Submission: Inquiry into the Competitive Neutrality of the National Broadcasters

July 12, 2018


Public broadcasting exists to serve the interests of the public as citizens, not as consumers.

It is essential to the effective functioning of democracy that public broadcasting remain independent and comprehensive in its service to the public.

The principles of competitive neutrality, which extend competition law into the public sphere, are not applicable to the national broadcasters, as neither constitutes a significant business operation as defined in the Commonwealth’s Competitive Neutrality Policy Statement.

Even if the national broadcasters met the threshold for qualifying as significant businesses, the government can and should use a public interest test to exempt the ABC and SBS from the application of the principles to their operations.

Calls for the national broadcasters to limit their online and/or digital operations rest on false assumptions about the nature of the competitive market in online services and cause of the reduction in advertising revenue to the commercial broadcasters.

The national broadcasters are explicitly charged with operating in the digital space, and would be in breach of their chartered obligations to serve the Australian public if they were to cease such operations. Digital and online operations are critical to the ongoing educative function of public broadcasting in the 21st century.

There is no empirical evidence that the operations of the national broadcasters in the service of their public interest objectives are causing undue market disruption or directly disadvantaging the private media sector.

Per Capita does not believe there is evidence that the limited commercial activities of the national broadcasters involve any undue advantage to the ABC or SBS, to the detriment of competitive outcomes.