would just be rolled into the ABC's core services and you would be told, 'Go your hardest'.

Mr Simpson : That is right. It would be a question for government to decide the level of funding; but yes, that would be the process.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Presumably, the only alternative available to government would be simply to not have, and not fund, an international network.

Mr Simpson : Under our charter we are required to provide international broadcasting services, so I am not sure how that would work out in practice.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: But, in terms of the operation of the Australia Network, if the government of the day were dissatisfied with the ABC's approach to it, they would have no option but to either go with the ABC or simply not have an Australia Network service.

Mr Simpson : Yes, I think that is correct.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Wouldn't that remove all potential leverage that a government would have over getting an appropriate, and appropriately competitive and dynamic, outcome from the ABC? At least at present, even though it might be a policy description to say that the Australia Network will stay with the ABC, there is at least a threat of some viable alternative being available. This simply removes that threat, doesn't it?

Mr Simpson : I think it probably puts it in the same position as the rest of the funding for the ABC services. For example, the government made a commitment to fund the children's channel. We are funded to provide that channel and we have to report against that expenditure. I imagine it would be a similar outcome in relation to an international service.

Mr Millett : And the contract does require the ABC to consult with DFAT in the delivery of the service.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: The contract requires that. However, the contract expires in 10 years. This legislation will still be standing then and there is no requirement in the legislation for such consultation.

Mr Millett : No. It is then up for government to consult again with the ABC for the provision beyond that period.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: In terms of the provision of services like the children's channel, which you cited, Mr Simpson—not that I think anybody is proposing to do this—there is no legislative prohibition on a government funding a children's channel through any other provider, is there?

Mr Simpson : No, there is not.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: So this would be a unique prohibition in terms of the comparable types of services that the ABC currently offers.

Mr Simpson : That is probably correct.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: More broadly, perhaps I can shift to how the public broadcasting sector is regulated. In terms of the experiences of both of your organisations with complaints and responding to community sentiment, you both have complaints handling procedures that are primarily internal but ultimately have a right of appeal to ACMA. Is that correct?

Mr Millett : That is correct, yes.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: The codes that you assess those against are approved by your boards. Do those codes require ACMA's approval?

Mr Millett : No, they do not.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: So neither the ABC nor SBS have to get their codes of conduct approved by a government regulator of any description.

Mr Ebeid : Not to my knowledge, no.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: So ACMA's role is simply to look at SBS's own code or the ABC's own code when a complaint has been appealed through to ACMA and say that the ABC has failed to uphold a complaint against its own code or to assess it at least against the ABC's own terms of reference.

Mr Millett : Essentially, its job is to make sure that we are honest in terms of upholding our own codes.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Sorry; it is essentially—

Mr Millett : The job of ACMA is to keep the ABC honest in terms of administering its own code.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: So why is it that our public broadcasters are not subjected to any government oversight in terms of their codes of conduct compared to commercial broadcasters or, indeed, what is proposed for news media organisations?

Mr Millett : There are other mechanisms by which we are held accountable.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Mr Millett, all of the commercials are attending today as well, I think. They will be answering—

Mr Millett : We are subject to, I think, our third successive inquiry into regional production. It is not relating to our codes. There are committee hearings by which we are held accountable.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Have there ever been proposals by government to subject the codes of conduct for the public broadcasters to some sort of independent regulatory oversight?

Mr Millett : Not that I'm aware of.

Mr Simpson : The same; not that I'm aware of.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: Mr Millett, how important is it that the ABC presents the Australian voice overseas?

Mr Millett : As Mr Simpson remarked, it is actually embedded in the ABC charter. The charter requires the ABC to transmit to countries outside Australia, to encourage awareness of Australia and an international understanding of Australian attitudes to world affairs. It is embedded in the charter. It is part of our responsibilities. I think that charter role, as explained there, is the true essence of international broadcasting.

The ABC has always maintained that it is best placed to do the role of international broadcasting. As I pointed out in my opening statement, no other country requires it to go out to tender or envisages a commercial company actually running the service.

