Asia-Pacific

Feb 3, 2014

The Australia Network: diplomatic weapon or just AFL for expats?

The Australia Network is on the chopping block as Tony Abbott looks to clip the ABC's wings. Is it worth $20 million a year in taxpayers' money?

Cathy Alexander — Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

Cathy Alexander

Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

A senior ABC journalist says it would be “an act of vandalism” to strip the ABC of its contract to deliver the Australia Network at the behest of the “insistent urgings of Rupert Murdoch and News Corp”.

Debate is raging about the value of the ABC’s $20-million-a-year contract to deliver the satellite television channel, which blows an Aussie cultural breeze through Asia and the Pacific. Opinion is divided on whether it’s an expensive way to beam the AFL into expats’ homes, or a key “soft diplomacy” tool that increases understanding of Australia in the Asia-Pacific.

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15 comments

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15 thoughts on “The Australia Network: diplomatic weapon or just AFL for expats?

  1. Yclept

    The test is easy really. If Murdoch says it’s bad, it is obviously good and should stay.

  2. mikeb

    The Govt can only close it down. Awarding the contract to Sky would be moving this service from the most trusted media organisation in Aust to the least trusted. It would be regarded as a joke by any thinking viewer. Imagine Fox being the voice of America or a BskyB World Service?

  3. zut alors

    There are many countries where the “home team” cannot be criticised by a national broadcaster.

    None of us would want to live in any of them.

  4. AR

    Yclept is spot on – cui bono?
    Like the prisoner’s Dilemma, with one door to freedom of two and two demon guards.
    One always lies. One always speaks the Truth.
    What question do we ask?
    And how do we respond, having heard the answer?

  5. DF

    Tension between the media and he government of the day is an essential component of a functioning democracy. The ABC’s independent reporting, rather than propaganda, sets an example to viewers in the Australia Network’s footprint, same as does BBC World Service.
    I agree with Mikeb, there is no way the govt could transfer responsibility to Sky, no matter how hard rabid anti-ABC Murdoch apparatchik Chris Kenny lobbies. By the way, Kenny’s hatred of the ABC long pre-dates the Chaser controversy. He was lobbying for Sky when Downer first approved DFAT’s original recommendation for AN to go to ABC.
    For a govt which said its international focus would be on Jakarta not Geneva, it seems a strange decision to shut down one of the avenues into the Jakarta body politic.

  6. Bill Hilliger

    Julie Bishop on Friday said she was concerned at the number of complaints she’d received about the network and its content. She would say that wouldn’t she? Apparently there were about 11 people that complained, mostly news ltd employees.

  7. Liamj

    The Libs get on just fine with authoritarian regimes, so long as they’re backed by UK & USA. The Aus Network gives the peasants inconvenient ideas, not so different from the dynamic here really, and so has got to go.

  8. Electric Lardyland

    Yes, Liam, inconvenient ideas. Maybe Abbott’s mob are thinking about closing it down, because they think it encourages the wrong type, to make the trip to Australia.

  9. dazza

    @BH, I think we really need to find out the number of complaints or do we have another fib from the LNP?? anyone..

  10. Peter Snashall

    I have a disconnected satellite dish on top of my house that is supposed to be connected to
    the Australia Network. But I’m too lazy to fix it. It’s a wonderful service and I don’t know how
    anyone could complain about it (except for signal issues). The only argument against it is that
    it is increasingly redundant when a lot of its programs can be accessed over the internet. That’s
    why I couldn’t be bothered reconnecting it.

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