The Chaser’s Julian Morrow stood up for the independent production sector yesterday at a Senate inquiry on the ABC.
The public broadcaster has been under fire from Public sector unions for outsourcing too many productions at the expense of internal productions.
Morrow said outside producers brought extra dynamism and innovation to the national broadcaster and posed no threat to the ABC’s values. He listed Frontline, SeaChange and Enough Rope as programs the public loved but were produced by independents.
”We don’t come with an agenda to commercialise,” he said. ”We come because we want to be part of the ABC’s editorial environment.”
Managing Director Mark Scott told the inquiry ABC’s drama output would drop significantly if it could not produce drama from the independent sector.
”We can do drama with the independent production sector… or we can do less,” he said. ”We are making the ABC dollar go further so we can show more drama on ABC television.”
But Graeme Thomson, the ABC secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, told the inquiry was “chasing a mass audience” rather than “distinctive” programming and was confused about what it was meant to be.
7:30 NSW Stateline presenter, Quentin Dempster, went as far as to brand Crownies as being ”diverted to nudity and sexuality in a requisite voyeuristic formula”.
Sure, episode one was. That’s why it didn’t too so well with ABC audiences. But it’s improved a lot since then.
Of course, the current debate is happening in a climate when the 22 episode Crownies is being moved from 8:30pm to 9:30pm and At Home with Julia divides the nation.
But next week’s premiere of The Slap should help restore some faith that the broadcaster’s drama slate is actually the most diverse on the box -it is all outsourced, as it has been for donkey’s years.
A slate with Paper Giants, Crownies, Rake, The Slap, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, The Straits, My Place, Dance Academy, Redfern Now, Laid, Angry Boys, Lowdown, At Home with Julia, twentysomething, Jack Irish and Resistance is pretty distinctive in my book. There is populist stuff and there is niche stuff. Good shows and bad shows. Comedy and drama. Contemporary and period. Big budget, low budget. City and rural. Kids and adult. I could go on…
The problem here, if there is one, is that as internal shows such as Spicks and Specks are disappearing they aren’t always being replaced by internal production.
That’s an argument worth having.
But when the audience swarms to a quality production like the outsourced Paper Giants, that’s a model worth saving.