THE MANSFIELD REVIEW OF THE ABC
Establishment of the Review
4.1 On 16 July 1996, the Minister for Communications and the Arts,
Senator the Hon Richard Alston, issued a media release entitled 'ABC
to Enter New Era' which announced Mr Bob Mansfield as the Government's
independent reviewer of the ABC. Senator Alston said that Mr Mansfield's
review would 're-define and re-position the national broadcaster for
the 21st century'. The terms of reference for the review were:
1. The Government seeks a more focussed role for the ABC which strengthens
its effectiveness in key areas by defining the scope of current ABC
services and activities.
2. Having regard to the Government's broadcasting policy objectives
and information and entertainment services currently provided by other
broadcasters and providers of electronic media services, and the scope
for proposed and reasonably anticipated technological change affecting
broadcasting services the review shall examine and make recommendations
to the Minister for Communications and the Arts by the end of 1996
(a) the future role and functions of the ABC; and
(b) the type of services and activities envisaged by this role and
3. Without limiting the generality of the review, the review shall
have particular regard for the need for:
(a) independent news and current affairs services which are accurate,
impartial and comprehensive;
(b) high quality information and entertainment services which contribute
to a sense of national identity; and
(c) services which fulfil the needs of rural and remote communities,
children and other significant groups not well served by other broadcasting
4. The Review shall also have regard to the need for consistency
between the cost of future ABC operations and the Government's broader
fiscal strategy of delivery of Government programs and services as
efficiently as possible.
4.2 Referring to the Government's budgetary position, the Minister stated
that despite election commitments not to reduce ABC funding, the ABC would
be subject to the two per cent reduction in running costs imposition contained
in Meeting Our Commitments released on 15 February 1996. The Minister
also said that the ABC would also be subject to a $55 million funding
cut in 1997-98. 
4.3 The Minister said that:
By indicating funding levels at this stage the ABC will have
certainty of funding and the time to review its operations and range
of activities in line with the new funding levels. The proposed Review
will be a major input into determining the range of activities. 
4.4 The Minister also addressed the future of ATV in the media release:
The Government will also ask the ABC to explore the possibility
of delivering the services currently being provided by Australia Television
The Government will discuss with the ABC Board the scope for
ensuring the maintenance of ABC program content on Australia Television,
particularly news and current affairs, while tendering the operation
of the service to the commercial sector. 
Conduct of the Review
4.5 As a result of Mr Mansfield's call for written submissions, 10,615
individuals, groups and organisations lodged submissions with his Review.
Most of these submissions have not been made public. He consulted, on
a private basis, ABC staff in six locations, the Friends of the ABC
in all States and Territories, 16 other Australian organisations, three
media commentators, Georgia Public Broadcasting in Atlanta, USA, and
the BBC in London, UK.
4.6 Mr Mansfield records that 9.1 per cent of respondents commented on
international services; 6.7 per cent favourably (many without using the
services) and 2.4 per cent criticised the services per se, that is their
funding or operation.  He remarks
that Radio Australia was favoured over ATV in the sample and that some
respondents saw international services as a potential area for cuts backs.
 Unfortunately, he does not provide
any further details of the comments made about international services
in the submissions and the nature of the criticisms.
4.7 Mr Mansfield presented his report to Senator Alston on 23 December
1996 and it was released to the public on 24 January 1997.
4.8 Mr Mansfield recommended that 'the principal function of the ABC
should be defined as broadcasting for general reception within Australia'.
 He stated that:
During the review I regularly explained my approach by suggesting
my task was to determine what the Australian public views as the 'trunk
and roots of the ABC tree' with the intention of ensuring that nobody
could cut it down.
The point of defining priorities is not to restrict the ABC to
certain types of programming or to specific services. Rather it is to
give guidance on types of programming and aspects of the ABC's service
which are not discretionary and represent the community's basic expectations.
This will be particularly important in periods of funding constraint,
when the ABC is required to make difficult decisions on internal priorities.
