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Newman regrets ABC, SBS not merged

Tuesday 13 Dec 2011
Outgoing ABC chairman Maurice Newman told The Australian about his disappointment at not orchestrating a merger between the ABC and SBS.

Conroy and Newman

Mr Newman’s preferred merger would have maintained the identity and functions of the SBS within the expanding ABC stable.

However, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy flatly dismissed his comments.

“Maurice has long held this view,” Mr Conroy said. “We’ve never considered it and I have no plans whatsoever to consider it.”

Mr Newman made the comments in an exclusive final interview to The Australian as Chairman of the national broadcaster and admitted the idea had never gained much traction.

“I think the case for funding two public broadcasters is increasingly hard to sustain,” Mr Newman said.

Aside from its clutch of radio networks, the ABC now provides five television services. The botched Australia Network tender process has gifted it an international broadcasting service in perpetuity, in addition to ABC One, Two, Three and News 24.

The ABC Charter already demands that it reflects cultural diversity. However, Mr Newman says the charter is out of date and notes that the stumbling block for his proposed merger is that the advertising that helps to support the SBS would not be tolerated at the ABC. Yet the Australia Network takes paid advertising, and it is about to be integrated into the ABC. All this underscores the need for an independent inquiry into the future of public broadcasting, the article said.