It has been reported in the news today that the Australian Government is going to get rid of The Australian Network in next weeks budget.
I actually don’t believe that they should… and yes, those who know me may find that surprising.
The contract under the Gillard Government was a joke; Sky News won it fair and square but Gillard decided to award it to the ABC anyway. Why they even opened it to a submission process I’m not sure, and today the validity of the ABC being awarded a 10 year contract is dubious at best.
But that’s beyond the point of why The Australia Network should exist.
I joke…actually regularly, about how the “soft diplomacy” of The Australia Network involves confusing several billion people in Asia with Giggle and Hoot…and worse still Q&A..
But here’s the thing: Australia Network is so ubiquitous in Asia now that I’ve never stayed anywhere in South East Asia that doesn’t have it on TV.
And that includes a really shitty hotel in Kuala Lumpur that literally only had 4 channels: one of them was The Australia Network.
With the exception of Al Jazerra English, which has been in most places I’ve stayed (but not all) Australia Network pretty much now dominates English language programming across Asia…at the least for tourists…but I also believe it comes in the Asian equivalents of a “basic cable package” as well.
The tl;dr version is that nearly everyone in South East Asia who has some form of pay TV has Australian Network.
Oh, and if you’ve never left Australia: you can walk around the worst slum in Bangkok and see each house with a pay tv dish.
I’m not going to pretend to understand the subtleties of “soft diplomacy” but I do have a degree that includes Marketing: The Australia Network must, at some level promote Australia in the region.
Like Aunty at home it offers a variety of kids programs during the day (around school leave/ home times) which must be received well by Children. Its news (particularly the 2:30pm Thai time report) actually informs about what’s going on in the region.
And lets not forget that for 8 cents a day (actually given inflation a lot more now) that Australians pay for the ABC and given South East Asia is where most Australian tourists visit (ironically more so than home now) shouldn’t Australian’s also have access to taxpayer funded content away from home?
$270m roughly over 10 years or $27m a year isn’t a lot of money to broadcast Australian TV shows and culture across Asia.
It really isn’t.
I don’t believe for a minute that hundreds of millions of people in Asia are tuning in, but I do believe that there are enough people watching it to make it worth a relatively small investment to take Australia into Asia.
Just remember Abbott Government: The Australia Network is more dominant in the region than ANY OTHER COUNTRY SPECIFIC CHANNEL in the region and what sort of message does it send to Asia that Australia isn’t strong enough to spend sweet fuck all in the perspective of the budget to continue spreading its mostly good programming to a region that wants to like us…but might not as much if they’re denied a window into who we are as a people and a nation.