4.9 Mr Mansfield made a number of other recommendations relating to
sale of property, outsourcing of programming and the medium-term divestment
of the ABC orchestras. With respect to international broadcasting, he
That the requirement for the ABC to broadcast programs to audiences
outside Australia should cease;
that the ABC should retain the ability to transmit programs
outside Australia if it chooses;
that the ABC should be permitted to apply net savings from
the closure of Radio Australia to the achievement of its savings target
- this should include any transmission savings, consistent with the
Government's commitment to fund the ABC directly for its transmission
that if an appropriate commercial arrangement for the operation
of Australia Television is not entered into before June 1997, the service
should be closed down. 
4.10 At a meeting of The Sydney Institute on 25 February 1997, Mr Mansfield
explained the basis of his decision regarding Radio Australia. He said:
My terms of reference were to look at the ABC. I wasn't asked
to look at Australia's foreign policy. I recognised very clearly when
I made the recommendation to close down Radio Australia that there
was another spectrum of consideration. The government has set up a
Senate sub-committee to look into that. From the ABC's point of view,
it must face the fact of living within the budgetary restraints the
government has made. Spending more than $20 million on Radio Australia
could eventually mean cutting reporters in Townsville, Cairns, Rockhampton,
Alice Springs and Central Australia. The Australian community was
unanimous in telling me it wanted no more cuts to the local ABC services.
There was an absolute commitment to domestic broadcasting. And it's
in that vein that I made that recommendation for Radio Australia.
4.11 In his report, Mr Mansfield said that the 'current ABC Charter accords
overseas broadcasting equal priority with domestic broadcasting. I do
not believe there are compelling reasons for this to continue.' 
This statement is disingenuous because the Charter does not specify that
equal priority be given to both domestic and international services. In
fact, the ABC has always given overwhelming priority to its domestic services.
In funding terms alone, international services only account for only a
few per cent of the ABC's budget.
4.12 In his report Mr Mansfield said that he did not believe that the
ABC could maintain its domestic broadcasting services and its international
services, as well as fund technological changes, within the level of
funding for the ABC identified by the Government. He acknowledged the
foreign affairs considerations, as he did above, but claimed that he
was not in a position to evaluate those considerations. He drew attention
to the fact that the BBC World Service was required to broadcast to
audiences and in languages approved by the Government in accordance
with objectives, priorities and targets agreed between the BBC and the
Government. On the other hand, the ABC possesses statutory independence
in the way it carries out its functions. As there was no agreement between
the ABC and the Government on objectives or targets for its international
services, Mr Mansfield considered that evaluating performance would
be difficult. And, as explained above, he did not see it as part of
4.13 Although there are not the formal consultative mechanisms in place
between RA and DFAT as there are in the United Kingdom and Canada, there
are regular consultations between the two bodies on programming objectives
4.14 The Committee believes that, if Mr Mansfield had considered that
the ABC's international broadcasting services were outside his terms
of reference, he should have recommended that the Government establish
a separate review to examine their future. His half-hearted attempt
to justify his position on international broadcasting did nothing to
enhance the credibility of his findings and recommendations in this
area. The Committee now examines what he did say about RA and ATV.
4.15 Mr Mansfield said that:
RA's potential shortwave audience
has declined from an estimated 100 million in 1981 to 20 million in
1996 (and a likely actual weekly audience
of five million). 
4.16 The ABC pointed out in its submission that it was not valid to
compare the Dix Report estimate of 100 million audience reach with the
20 million 1996 audience reach because the estimates were calculated
in very different ways which do not allow any meaningful comparison
to be drawn. This is considered in more detail in Chapter 5 but, briefly,
the 1981 figure was based on the number of letters received multiplied
by a factor to provide an estimated audience. The 1996 figure was calculated
on the basis of scientific surveys and only includes areas covered by
those surveys. The figure does not include, for example, an estimate
for rural China and for much of India, as well as other countries. It
also does not cover the audience for rebroadcasts of its programs through
AM and FM services, satellite transmissions and the Internet.
4.17 Mr Mansfield was critical of the fact that four of RA's language
services are broadcast for less than one and a half hours a day. He
went on to say:
It is not clear why these services have continued to operate
at such marginal levels. A reordering of priorities could have enabled
RA to provide more effective services to its more significant audiences
or enabled it to exploit other delivery platforms. 