CHAIR: In terms of the changes to the ABC charter, do you have any submissions either from the ABC or you, Mr Ebeid, on changes that you would like to see in the charter?

Mr Millett : Beyond what is envisaged in terms of the online role and international broadcasting?

CHAIR: I am asking you a broad question on any issues.

Mr Millett : No. The charter as it operates obviously, as I referred to, has a sense of tweaking around the online role but I think the charter performs its role fairly well as a mission statement for the ABC.

CHAIR: I might come back to that. Mr Ebeid.

Mr Ebeid : I am very comfortable with the changes, as I said in my opening statement. The one thing that the convergence review talked about was having content quotas for the ABC and SBS. The SBS charter says for us to reflect Australia's multiculturalism. It is really hard for us to reflect Australia's multiculturalism when we have such a low level of Australian content on our network. One of my aims is to make sure that we try to increase Australian content as much as possible on our network. We are currently sitting at around 14, 15 per cent of Australian content, and the convergence review had recommended about 28 per cent for SBS. That would have been something that we would have welcomed but that is not part of the current proposals.

CHAIR: Would not a charter commitment to maintain funding at a certain level be a beneficial proposition for both SBS and the ABC?

Mr Ebeid : In terms of beneficial from the perspective of the government then needing to fund us to support that level of content, is exactly the reason why I would be in support of it. We are currently below the recommendation by the convergence review. My understanding is that the ABC is close to that figure that was recommended. We are way below that.

Mr Millett : Senator, I understand you are turning it around. You are saying that the charter should envisage a certain level of funding, therefore allowing services to increase underneath it.

CHAIR: Maybe that can explain what, why and the reason. The arguments I heard this morning—I am not sure if you were there; that was another inquiry—and the arguments that are taking place generally in the public are about not only convergence but also lack of voices. That means if there is a lack of voices in the media or media concentration, then the voice of SBS and the ABC becomes more important. If you are under constant financial constraints, then you cannot balance that concentrated commercial media voice with a public broadcaster's voice.

Mr Millett : You are certainly right about that. I think the public broadcasters are an important addition to this country, and important for that very thing. It is interesting that as I think commercial models come under pressure, particularly in regional areas, the ABC is coming under pressure to provide extra services, particularly in regional Australia, to fill the vacuum that is created when commercial models are failing.

Money is finite, and we have to work within our existing budgets and try to balance the competing needs we have to be efficient and to provide services. Anyway, my view would be that the ABC is in a position where it would always argue that it needs more money to do its charter roles, but recognising we are out there competing with other sections of the community in trying to get those kinds of funds.

CHAIR: Sure. Then it becomes priorities. We have heard lots of submissions about how important the media are in relation to democracy in the country. How important then is the ABC and SBS in terms of contributing to our democratic voice?

Mr Millett : I would argue, very important. But I also think—and this goes to the online role—that the ability of the public broadcasters to try to service particularly younger members of the audience who do not participate through traditional platforms is such that they require extra money to actually invest in mobile online to cover the costs of actually providing the server capacity to deliver things like catch up TV. I speak to a lot of politicians and I know they are concerned about their ability to actually reach younger audiences through mainstream media. It is an obligation on us to try to increase our services to meet those community members who exist outside mainstream media.

Mr Ebeid : I would fully agree with everything that Mr Millett said. I would also add, when you think about the role that we play, both in terms of some of the documentaries that we would run or indeed some of the things that we do with the arts, they are things that would not normally be commercially attractive on the commercial networks and it is very important for the health of our democracy to run and show those, whether it be the arts or documentaries about Australia. They are the sorts of things that are expensive. Australian content is 10, 15 times more expensive than buying cheap content from abroad but it is essential for us to be able to reflect that Australian content on our screens. We need to continue doing that to maintain that healthy balance.

CHAIR: Mr Hywood from Fairfax raised the issue of problems with the government legislation which seeks to put someone in to oversee the proper operation of the Press Council and to deal with matters of public interest. One of the arguments that he used was that the minister could simply pick the phone up and say to the independent regulator, 'You fix this.' Given the criticism of various political parties that appear on SBS and the ABC—I was going to say from time to time but obviously on a regular basis—is there any evidence that a minister rings up and says, 'Hey, back off'?

