The ABC has been forced to cancel plans for The Chaser to provide a comedic program in conjunction with the Royal Wedding. It would be shown on ABC2 to provide an alternative for people to the wedding coverage itself.
“ABC TV had always planned to take the BBC’s full coverage with commentary on ABC1, however, like other broadcasters, we thought Australians would appreciate an alternative take on this major event,” Mr Dalton said.
This is because of restrictions as to how footage can be used imposed by the BBC.
This is one of those moments that tests whether the public broadcaster is really a public broadcaster who will provide content where the rest of the market fails to do so. If the ABC were to go ahead with The Chaser, it would lose the the live BBC feed of the Royal Wedding yourself. While that sounds an impossible choice, and it would be for a commercial broadcaster, it isn’t for the ABC. Essentially the same coverage will be provided on Channel Seven, cable TV and even YouTube. So Australians will be able to watch the wedding regardless of whether the ABC carries it or not. However, they will not be able to watch The Chaser and “appreciate an alternative take on this major event.”
There is a case here that by caving in to BBC demands, the ABC is abdicating its role as the national public broadcaster.
[Update: From a very reliable source I am told that the issue is that the BBC controls all of the wedding feeds and so The Chaser would not have any feed to show as a result of the BBC actions. I must admit that the coverage (including that in the ABC) makes it hard to parse this. But isn’t there at least some fair use version that could be used?
Also, the ABC could allow the Chaser to watch the wedding and comment on the radio. That way people could tune into the vision and turn down the volume to listen to whatever The Chaser was going to do. In times like these, it is important not to just throw up your hands.]