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Thursday, 13 May 2021 12:00

ABC demands your details to show you iview content you funded

ABC demands your details to show you iview content you funded Image by wal_172619 from Pixabay

The taxpayer-funded ABC will demand that users register and provide personal details, which will also be shared with Google and Facebook, if they wish to use the iview service from 1 July.

In a statement headlined "Don't be surprised if you're surprised by the new ABC iview" issued on 11 May, the ABC attempted to make it appear as though the service was something new.

However, the only new aspect will be that one has to create an account to watch the available programs, a mix of those that have already been screened, and, on occasion, material that is yet to be broadcast.

The ABC has attempted to spin the development by saying that there will be an "an eye-popping ABC iview brand campaign that promises to not only surprise but also delight with the introduction of beautiful puppet characters in Linh, Arj, and Gloria".

However, it does not deal with the reason for the account creation. The Australian made reference to a post by editorial director Craig McMurtrie which referred to the demand for account creation as "moving with the times".

McMurtrie made the usual nice noises about never selling private data, adding there would be an opt-out available for those who did not wish to share their data. With this kind of rhetoric, he is already beginning to sound like the Google and Alphabet chief executive Sundar Pichai!

Why should people provide private details to watch content that has been created using their own money? All the ABC staff are paid well and get 15% super to boot.

Will politicians sit back and countenance this, saying that the ABC is free to run its affairs its own way?

The only conclusion that one can reach is that these details will be used to raise money. Else, there is no need to collect them as the ABC has no advertising, unlike SBS which does. SBS has had the practice of asking people to register since at least 2016, if not earlier.

Any time there is a chance to add to its coffers — all the money it gets belongs to the public — the ABC greedily charges towards it.

Back in May 2018, when submissions were being made to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's inquiry into digital platforms, the ABC projected itself as an organisation that could continue to function as it has in the past despite the level of digital disruption.

But when it became apparent that both Google and Facebook would be forced to pay money to media organisations, the ABC's stance changed overnight.

In a submission to the ACCC's discussion paper on a mandatory code for the way digital platforms pay news organisations for content, the taxpayer-funded broadcaster said it wanted direct payments from both Google and Facebook for using its content.

So can the corporation now continue its spin that it is "your ABC" [meaning the people's ABC]? It looks more like a question of a grab for whatever money can be gained, user privacy be damned.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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