Mr Ebeid : From my perspective, the co-regulatory system that we have with ACMA works very well. We have a good relationship with ACMA and they do help us oversee the codes when it comes to complaints. I guess the question of the minister picking up the phone and saying, "Just do it. Just fix it,' or whatever the expression was, would be a question for Chris Chapman at ACMA. But certainly in my time as managing director I have never had a minister or any member of parliament phone me to apply pressure in any way on any of our content of programming, whether it be news and current affairs or otherwise. I would be very surprised if someone did.

CHAIR: Mr Millett.

Mr Millett : I have been at the receiving end of politicians who may have expressed a point of view about certain programming at certain points in time. At the end they all understand we have editorial policies and we operate under those.

CHAIR: Senator Birmingham.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Thanks, Chair. Just quickly, I have some questions for both organisations. Can you define fairness for me?

Mr Ebeid : For me, fairness is getting a balance of views on a particular issue, making sure that the views put forward are fair in their representation; in other words, the broadness of those views are represented in terms of balance.

Mr Millett : My response to that, Senator Birmingham, is that our editorial policies actually go to some length to describe it. If you want, I can provide you with the appropriate sections.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Thanks, Mr Millett. I am sure that would be helpful. In the handling of complaints by your respective organisations, fairness is very often in the eye of the beholder, isn't it, or the eye of the complainant?

Mr Ebeid : Particularly from an editorial perspective. If you sit on one side of the particular debate, from either extreme we would often get complaints that we may or may not have been fair on a particular issue. But in everything we try to do we always look at it from the perspective of the average and fair minded viewer. That is the most important test for us, as opposed to saying, 'Are we satisfied that the people on the extremes of the debate will be satisfied?' More often than not they will not be. Putting the lens on the fair minded view of fairness is very important editorially.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Even then, a fair minded viewer is a rather hard thing to define, isn't it?

Mr Ebeid : Absolutely.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: However, as public broadcasters you accept that there is a particular onus upon each of your organisations to try to provide that balance. Balance is perhaps an easier term to understand than fairness but it is a key term to try to define fairness at least. As public broadcasters, it is incumbent upon you to meet a balanced obligation that may or may not need to be extended to the rest of the media.

CHAIR: Senator Ludlam.

Senator LUDLAM: I have not been here for the session. Apologies if I am going over some ground that has already been advanced with you. Including digital media services into the ABC's charter is great. That is something we are very positive on. Can you just spell out for us what material difference it will make to the ABC to have that embedded in your charter? I might treat the ABC and SBS as separate entities for the time being. What is the material difference?

Mr Ebeid : Will it mean that tomorrow we will be launching new services?

Senator LUDLAM: No. It was not the question I put to you. What will it actually mean in a material sense to have that charter amendment?

Mr Millett : Not much, other than the extent of revised clarity about our ability to operate in that space.

Senator LUDLAM: Is that amendment something which the ABC supports?

Mr Millett : Most definitely.

Senator LUDLAM: Can you spell out for us the reasons us why? I have my views but I would be keen to hear yours.

Mr Simpson : It is simply something that reflects the reality of what we do. It moves away from, I suppose, the old-world fixation on broadcasting services and recognises the fact that now we provide services much broader than broadcasting to reach a whole lot of different people through different platforms.

At the moment we do provide online services and we are permitted to do so. This just simply makes it more explicit and provides more certainty. It will not make any difference in terms of day to day activities for the moment. Over time perhaps it will ensure that we are able to do more things. At the moment it will not make a significant difference.

Senator LUDLAM: I read it as a straightforward acknowledgement that the internet is not a broadcast medium.

Mr Millett : Correct. Yes.

Senator LUDLAM: We are covering our bases. From my reading of the bill notes, there are some exceptions—again just sticking with the ABC, if I may—when it comes to advertising on digital media services. Can you tell us what your reading is as to how the ABC will or will not be able to advertise certain things online?

