Australia Network 'not dead yet'. The Australian
may be continuing to campaign against the ABC's Australia Network and claim it will be axed, but some ABC insiders think the network could survive -- perhaps in a pared-back form. The Australia Network is an international television service
that beams into Asia and the Pacific. It's funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs at $20 million a year. The Abbott government has been critical of the network and the contract that awarded it to the ABC. The AN may well be axed in the May budget; "it's certainly under grave threat, but it's not dead yet", a senior ABC figure told Crikey
With ABC International CEO Lynley Marshall believed to have been deep in talks with DFAT officials this week, some believe a compromise deal is on the table in which the AN could survive on a bargain budget. A deal could cut the $6 million a year the AN pays the ABC for access to regular ABC news and current affairs content. It may be that the AN will be refocused more towards teaching English, with less news. The future of the AN's flagship program, Newsline
with Jim Middleton, has been shored up -- it'll merge with ABC News 24 show The World
from March 10. The new show will be co-hosted by Middleton and former Bangkok correspondent Zoe Daniels, and will air on News 24 and the AN.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull set the hares running this week when he suggested the AN could be replaced by digital streaming of News 24, but insiders say that seems like a thought bubble and Turnbull is not heavily involved in negotiations about the network's future (which are being driven by DFAT and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's office). It's understood there's disquiet in some corners of DFAT at axing the network.
One factor that's received little media attention is the $6 million AN pays to ABC News a year to air ABC shows (ABC International confirmed the sum to Crikey
today). AN pays to run shows from Seven, Nine and Ten; similarly, it pays the ABC (the amount fluctuates each year). That means if the AN is axed, the ABC loses not just three Asia-based journalists
, but also $6 million for its regular news and current affairs programs -- making it that much tougher to make budget. ABC insiders say that's part of the reason Sky News, part-owned by Rupert Murdoch, was so keen to win the contract to deliver the Australia Network (Sky was on the verge of winning it when the Gillard government controversially selected the ABC). Sky could also have used the AN contract to shore up its regular programs.
The AN may pay to run content from Seven, Nine, Ten and the ABC, but that didn't stop The Australian
running a front-page "exclusive
" on Wednesday critical of the AN's attempt to buy and run content from Sky. Bishop told the paper it showed the network was "struggling". -- Cathy Alexander
Macquarie students hiring.
Readers of Wednesday's Australian
might have been puzzled by a job ad in the Higher Education section for a provost for Macquarie University. The ad says it is "Seeking a Student-Friendly Provost" who "support[s] democratically-elected student representation" and "must believe in student control of student affairs and funding" ...
But keen readers will see the fine print: "This is a parody advertisement funded by the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations for MUPRA." Those postgrads seem pretty cross at previous provost Judyth Sachs, who announced last week she would not return to the university following her sabbatical (a strip ad in The Australian can cost more than $8000, though this ad is smaller and cheaper). The stoush seems to have begun when Sachs announced plans to "wind up" the Macquarie University Postgraduate Representative Association in May of last year. This was followed by a Change.org petition to keep the union. MUPRA is now hoping for a friendlier relationship with the administration and is willing to give thousands to the Oz to make its point. -- Cassidy Knowlton