Labor's new triple jay of tv?


Two weeks ago, I suggested on that Labor should invigorate the ABC by stimulating Aunty’s new digital TV initiative. Yesterday the ALP announced a new ABC television channel as the centrepiece of their ABC policy.

A Latham Labor Government wants the ABC to have two tv channels – one ‘a triple jay of television’ for children and youth, and the existing one for adults. This week, Labor’s communications spokesman Lindsay Tanner promised a funding boost for the ABC of over $100 million in the three years from 2006, to ‘enable the ABC to broadcast a dedicated quality children’s-youth tv multi-channel’.

A properly funded second television channel would be the most radical shake up to ABC TV since 1956, would significantly lift Australian content on the ABC, and would allow it to better service Australia’s diverse and aging population as required by its charter.

Calling for ‘a triple jay of television’, Tanner has promised Labor will free up the Coalition’s content restrictions on multi-channelling for both the ABC and SBS – ‘to unlock the full potential of their multi-channelling capacity’.

The ABC’s failed budget bid to the Howard government estimated it would take $35 million to run two quality digital channels. According to Tanner, a Latham government will provide an untied funding boost of over 100 million, advising that the ABC direct some of this to the new digital channel for innovative Australian content.

Tanner rightly believes communications ministers should not direct an independent ABC in its programming, but Labor’s policy strongly recommends the properly funded digital channel be dedicated to children and youth programming. It also suggests ‘pre-school programming in the morning, educational programming during the day, tweenies programming in the afternoon and youth programming at night’.

Labor wants the ABC to use the additional funding to produce more Australian content, in preference to over-reliance on British imports.

After the main ABC TV network goes digital, Labor envisages it specialising in adult programming alongside the youth/children channel.

Having a youth network will enable the ABC to appeal to this demographic without necessarily alienating older viewers who have different tastes. Many Australians, especially those with kids or the young at heart – will enjoy having the choice of flicking between the two ABC channels.

Having made such an adventurous policy move for young people, lets hope the ALP can communicate it to Australia’s youth in a way that cuts through the media buzz.

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