4.18 If Mr Mansfield was not clear about the reason for such programming
decisions, he should have found out before being critical of them. The
Committee is sure that RA would have responded with alacrity to any
request for such information. In addition, it is obvious that Mr Mansfield
had not considered the ramifications of terminating broadcasts in four
of the non-English languages used by RA. Mr Mansfield provided no evidence
that a 'reordering of priorities could have enabled RA to provide more
effective services to its more significant audiences'. He also provided
no evidence to support the proposition that such a reordering of priorities
could have enabled RA to exploit other delivery systems. In fact, RA
already exploits other delivery systems, such as satellite, the Internet
and terrestrial rebroadcasting.
4.19 Mr White commented on Mr Mansfield's assertion in his written
submission dated 17 March 1997, as follows:
In fact by any international comparison, Radio Australia's
smaller language units - Cantonese, Vietnamese, French, Khmer and
Thai - are highly efficient, have strong audience loyalty and provide
an effective service which Radio Australia would be delighted to expand
- had it the resources to do so.
4.20 To assess whether the Government was getting value for its $20
million investment in Radio Australia, Mr Mansfield suggested three
performance measures that would determine whether:
- the service is reaching its target audience
- the type and mix of programming remains valid
- short wave remains the most cost effective delivery.
4.21 He concluded that he had 'insufficient evidence for the Government
to draw firm conclusions in any of these areas'. 
Mr Mansfield concluded that he was 'strongly of the view that, if the
Government wishes to maintain an overseas broadcasting service that, as
in the United Kingdom, the funding of these services should be considered
in the context of the public diplomacy effort'. 
4.22 Mr Mansfield referred in his report to the DFAT submission to
DFAT clearly sees shortcomings in the current services, stating
in its submission that 'while it is clear that RA and ATV have a key
public affairs dimension in our region, in a changing broadcasting environment,
neither service is presently meeting its full potential and restructuring
is necessary to address their shortcomings'. 
4.23 The 'shortcomings' mentioned in the DFAT submission to the Mansfield
review are based on wrong information. DFAT stated that the 'listenership
of short-wave radio has obviously been facing a steady decline in recent
years and fewer people listen to RA'. This is wrong and is considered
in more detail in the Chapter 5. Later in its submission, DFAT stated
that with 'the decline of short-wave, RA needs to consider radically
changing its delivery mechanisms'. It is wrong to say that there is
a decline of short-wave in the region, especially in countries targeted
by RA. There is, in fact, no viable alternative to short-wave radio
available to replace these short-wave services. Other international
broadcasters are actually increasing their investment in short-wave
services. This too is considered in more detail in Chapter 5. Mr Mansfield
should have checked the facts before drawing conclusions and making
recommendations on the basis of wrong information.
4.24 When DFAT suggested that RA change its 'delivery mechanisms',
it went on to suggest that more extensive rebroadcasting arrangements
be entered into with local AM and FM stations with a switch to packaged
programs for particular markets. It continued:
There is already an example of a cost effective Australian
commercial radio program operating in China. The enterprise operates
on a small budget pre-packaging its programs for rebroadcasting on
4.25 Mr Derek White, General Manager of RA, told the Committee:
That is the service produced by John Singleton's company, which
I mentioned last time. It is simply a music bed sent to China which
is presented on an English language service, as I understand it, in
Beijing and also repeated in some provinces. But the presentation or
the content, including any news and information, is put out by China.
It is not, by any means, a concept of international broadcasting. I
have already detailed the difficulties of securing rebroadcasting in
this region. I have to say that that proposal in that submission is
very largely - in fact, almost totally - impractical. 
4.26 Mr Mansfield differentiated RA from the BBC World Service on the
basis that the RA, as part of the ABC, a statutory authority, is 'not
required to accept its [DFAT's] views or any other policy directions from
the Government' while the BBC World Service is required to take account
of the Government's foreign policy objectives. He concluded that 'in the
absence of such agreement concerning objectives and priorities, it is
difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of funding or to revise priorities
for overseas broadcasting services, particularly for RA'. 
4.27 The only difference between RA and the BBC World Service in this
respect is that the BBC has a formal link with the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office while RA's link with DFAT is informal. The point is that Mr Mansfield
has admitted that foreign policy matters were outside the scope of his
inquiry and he did not pursue them in any detail. There is no evidence
that he even tried to evaluate RA's performance in relation to foreign
4.28 With regard to ATV, Mr Mansfield said:
The previous Government agreed to provide funding of $6.2 million
per year for the operation of the ATV service for three years commencing
in 1996-97. These funds were to be supplemented from revenue generated
from advertising and sponsorship.