Mr Simpson : Certainly, Senator. At the moment there is actually no prohibition on advertising online under the ABC Act.

Senator LUDLAM: Advertising anything at all?

Mr Simpson : Correct. The current prohibition on advertising under section 31 relates to broadcasting. The ABC board, though, has made a policy decision that we will not be advertising on ABC.net.au. The effect of putting in the provision to allow digital media services has meant that the government has then replicated the advertising restrictions that we currently have in relation to broadcasting and reflects some of our current commercial activities where we have magazines, physical magazines and online magazines. From our point of view, it really reflects our current operations in relation to advertising.

Senator LUDLAM: So I can be clear, that is effectively tightening a loophole that has opened up as the internet has come to predominate more than the advertising. The exceptions that are mentioned there in the bill relate to advertising the ABC's own products or programs?

Mr Simpson : It is a restriction. Yes, the prohibition restricts all advertising and then the permissions under the new parts of section 31 allow us to advertise ABC activities in the same way we do. It is slightly broader in relation to magazines and those types of online products, in the same way that we have a commercial arm that is charged under the act to raise net revenue. So it will effectively be the same operation in practice as there is today.

Senator LUDLAM: The ABC shops' online manifestation, if you will?

Mr Simpson : Yes. For example, Organic Gardener magazine is a physical magazine and also an online publication that may have advertisements.

Senator LUDLAM: Mr Ebeid, can you tell us, firstly, if you are happy to take those questions in turn, your reaction to clarification of your charter obligations. SBS is in a considerably more murky position as far as advertising is concerned; I am aware of that.

Give us your reading on what will and will not be permitted as far as SBS online advertising is concerned.

Mr Ebeid : The way I understand what is being proposed for our online advertising is that currently today there are no restrictions for our online advertising. Under what has been proposed that would continue. We would not, under these new proposals, have any restrictions placed upon SBS with our online advertising. That said, similar to what Mr Simpson said around the ABC board, the SBS board has from time to time looked at the guidelines that we have for our online advertising. In terms of our own policies we tend to mirror the same levels of advertising on television broadcasts as with our online. Certainly there is no legislative requirement or restrictions on us for our online activities.

Senator LUDLAM: They are not as tight obviously as I would like but you do have some constraints on your main broadcasting channels as to when you can advertise?

Mr Ebeid : That is right. Currently we have five minutes an hour; that is our limit. That is for television at the moment. The way that the proposed changes are worded, that would not apply to our online activities.

Senator LUDLAM: That might need a bit of looking at. I will come back to you, Mr Millett, on the Australia Network. I think this is what Senator Birmingham was addressing while I was out of the room. I am strongly in support of the ABC retaining that role, as you would be aware. I had a bill to that effect which is now fortunately redundant if this is carried. Can you tell us what synergies exist, to use a buzz word? How will you be able to use your existing network of foreign correspondents? Are there any savings there as far as the taxpayer or the corporation in particular are concerned?

Mr Millett : Savings?

Senator LUDLAM: Tell us how it works. I am interested to hear your justification, I suppose. You have an existing network of foreign correspondents. You have now been given tenure over the Australia Network, which has its own staff. How do these things tie together?

Mr Millett : The synergies, as you describe, are largely around bringing together Radio Australia and the Australia Network in the sense that what we are talking about is a proper converged service, acknowledging that in many of these markets it is not the traditional legacy platforms that are going to deliver the audiences you need. They need to be built around mobile and tablets. So the task at the moment is for the ABC, which has volunteered as part of this to put its Radio Australia budget into this exercise, to actually come up with a truly converged service to deliver to the audiences.

Senator McKENZIE: I have a couple of questions. I will go firstly to the comment you just made, Mr Millett, around the convergence of media conversations that will be had in the community that will centralise around the use of mobiles, tablets et cetera. Are there any communities within Australia that will struggle to access news in that particular manner?

