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ABC’s Scott attacks article in News Ltd’s The Australian as ‘ludicrous’

Mark Scott, ABC managing director, has hit back at The Australian’s front page article which claimed the broadcaster had ‘shelved’ a controversial film, describing it is part of News Limited’s persistent attack aimed at scuppering the ABC’s expansion plans.  

The News Ltd paper today led its front page with the article “Film ‘shelved’ in ABC China push”, which related to a documentary about Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer. The paper claimed it may have been pulled by the ABC to promote Scott’s “vision of a ‘soft diplomacy’ role  for the public broadcaster”.

Scott responded this morning on the ABC’s Radio National, saying the article was “quite ludicrous”.

He said:

The suggestion that the ABC has now bucked under pressure is absolutely ludicrous and it’s particularly ludicrous coming from a News Limited newspaper given their long corporate and complex relationship with China over many years.

If you look at the history of News Limited around the world they’ve never been very friendly towards public broadcasting. James Murdoch gave a speech memorably in the UK last year where he effectively said the BBC should get out of news provision because  there were commercial operators who wanted to deliver new services and I think today’s coverage is in a sense consistent with that line.”

In Australia, the ABC recently announced its plans to launch the country’s first 24-hour news channel. It was swiftly criticised by a columnist for The Weekend Australian and Sky News CEO Angelos Frangopoulos.

Sky News has also made no secret of its wish to take over Australia Network – Australia’s international voice to Asia Pacific and the Indian subcontinent. The contract for the TV channel, currently held by the ABC, is up for renewal next year.

During the Radio National interview, Scott added:

And of course Sky News of which News Limited is a significant shareholder – Sky News wants to be Australia’s international broadcaster.

And we have argued that around the world where the growth has come in international broadcasting, it’s the independence and the integrity of the public broadcaster who can best deliver that service rather than a commercial operator who is driven by commercial returns and what their shareholders are interested in.”

The Australian did not respond to Mumbrella’s request for a comment.

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