ABC director Mark Scott defends bidding on Asian Cup rights and job losses

ABC director Mark Scott has defended the ABC’s bid for rights to the Asian Cup football tournament before a Senate estimates committee yesterday, insisting the ABC was not aware of any other bid from fellow public broadcaster SBS.

ABC managing director Mark Scott.

ABC managing director Mark Scott.

Scott told the Senate hearing the ABC was unaware SBS was also bidding, and revealed that the ABC’s original bid was supplemented with funds from the Football Federation after its first bid for the rights was rejected by Fox Sports.

When asked by independent Senator David Leyonhjelm, “How much did the ABC bid?” for the rights, Scott said the figure was commercial in confidence but defended the decision to bid; arguing that the broadcaster’s bid was key to games in the competition appearing on free-to-air TV.

Scott also told the hearing the ABC had made the right decision and had brought the tournament’s Australian games to a wider audience; using the opportunity to cross promote other ABC content to new audiences.

“Can I give you a bit of background and context on it,” Scott said. “The rights for the Asian Cup were held by pay television and it’s not on the anti-siphoning list. There’s no obligation for that to be shown on free to air television and so we made an approach to take the Australian programs of that and to deliver it on free to air television.”

“As a consequence of that we bought that program for free to air television and in the course of the ten week tournament; 7 million Australians tuned in to the ABC to watch these games and that well exceeded our expectations. On the cost per program bias I can tell you what we paid was a fraction of what commercial networks have paid to broadcast soccer or football in the past.

Asian Cup

“Part of the strategy was to be able to draw people to the ABC who might not regularly watch the ABC and I’m informed that of all the total reach of our Asian Cup matches the people who tuned in, 20 per cent of those people had not watched the ABC in the month prior so the strategy of using it as an outreach to bring people to the ABC.”

Media reports late last year reported the ABC bid around $1.2m, with SBS also thought to be have been interested but at a lower price of around $700,000.

Senator Leyonhjelm questioned how the ABC could have been unaware of other bids if it’s first bid had to be increased.

“If there was no other bid, how did you know it was insufficient?,” he asked Mr Scott.

Scott replied that a certain dollar value had been placed on the rights by the owner.

“Because the rights were owned by someone else and they were making a judgement call as to what it was worth to them to sell off some of those rights and also have them on free to air television,” he said.

“There had to be a certain quantity of money for them to sell those rights.”

Asked about staff redundancies at the ABC as a result of Federal Government funding cuts Scott said:“We had identified 400 redundancies overall, 300 in the first tranche,” he said.

“The savings are going for a digital reinvestment fund and the other to meet the efficiency offsets identified by the government.”

He confirmed that 100 staff had left the ABC already and that there would be further departures in coming weeks.

Scott also told the hearing that voluntary redundancies would not work as too much experience would potentially be lost.

Robert Burton-Bradley


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