Obscure Box

Thoughts from inside the obscure box

April 20, 2011

The ABC’s love affair with Skype

Posted by : Michael Lund

What is it about the ABC and Skype?

There seems to be more than the odd mention of the online video/audio communication technology Skype on the ABC's airwaves these days.

Skype logo


I'm not talking about the legitimate references to the free broadcast website used in the recent defence force sex scandal.

I'm talking more about some of the network's presenters who insist on telling me how they used Skype to make contact with the various reporters and correspondents, and those reporters who in tun mention their use of Skype to contact people for their own interviews.

Take this recent collection from the ABC's current affairs programs.

''Syrian protestors defiant, despite clashes'' (The World Today, Wednesday 20 April 2011)
EMILY BOURKE: I spoke to him a short time on Skype but we have withheld his name for security reasons.

''Fears of massacre in Misurata'' (The World Today, Wednesday 13 April 2011)
TANYA NOLAN: On a scratchy Skype line, Dr Mohammed went on to say he lives in fear every day that he won't see his family and friends again because the shelling is so intense and relentless.

''Rebels need more military support'' (PM, Thursday 24 March 2011)
MARK COLVIN: Ben thank you very much indeed. Ben Knight there from Tobruk on a Skype line.

''Stalemate in Ajdabiya, strikes on Misurata'' (PM, Wednesday 23 March 2011)
MARK COLVIN: But first when our correspondent Peter Cave got through on Skype a short time ago from Tobruk, I asked him first about the situation in Benghazi.

''Libyan journalist killed in Benghazi'' (PM, Monday 21 March 2011)
JESS HILL: Though it was very early in the morning in Libya Mo Nabbous was still awake so I called him on Skype.

That's just from this year's programming.

Why do the ABC's presenters feel the need to tell me what technology they used to make contact? I have never heard them previously mention their contact with anyone via Telstra, Optus, Vodafone or any other telecommunication technology.

I have never heard them say they made contact via Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail (does it really still exist?), Yahoo mail (especially given its relationship with the Seven Network) on a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or other device.

So why mention Skype?

The ABC's current Editorial Policies are quite clear about the tax-payer funder public broadcaster and any mention of commercial references.

Section 12 clearly states the principles of the policy:

The ABC needs to be able to reflect the world as it is, and this involves referring appropriately to commercial organisations, products and services, while maintaining the ABC's editorial independence and integrity.

Fair enough, and I agree. But read on and the the policy also states:

12.1 References to trade names, brand names, and logos may be made provided that:
  a the references are editorially relevant in the context; and
  b the ABC's editorial independence or integrity is not undermined.

12.2 Commercial references must not be unduly frequent or unduly prominent.

I confess I do think the ABC goes a little too far with it's refusal to mention certain brand names during everyday broadcast conversation but surely the presenters here are in breach of this policy. I can see no editorial reason to mention the use of Skype, or any other voice over Internet technology, during the gathering of these interviews.

Skype may offer some free access to its communication services but it is also a commercial body that charges for many of its services. It must love the free publicity it is getting at on the ABC.

Let's e-mail the ABC and see what it has to say on the matter ... stay tuned!

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Just so you know…

All thoughts and comments here are the honestly held personal opinion of Michael Lund and are based on the information available at the time of publication.