Speaking at the National Press Club today, Mr Brown revealed that government MPs recently told him they had been lobbied in the past by then-ABC chief Russel Balding to support a merger.
Mr Brown said he would fight amalgamation and that the only reason for it would be to make SBS a ‘Trojan horse’ for commercialisation of the ABC
“The fact is, it was being lobbied for. It was occurring, and nobody was raising it publicly, ” Mr Brown told the Press Club audience.
“And by raising this issue, my only intention is to put it on the public agenda and because if anyone thinks it makes sense to make sure it gets the fullest possible debate,” he said.
“I think this would be disastrous and a great loss for Australian audiences and I think it ignores the reality that the ABC and SBS are very different beasts,” he said.
Mr Brown also said the future of SBS television hangs in the balance unless it receives a real increase in funding.
He said SBS’s future viability was in doubt without greater federal funding.
“If SBS does not receive a real increase in funds then in the not-too-distant future, there will be a very real question mark over our existence,” he said.
His warning comes amid increasing public debate about changes to SBS programming and about its decision to screen inter-program commercials.
Mr Brown said the debate over SBS’s ads and news bulletins masked a need for a wider debate about public broadcasting in
“The political debate around public broadcasting in Australia is almost non-existent,” he said.
He said both the SBS and ABC funding models were conceived in the analogue era but both were now having to adapt to the digital world without extra support.
“It is perplexing that the government could spend $1 billion on the infrastructure for digital switch-over but not make any provision for content to drive the take-up needed to make the switch,” he said.
He said he had spoken to both major parties recently about funding for the station but had received no commitments.