Abbott to kill ABC’s Australia Network


From The Australian:

THE ABC’s $223 million Australia Network Asian broadcasting service is likely to be scrapped in the May budget to save money and end the pursuit of “soft diplomacy” in the region through television.

Federal cabinet has already discussed the option of dropping the ABC’s contract to broadcast Australian news and entertainment in the region, with the Government Solicitor providing advice on the ramifications of stripping the ABC of its 10-year contract.

Cabinet ministers believe the ABC’s coverage of Australia in the region is overly negative and fails to promote the nation as originally intended in the Australia Network’s charter by using the “soft diplomacy” of Australian news and cultural programs.

The cabinet deliberations and the option of cutting the ABC’s contract are being conducted in an atmosphere of government hostility and resentment towards the ABC, with Tony Abbott yesterday accusing the broadcaster of taking an anti-Australian stance in its reporting and lacking “affection for the home team”.

…But Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull last night appeared to defend the ABC from the criticism, saying it was accountable to its board not politicians.

“What’s the alternative … the editor-in-chief (of the ABC) becomes the prime minister?” he was quoted as saying in Fairfax publications.

“Politicians, whether prime ministers or communications ministers will often be unhappy with the ABC … but you can’t tell them what to write.”

Perhaps not but you can cut their funding.

I have contracted to Australia Network in the past and it is a professional outfit that does a very good job of projecting an image of Australia as a dynamic yet fair liberal democracy, which includes self-criticism. It is also one of the better regional news services in Asia.

Some won’t see the $223 million as worth it, but even aside from any vague return in “soft power” terms, which includes helping support emerging regional democracy, Australia Network is a useful shopfront for tourism and, more particularly, education and business travel to Australia. It has a huge penetration into the dominant cable networks of Asian and Middle Eastern households.

Without it, Australia has only Radio Australia into the region (assuming it’s not cut) and we’ll be pretty isolated in terms of a national electronic message. It will be interesting to see if Australia Network is revived in some other form and tossed to…err…a more friendly private operator. It has happened before. If not there’ll be many upset expats looking for an AFL fix.


  1. There are many small nations on earth (yes, we are small) that would dream of having a regional network with the cultural and technical penetration that Australia Network has. And Abbot and Co want to kill it.

    Another day, another dumb f&*^in move for the country that your grandchildren will grow up in, Tony.

    • By the time Tone’s grandchildren are about we’ll probably have intergenerational political pensions and Newstart will be Organstart, where you have to prove you’ve sold at least two non essential organs before accessing government benefits.

      Second eye, second kidney, second testicle.

  2. migtronixMEMBER

    Yeah it’s the impact on expats that makes the decision so myopic – silly even. I imagine Australians in HK/Singapore aren’t going to swap aunty for Rupert, they’ll just lose touch with Australia.

  3. Didn’t the Commonwealth Government spend north of $170m on advertising last year? I’d rather scrap that.

  4. Because soft diplomacy just isn’t needed with the headkicker being in charge – it’s all going so well!

  5. Ronin8317MEMBER

    I hope I’m wrong, but after the Australian Network is shut down, they’ll just give Uncle Rupert the 200 million to run a new regional TV network, but this time it’ll be as “fair and balanced” as Fox News.

  6. But it’s okay to bring up domestic politics at international forums and use the opportunity to trash your opposition. Right. ……

  7. Good move. As a tax payer I’m sick of paying for useless services. Noone watches these channels in Asia. They have 100+ cable channels like CNN, Discovery, NGC for about $15/mo.

    • KlimashkinaSydney

      Kind of agree. Though my friend in Timor won’t be happy.

      Wasn’t this contract also won in controversial circumstances?

    • Nick the GreekMEMBER

      Speak for yourself, I watch the Aussie channel every day, as do many of the 300k+ aussie expats in SG and HK.

    • My Malaysian in-laws, who are non-bumniputra, make it one of their primary sources of news.

      So do many of their educated non-bumniputra friends and family.

  8. Nick the GreekMEMBER

    I live in Singapore so regularly watch Australia network to keep up to date with the happenings back home. It is also great for footie as it shows most of the AFL matches.

    I don’t quite know where i would get my Q&A fix from if they scapped it.

    It would be a sad day for many expats in Asia if we lost the Australia Network.

  9. This is something I just don’t understand.

    If Australia wants to strengthen ties with the US and Europe wouldn’t the logical step be to become even a bigger powerhouse in the region in order to have more influence with China, Japan and Indonesia? This would enable leveraging on the TPPA and political crises and make Australia indispensable to negotiations between players in the region which would I think only strengthen the ties to US and Europe and Australia’s bargaining position in international affairs.

    Or do the Abbott government have another game plan? Is there any reason for them to switch the focus from Asia (even with the US refocus on Asia) to the US and Europe beyond cultural reasons?

  10. I would leave the ABC as is. Get Andrew Bolt and Larry Pickering on the board and given full editorial control. Watch all those Bolshie journo’s and presenters go absolutely ape…t. I reckon they would self combust live on TV…

  11. I tried to comment on the Business Spectator’s story on this, but it would appear it was blocked. A surprise when spam seems to get into BS comments. Rupert’s influence?