Two years ago I featured in a segment on ABC TV’s pop culture show Mondo Thingo, an ABC in-house production. The two cameramen assigned to the job were independant contractors. They consisted of a broadcast camera operator in the passenger seat, a sound man, and a DVD camera mounted on the dashboard. They explained that the ABC’s technical department didn’t have the wherewithal to tape an in-vehicle location.
On Tuesday I met with an independent documentary maker to discuss a project on taxi drivers. She showed me footage on a laptop of an in-cab interview using a DVD camera, comparable work to that done by Mondo Thingo, for a fraction of the cost.
Little wonder the ABC is proposing to commission television production of various content from the independent sector, rather than use their own facilities. Is it because they are simply not cost efficient ? Furthermore, a few examples suggest their spending of public money doesn't help their cause.
Last night ABC TV held a function in Sydney to launch their new programs for 2007. It was attended by 100 invited guests. However due to a balls-up in planning, it was catered for 400 guests. A staffer I carried lamented, ‘It was a disaster. Even though we knew days beforehand only 100 guests were attending, no one informed the caterers of a change in numbers’. Hopefully the excess food was donated to homeless shelters.
A media guest from Fairfax, Paul Kalina reported on the event in today’s The Age (online) with this disclosure - Paul Kalina travelled to Sydney courtesy of the ABC - yet the same report with Kalina’s byline ran in the Sydney Morning Herald(online). Why then was a Melbourne reporter required at considerable expense (airfares, taxis, accommodation) when a Fairfax reporter from Sydney could have done the same job, free to the ABC ?
It would appear a cavalier attitude to public money is not uncommon. Today’s The Australian reports on the upheaval within the ABC over the proposal to out source to the independant sector. A comment on the loss of nature documentaries is instructive,
The production stamina of the independent sector is also being questioned by some within the ABC. "If you're in the independent sector, you're not going to sit and wait six months for a couple of penguins to bonk," one producer said.
Of course not, it's all about the efficient spending of investors money.