As part of the Federal Government’s 2014 Budget, it was announced that the ABC’s $223 million 10-year contract to run the Australia Network, which is beamed into 44 nations across the Asia-Pacific region, would be cut.
News services, such as Channel 9 News, reported on 5 June that the service would finish on 18 September – just two weeks prior to the 2014 AFL Grand Final.
Australia Business Asia (ABA), which comprises 17 Australian Business Groups from around the Asian region, is seeking further information from the ABC. Some of the member business groups have noted that news reports have referred purely to the funding from the Government being cut. Yet, part of the ABC’s charter is that it still needs to push out into Asia. There has been some chatter that Australia Network may continue if the ABC can find some funding from within its existing budget.
Separately, AFL Asia has sought comment from the ABC and the AFL.
An unofficial source from within the AFL has said that “there are options being considered for the Grand Final broadcast into Asia. I understand one of them is Australia Network continuing in another form”.
Another unofficial source, this time from within the ABC, has said that “Within the ABC thereâ€™s little clarity on this â€“ DFAT â€˜s chief recently said that it will be off air by September 18.
“Internally we havenâ€™t heard a specific date but, either way, it looks like Australia Network will be off air at some point in the coming months.
“I highly doubt they’ll continue the service. What they’re talking about is using other ABC funding to cover Asia-related news, but for a domestic audience. However, the charter says we have to do some international broadcasting. Dunno if that means web streaming or radio… all options on the table it seems.”
The price of Australia Network’s service
What is the price of:
* Providing Australia Network’s service each year for 10 years? AUD23.3million (compared with other services in 2010: “US $717 million, France $420 million, the UK $415 million, Japan $215 million. It’s hard to get figures for China but spending is believed to be eye-watering.”
* Education for international students studying in Australia? AUD14 billion to Australia per annum.
* AFL Asia’s network of professionals living and working in the region alongside locals in government, business, NGOs and charities, together with Australia Network, helping to spread Australia’s message? Priceless.
* These figures in USD were cited by Crikey.com in an article on 3 February 2014 titled, Australia Network: diplomatic weapon or just AFL for expats?
On a separate note, the Crikey headline is disappointing as it pedals a stereotype that encourages lazy thinking which squanders an opportunity. Australia Network should be building on and reinforcing the pre existing network fostered and developed by Australians living and working in the region. So, a better headline may have been: “Australia Network: diplomatic weapon strengthened by working with AFL Asia’s network of business professionals living and working in the region (as well as Australia Business Asia, Australia Education International, Australian Tourism Commission, Austrade etc).
As soon as AFL Asia hears of anything concrete about the future of AFL Asia, we shall advise accordingly.