Mr Millett : Yes. As part of my job I hold stakeholder forums around the country. That is when you invite members of the ABC audience in to talk about their experiences. I do know in some regional areas they struggle with things like the catch up TV service iview, simply because they have trouble getting mobile phone coverage.

Senator McKENZIE: Absolutely.

Mr Millett : I acknowledge that. Part of our task is to try and make governments aware of the fact that there is a bit of a division of services in the capital city areas where you get better service than you can get in some regional areas. That is the reality.

Senator McKENZIE: If this all goes ahead and we proceed as the minister plans, could you quantify the time period that it might take for regional areas to be able to access news and current affairs the same—

Mr Millett : Some of that I cannot answer simply because it is up to government to deliver some of the infrastructure that will enable us to deliver those services. I stress that it is not either-or. The ABC has to retain the ability to deliver services to areas where they cannot access new media. So obviously you use your traditional platforms to do that.

Anticipating your question, I think part of what we are doing in our news division is a news gathering exercise, which is simply to acknowledge the benefits that convergence brings you and to try and actually bring together all of your various facets of news making to try and come up with some efficiencies that can then be delivered back in the sense of extra content. That obviously is contingent upon the infrastructure you have in the areas you are trying to deliver it in.

Senator McKENZIE: Absolutely. Just on definitions, my issue is around community standards. I would like to ask SBS: in terms of the community that you serve within the broader Australian community, it is quite a specific community?

Mr Ebeid : Yes. It is quite broad.

Senator McKENZIE: It is broad but targeted, if you like.

Mr Ebeid : There is something like 74 different languages that we are moving to, so there are a lot of communities in that. The question is in terms of how we measure community standards?

Senator McKENZIE: Thank you; of your community that you serve.

Mr Ebeid: Every five or so years the organisation has been looking at its codes which we set. As part of that review we would go out and do various surveys and ask specific questions around community standards. That would range from languages—as we know, having regard to what may have been considered bad or foul language 20 years ago, community standards today would have changed. So part of our survey work and our constant discussions and dialogues with our audiences would pull that out. That work would then feed into our guidelines and our codes in terms of understanding community standards.

CHAIR: I have to go to Senator Singh as we are running out of time.

Senator SINGH: Thank you, Chair. I have some questions for both ABC and SBS separately. I will start with ABC in relation to content, specifically international news and current affairs. Can you clarify the relevance or the importance of your international news and current affairs section and your foreign bureau and why you do not simply obtain international stories from global networks and wire services?

Mr Millett : Can you repeat the first part of the question?

Senator SINGH: The importance of your international news and current affairs section and the foreign bureau, which is linked to the second question of why you obviously have that section as opposed to just buying in or getting—

Mr Millett : The ABC works on the basis that if its charter role is to make sure that Australians are informed about what is happening in the world, the advantage of having your own bureau there is to provide an Australian perspective on what is happening. Our bureau has become even more important at a time when commercial media companies are finding it difficult to actually sustain those bureaus overseas. I think it is important that the ABC has that international presence.

The argument is made that in a globalised world you can get information from almost everywhere. That is true. But the sense is that it does not give you a lot of context about how it actually relates back to Australians. I think that is important in terms of the work that the ABC does.

Senator SINGH: My last question is to SBS: can you explain, Mr Ebeid, the importance of producing local news and current affairs content for your audience, particularly in language news and current affairs for your multilingual audience and why you do not simply source all of your multilingual news from overseas?

Mr Ebeid : Obviously a large percentage of our news is sourced from other networks, particularly for television. In terms of our radio multilingual services, on television we clearly bring in and buy in a lot of the foreign news services in language because we certainly could not afford to produce in-language news bulletins cost effectively.

On radio what we tend to do is have our own language broadcasters who will talk about, in their own language, issues of relevance to that community or indeed talk about Australian news and current affairs, local news, as you were saying, in language so that all Australians, or our multilingual audiences, can understand the news a lot better in their own language and have those debates around their communities in their own language. We find it very important to be able to do that.

CHAIR: I think that concludes the questioning of ABC and SBS. We will now move to Seven West Media.