Rupert Murdoch has criticised the ABC over its funding for digital news amidst tightening commercial competitiveness in Australia.
Murdoch, who owns several commercial titles in Australia including Sky News, claims that state broadcaster, the ABC, has transformed from a traditional broadcast company, to a mainstream digital news publisher.
Murdoch’s News Corp is not alone either, Foxtel and Fairfax Media have also joined the bandwagon of criticising the state run broadcaster for its considerable funding from the public purse which leads to a critical advantage over commercial competitiveness.
One of the major claims comes from the ABC’s digital advertising budget, spending millions of dollars to promote its news articles across google ads and on Facebook.
Infact, the ABC has a marketing budget of some $4million.
The argument that the ABC already has a competitive advantage is a valid one. It goes without saying that News Corp and Co. all have to generate revenue before they can spend on advertising budgets. On the other hand, the ABC has the money in the bank already, so can spend as and when it sees fit.
That, in itself is a competitive advantage and puts the commercial operators to a distinct disadvantage.
It could also be seen from another angle. Murdoch doesn’t like losing. It looks fairly obvious that, through using its budget wisely, the ABC is attracting audiences for its content. In an open industry, there is nothing wrong with that.
I think there is a third argument at play here however. I don’t believe that any organisation should have to actively market or promote its news in order to attract readership. If the journalism is of a good standard, the story will sell itself and won’t need pushing.
I think it is a seriously dangerous game to start digging at state media outlets for using budgets on marketing. But similarly I agree that advertising news via commercial means is a poor way of attracting attention to news.
The ABC can spend its budgets on what it sees fit – the people that fund it, the taxpayers, will soon kick up enough of a fuss at the ballot box if they don’t like what is happening with their appropriated funds.
As for the commercial operators, News Corp especially… Improve the quality of output and journalism, in print, broadcast and online, and the news will sell itself.
This story was first written for News on News.