National

We don’t want on-demand paywall: ABC, SBS

By AAP Newswire

Parents will continue to enjoy free access to children's shows such as Peppa Pig on the ABC's iview service after the communications minister confirmed he had no plans to make public broadcasters charge for content on demand.

A planned competitive neutrality review will consider whether the ABC and SBS use their position to unreasonably compete with commercial broadcasters.

Asked whether he could guarantee parents will not be charged for Peppa Pig online, Mitch Fifield told a Senate committee on Tuesday: "It's not something I have in contemplation."

The minister conceded some commercial broadcasters would probably like to see services such as iview and SBS On Demand behind a paywall.

"I can't speak to what plans the ABC may have," he said.

Later, ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie said audiences expected its programs to be free, especially because taxpayer dollars went towards funding the original content.

"The idea that we would charge them for that considering they've already paid for the program in the first place seems a little bizarre," she told senators.

"Requiring that to go behind a paywall seems to me to be double-dipping."

Ms Guthrie confirmed it would require federal legislation to charge for online content.

She feared the government's review could become an inquiry into the ABC's charter and she does not want to see the broadcaster become just a "market failure" operator.

SBS managing director Michael Ebeid said he was awaiting the review's terms of reference but noted the broadcaster was different from the ABC in that it was able to show ads.

Having a paywall on top of that would certainly limit people's use of SBS On Demand, he said.

"We provide it as a public good," he told senators.

Mr Ebeid rejected accusations SBS was not conforming to its charter or was distorting the wider market.

"These claims are totally false and they're being made by self-interested, aggressive commercial parties," he said.

Senator Fifield will release the terms of reference for the inquiry and name the panel members before the end of the year after consultation with broadcasters.

The review came out of negotiations with One Nation in exchange for the minor party's support for the government's overhaul of media ownership laws.

But Senator Fifield said it was "something that had been in my mind for a bit".

Concerns from commercial broadcasters include public broadcasters bidding for programs, or whether the ABC should contest to provide in-flight news services, Senator Fifield said.

The public will get their chance to have a say.