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A spat has erupted over whether pubcaster the Australian Broadcasting Corp. should be forced to run commercials.

Communications Minister Helen Coonan said while the government will not force the pubcaster to take ads, it should bear the idea in mind when it approaches the government for its next round of triennial funding. “If it’s consistent with its charter and the board wishes to consider whether or not to go forward — we’d be looking at something like 2009 to 2012 — there might be some way to consider it,” she told ABC Radio Wednesday.

Gary Humphries, a member of the government’s communications committee, has been more aggressive, stating the ABC must take on commercials in order to remain competitive.

The pubcaster has been lambasted for its plunging local-drama content, which many believe is linked to its low funding levels.

Prime Minister John Howard has come out against the move.

The discussion comes as the government considers an independent report on the ABC’s funding levels by the accounting firm KPMG. Early leaks suggest the pubcaster suffers from a lack of funding, but the government has not yet made the findings public.

Commercial advertising has been integrated successfully on multicultural pubcaster SBS. After an initial outcry that it would be the death knell of the web, the ads — allowed only at the beginning and end of programs — have helped boost revenue with minimum negative impact.