ABC to live stream main channel while TV boss takes aim at actors’ union over broadcast rights

The ABC has backed the idea of a combined live streaming app for TV networks after announcing it will live stream its main channel from December 1, following the lead of commercial networks Seven and Nine.

Richard FinlaysonThe public broadcaster’s director of television Richard Finlayson also spoke out about commercial deals with actors’ unions, which he said was stopping TV networks re-running classic Australian shows because it is too costly.

The decision to live stream its main channel comes after the ABC renegotiated its terms of trade with Screen Producers Australia that will see its video on demand platform iView extend its access window for much of its content to 30 days.

Asked if the various TV networks should now work together on a combined mobile live streaming and catch up platform Finlayson said he would support such as proposal.

“Yes absolutely we would support that if it was (put) in the roadmap for Freeview,” Finlayson told Mumbrella, on the sidelines of the Screen Forever conference in Melbourne.

“It makes a lot of sense for all the networks to come together and provide a frictionless, easy to use place to find free content.”

In his speech to the conference, Finlayson noted negotiations with Screen Australia were going well but blamed the actors union the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) for holding up negotiations.

“The ABC and SPA have been working hard on a new Terms of Trade that takes us into the digital era- we are close,” said Finlayson, noting how the deal also included additional broadcast runs in return for a shorter licence period allowing content to be freed up earlier for further commercial opportunities.

“(Screen Producers Australia CEO) Matt Deaner and the team have worked hard with us. Negotiations have been constructive but we must get this deal over the line,” he said.

“A key piece to fall into place is the agreement with MEAA and the (actors rights deal) ATTRA. As most of you will know, this is the agreement between producers and actors. Obviously it only impacts scripted programs.

“This is a matter for SPA but unfortunately the ATTRA is hopelessly out of date.”

Finlayson blamed what he said was the refusal of the union to come to the table with a reasonable offer for why many popular Australian shows were not rerun on networks.

“Think about this,” said Finlayson. “While Friends, Seinfield and Hogans Heroes are almost as ubiquitous as the Kardashians – where are the Australian classic shows?

“The ABC has not relicensed an Australian drama or comedy for over a decade. No Kath and Kim; no Sea Change; certainly no Norman Gunston.

“ATRRA residuals make this impossible. It costs multiple times more to re-licence a second run of a local scripted Australian story than it does to acquire an international show.

“MEAA is not only behaving like King Canute, standing against the digital tide, but ultimately depriving their members of income. And they are certainly depriving Australian audiences of Australian content.”

Nic Christensen


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