The current Government has not withdrawn the commitment. In
the 1996-97 Budget context, however, it requested the ABC to explore
the possibility of delivering the ATV service more efficiently by
tendering its operation to the commercial sector.
I endorse the Government's decision. With more than 100 satellite
television channels operating in Asia, I do not consider that the ABC
should be allocated funding to enable it to operate competitively in
the Asian market. If no acceptable relationship with the commercial
sector is found, I believe that the service should be closed down. This
decision should be made by June 1997. 
4.29 In responding to the Mansfield Report, Mr Michael Mann, Chief
Executive of ATV, told the Committee:
Much has been said about Australia Television in connection with
the Mansfield review. I would like to make it clear that I made a request
to see Mr Mansfield and when I saw him on 8 October last he informed
me that he did not believe that his brief included a comprehensive overview
of international broadcasting. We spoke only for about 15 minutes about
Australia Television. Mr Mansfield has, subsequent to the release of
his report, made it quite clear that he did not look at the benefits
of international broadcasting and he even welcomed this Senate inquiry.
4.30 As Mr Mansfield did not consider international broadcasting in
any detail, it is odd that he can pronounce authoritatively that ATV
cannot compete with other satellite television channels in the region.
The evidence points to the opposite conclusion. In fact, ATV has been
a success story, notwithstanding its funding difficulties and other
constraints, such as the pressures imposed on it from a series of reviews
4.31 All preceding reviews of the ABC's international broadcasting
services had concluded that these factors were also descriptive of the
important role played by RA and ATV in the Asia Pacific region but their
evidence was not taken into account. Instead, Mr Mansfield found the
'significant role the ABC's international services play in advancing
Australia's trade and diplomatic objective', identified by the Department
of Foreign Affairs in its submission to his inquiry, 'hard to evaluate'.
He was thus, it seems, in sympathy with the Department of Finance's
view, expressed to the 1995 Review of the Status and Funding of the
ABC's International Broadcasting Services, that the effectiveness of
the services was not proven.
4.32 The Government has not made a definitive statement on the recommendations
made by Mr Mansfield. However, the Minister for Communications and the
Arts, Senator Alston, has personally publicly aligned himself with those
recommendations, including those concerning the international broadcasting
services. In the Senate Additional Estimates hearings on 27 February
1997, Senator Alston declared that Mr Mansfield had made a 'pretty powerful
case' based on the evidence received; that the Minister himself 'had
not seen any in-depth analysis that demonstrates either the effectiveness
of the service or a significant demand for it'; and that, in any case,
pre-budget deliberations had decided the matter.
4.33 In the same week, Mr Mansfield, at the Sydney Institute, stated
that the foreign affairs implications of the closure of international
broadcasting were outside his terms of reference and that he welcomed
the Committee's present inquiry into the role and future of Radio Australia
and Australia Television.
4.34 Senator Alston's public comments in support of Mr Mansfield's
recommendations and observations in relation to the ABC's international
broadcasting services lack credibility given that Mr Mansfield has publicly
acknowledged that he did not address these issues from a foreign affairs
point of view in his report. The Committee believes that both the Minister
and Mr Mansfield have done a disservice to RA and ATV by commenting
on the organisations functions and performance without any proper consideration
of the issues.
 'ABC to Enter New Era', in Mansfield Report,
 'ABC to Enter New Era', in opcit, p.
 'ABC to Enter New Era', in op cit,
 B. Mansfield, The Challenge of a Better
ABC, Volume 2, p. 18.
 Mansfield, op cit, Vol. 2, p. 18.
 Mansfield, op cit, Vol. 1, p. 9.
 Mansfield, op cit, p. 19.
 Mansfield, op cit, p. 10.
 Mansfield, op cit, p. 41.
 Mansfield, op cit, p. 42.
 Mansfield, op cit, p. 42.
 Mansfield, op cit, p. 42.
 Mansfield, op cit, p. 42.
 Mansfield, op cit, p. 42.
 Committee Hansard, pp 147-48.
 Mansfield, op cit, p. 41.
 Mansfield, op cit, p. 41.
 Committee Hansard, p. 129.