December 5 is looming as a big day for the ABC and for Sky News, which is part-owned by
the Nine Network, Seven and BSkyB of London (Rupert
Murdoch). That’s
when the result of the tender for the Asia Pacific service paid for by the
Department of Foreign Affairs, is due to be released.

The ABC
currently operates the Asia Pacific service for DFAT, which pays around $18.5
million a year. The
federal government decided to put the contract out to tender in the middle of
the year rather than just roll over the new contract with the ABC. Any new
arrangement will start midway through 2006.

Sky wants the contract to give it a bigger business,
some chance of growing and a bit more credibility.

Some in
the ABC believe that Foreign Minister Downer and Prime Minister Howard pushed
for the tender to “punish” the ABC and move the operation to Sky News. The
irony of this is not lost on people in the TV industry: Seven had Asia Pacific
for a number of years up to around 2001 and then let it go because it could not
make money, now it is one of three free enterprise media groups who want the federal government to pay them
millions a year so they can make money from advertising.