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Australia Network set to go off the air in the Asia and Pacific region
ABC Radio Australia - September 28, 2014
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade cut Australia's international television service, which had broadcast content to 46 countries in the Asia and Pacific region including Solomon Islands, India, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, in the May budget.
The ABC was one year in to a ten-year contract to provide the service, which had a potential audience of 144 million people.
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop told ABC's Insiders this morning that the Government cut funding to the broadcaster because it did not believe it was meeting its contractual obligations. However, an ABC spokesman said the number of viewers in the region had grown over the past 12 months.
"Australia Network met all of its contractual obligations and key performance indicators as set out in its contract with DFAT," he said in a statement.
"During the first twelve months of the contract the network grew to with a potential an audience of 144 million in the Asia and Pacific region.
"The termination of the contract led to redundancies within the ABC and had affected the organisation's ability to maintain its international broadcasting responsibilities."
From tomorrow the ABC will launch Australia Plus, a new multi-platform international service which will screen blocks of ABC entertainment, sport, education and English learning content through Asia and Pacific broadcast partners.
Network partners include NowTV in Hong Kong, Astro and TM Net in Malaysia, Singtel and Starhub in Singapore, Indovision and Telkomvision in Indonesia, True Visions and Thai Cable Holdings in Thailand, Dream, Sky Cable and Cignal in the Philippines and DD Direct in India.
"The Australia Plus international media service is a digital-led multiplatform service, it is a fully commercial service and will be working closely with business to enhance their opportunities for market access and growth across the region," the ABC spokesman said.
Australia Plus will also ensure big events from Australia including the Melbourne Cup, Sydney's New Year's Eve Fireworks and the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race air in the region.
ABC could continue to deliver Australia Network: Bishop
Ms Bishop said the ABC's failure to meet its obligations and the "corrupted tender process" which delivered the national broadcaster the contract had convinced the Government there were "much more creative" ways to promote Australia abroad.
However, she said the decision to end the service had been taken by ABC management. "It's up to the ABC to determine how it wants to prioritise the taxpayer money that it gets now," she said.
"But I don't believe that it was meeting its contractual obligations to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in promoting Australia abroad through the Australia Network. So I'm looking at other alternatives where I think we can do it in a much more creative and positive way."
The Government will also save $43.5 million over four years from cuts to the base funding of the ABC and SBS. Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has described the 1 per cent budget cut as a "down-payment" on the recommendations of an Efficiency Study, which the Minister commissioned earlier this year.