Entertainment TV Beatles doco cost ABC $506k an hour

Beatles doco cost ABC $506k an hour

Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney is touring Australia for the first time in 24 years. Photo: AAP
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The ABC spent $506,000 an hour to make a documentary celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s Australian tour, and its two-part tribute to music TV show Countdown cost $363,000 an hour to produce.

A documentary about an orangutan at the Adelaide zoo came with an average hourly price tag of $417,000, and the Australian version of a program about restoring old houses cost $507,000 per broadcast hour.

Those and other details about how the ABC spends it billion-dollar-plus budget were revealed by managing director Mark Scott during a Senate inquiry in Canberra on Friday.

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The production costs partly explain why the public broadcaster is closing its small Adelaide production facility after the Abbott government’s funding cuts.

South Australian Liberal senator Anne Ruston was not quite convinced, asking Mr Scott to provide a full list of programs made in Adelaide and how much they cost.

Many of those were cheaper than the examples Mr Scott raised, she suggested.

“My understanding is that they were run on the sniff of an oily rag,” Senator Ruston said.

Mr Scott replied that one-off programs and short-run factual series could be done more cheaply in collaboration with the private sector.

For example, The War That Changed Us documentary series made in conjunction with the independent production sector cost $192,000 per broadcast hour.

It was best to have studios and staff working at full capacity, Mr Scott said.

To deal with its reduced funding, the ABC is sacking 400 staff, closing regional radio outposts, axing state-based editions of 7.30 and closing the Adelaide television production house.

Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne, who represents an Adelaide electorate, has asked Prime Minister Tony Abbott to force the ABC to keep the Adelaide studio open.

Mr Scott told the inquiry he did not accept the argument that because commercial media had been hit hard by revenue falls so too should the ABC.

He also refused to say whether the ABC would abide by the government’s 1.5 per cent ceiling on public service salaries.

The ABC’s industrial agreement expired mid-2016 and the ceiling would be considered alongside the broadcaster’s industrial strategy, Mr Scott said.

“It won’t become a live matter for us until 2016.”

Mr Scott defended a decision to start charging ABC iview users for archival content, such as Sea Change.

“There’s no expectation that you can walk into the ABC Shop and say I pay my taxes give me the free DVD.”