On Radio National’s Media Report this morning, Mark Day mentioned that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s name for the revised TV channel broadcasting into Asia, which is currently the subject of a commercial tender, was a big secret that tenderers were contractually bound not to reveal.

Hmmm, so what are we to make of the fact that australiachannel.net was registered on 12th August 2005 to Alan Walsh of RG Casey Building, Barton, ACT 0221 (email: [email protected]) via Melbourne IT?

It can’t be much of a secret, since they didn’t bother to register it “privately,” which one can do with some registrars. Note that australiachannel.com and theaustraliachannel.net were registered by the very prescient Mark Kon of Nova Associates, Cambridge MA USA in 2003.

Given that Day works for News Ltd, which is one of the tenderers through Sky News on Foxtel, he was probably reluctant to upset the DFAT officials by revealing the name, but now that it’s out there, it should be open season.

Many observers, including Day, believe the ABC has done an excellent job with the service over the last five years and should be renewed. However, as Liz Jackson reported on Media Watch a couple of months back, Sky News has been lobbying hard to get the $18.5 million a year subsidy.

Given all the current action in the Federal Court, it’s hard to imagine the Sky News shareholders, Seven, Nine and BSkyB, making a compelling and co-ordinated case to receive the subsidy to run the service.

Besides, can they really fulfil the stated objectives which include: “Provide a credible, reliable and independent voice in the region. Promote Australia’s engagement in the Asia-Pacific region by fostering public understanding of Australia, its people and its strategic and economic interests”?

There have been reports that Rupert is coming a cropper in China, and given the appalling performance of Nine over the Corby case, wouldn’t it make sense to renew the contract with Aunty? After all, ABC CEO Russell Balding describes Aunty’s performance thus: “ABC Asia Pacific has been the untold success story. The service is now available in 39 countries on 155 platforms and it is one of the fastest growing networks in the Asia Pacific region.”

Pleasing media moguls seems to be a very high priority for the Howard Government.

Peter Fray

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