The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's managing director, Mark Scott, has ruled out commercial advertising on ABC websites -- as long as government funding is maintained.
Speaking last night at the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers Association conference, Mr Scott put to rest months of speculation by saying: "I suspect you might be pleased to know that if our current funding conditions remain, we are not looking to fund these activities by placing advertising on radio or television or our abc.net.au websites."
He said: "We are not commercialising the ABC. We do not believe that it is in the best interests of the ABC to place advertising on our abc.net.au website -- particularly as the public that owns us and funds us places such a premium on our core services being commercial-free."
Mr Scott, who has been at the ABC for a year after 12 years with Fairfax Media, owner of The Age, said the ABC had long supplemented government funding with commercial activities such as the ABC shops, merchandising, magazines and sale of its archive.
"There will remain commercial opportunties for us along the lines that are currently in place that will bring an important return to the organisation. We will pursue them," he said.
But he told his audience of newspaper executives: "We are going to compete with you for audiences, not advertisers."
Newspapers may no longer be the place people go to first for news, but they are where readers go to find out its meaning and importance, according to News Limited chief John Hartigan.
Delivering the keynote address yesterday, Mr Hartigan said: "Newspapers are far from dead and they certainly are not in trouble."
Mr Hartigan, the chief executive of the Australian arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, said his group's newspapers would continue to break news, but they would also emphasise "crusading and campaigning making a contribution by having an active role".
"It is a very effective way to engage with readers. Rather than stand back on the sidelines reporting on an event, we now take a position and champion issues that matter to our readers."
Mr Hartigan said print media organisations around the world were struggling to find a successful business model for the digital age. "There are just as many risks in changing too quickly as there are in responding too slowly," he said.
He said this was the most exciting time in his 40 years in the industry even though the challenges had never been greater.
"The social function and value of quality journalism is even more important today because audiences have many more choices about who they turn to for news."