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Panpa Bulletin : May 2010
www.panpa.org.au The PANPA Bulletin | MAY, 2010 | 15 Lower your costs and open new business opportunities Total Solutions for Newspaper Printers Contact Kodak at: Toll Free Australia 1800 895 747 Toll Free New Zealand 0800 256 325 Power to the people TASMANIA is shaping up as the testing ground for Australia's new age of digital media. The Australian Government's National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout is "well under way in Tasma- nia, with the first premises due to start receiving services from July. The government-funded national broadcaster, the ABC, has responded quickly to the opportunity, launching a new regional initiative promoting user-generated multimedia content. Newspaper executives have lashed out at what they claim to be publi- cally-funded competition, saying that taxpayers' money should not be used in markets where regional publishers battle for margin and profit. The project, called ABC Open, aims to provide the public with training in multimedia creation, and a platform for them to publish to, lev- eraging ABC radio's local news sites. The pilot project for ABC Open was conducted in regional Tasmania, with a multimedia producer sent to conduct public workshops in multi- media production, and then publish the results online. Chris Winter, manager of new services in ABC's innovation division, said the ABC was "very interested in the NBN for a number of reasons", saying it would have an impact on the way it delivers video content. "We're also interested in the poten- tial it will have for projects like ABC Open," he says. Mr Winter suggested the NBN would inspire user-generated content as the relationship between down- loading, or consuming content, and uploading, or creating content, be- comes much less asymmetrical. "Currently, there is a focus on downstream," he said. "Creating content has become much cheaper and more affordable. People are us- ing tools which were unaffordable in the 90s. "ABC Open is explicitly about encouraging this kind of content. If it becomes easier, people will do it," he said. Local newspapers in Tasmania are also gearing up for an expanded online audience. Allan Browne, CEO and Pub- lisher at Fairfax's Australian Regional Publications, oversees a number of Tasmanian newspapers. He said the NBN would affect the industry by providing a faster method for deliver- ing news online. "Over the past 12 months, we've been putting additional resources into our regional dailies with a focus on delivering more online content," adding the specific example of ap- pointing an online editor position at the Launceston Examiner. Since doing so, the website has seen "massive growth" in web traffic. "We came to the realisation that our readers are looking for more online content," he said. Then, there has also been the pub- lic criticism by newspaper executives of the ABC's expansion into localised projects such as ABC Open. APN chief executive Brendan Hopkins told The Australian: "I genuinely believe that using taxpayer funds to effectively hand over to the ABC to compete with local news providers like ourselves, Fairfax and News Limited and West Australian Newspapers . . . is a travesty." Fairfax's Mr Browne was qualified in his agreement. "We're aware of the challenges from the ABC initia- tive, and the NBN rollout," he said. "It is difficult in our markets to deal with the ABC given its funding arrangements." Mark Scott, managing director of the ABC, was not available to be in- terviewed by The Bulletin. However, he recently wrote on the ABC's website: "The ABC Open Project, which has drawn unfair fire, is about teach- ing regional Australians how to tell their stories in the digital age - to create, collaborate and share. "The ABC is doing this not be- cause it is a financially profitable activity, because it isn't. Commercial media was certainly not going to do it, even if the ABC had not gone down this path. Yet it is socially profitable, and an activity that will transform regional life." The ABC's Mr Winter acknowl- edged the concern of newspapers but said it was unjustified. "There's nothing there that's go- ing to compete with local websites," he said. The goal of ABC Open is not new. User-generated content is the foun- dation of video-hosting sites such as YouTube, a resource that many publications exploit for their own websites. Rex Gardner, CEO of The Mercury newspaper in Tasmania, welcomed any new initiatives as "healthy com- petition". He said he was not sure the NBN would change the face of news, say- ing the price of recently announced broadband plans was a barrier. "It's not going to be reasonably ac- cessible to everyone, and [the price] is not going to be within everyone's reach," he said. ABC Open ... Patrick Abboud from the ABC teaches residents of Numbeena, Tasmania, about multimedia In the quiet state of Tasmania, media unrest is brewing. It is the unlikely starting point of a A$43 billion broadband network and a national broadcaster's new user generated content strategy. 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