Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) chair Ita Buttrose has called for additional funding for international broadcasting so the public broadcaster can be a “clarion” voice of trusted news and play a bigger role in soft diplomacy in the region.
“The importance of journalism to our country’s Asia-Pacific interests cannot be underestimated and I believe a renewed ABC focus on international broadcasting would greatly benefit Australia,” Buttrose said.
“The ability to report critically on our own political system is a powerful demonstration of democratic values, particularly to countries with limited press freedom,” she said.
“As a statutory independent broadcaster, the ABC has a reputation throughout the region for its credible, frank and impartial coverage of our own backyard,” she added.
The ABC would launch an international version of its iview streaming platform, called ABC Australia iview, at the end of the month, Buttrose said.
However, the cost of international TV rights means the offering would be limited to selected episodes of ABC titles.
She compared the ABC’s limited funding for international broadcasting since the termination of the Australia Network with the BBC World Service, which receives ￡330 million (US$429 million) a year.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2014 cut the ABC’s international service, which had broadcast content to 46 countries in the Asia-Pacific region and had a potential audience of 144 million people.
Australia has fallen from sixth to 10th place in the University of Southern California’s Center for Public Diplomacy Soft Power 30 index since 2015.
The ABC’s international arm has ABC Australia, which broadcasts into 40 territories across the Indo-Pacific region, Radio Australia and an international app.
“The ABC is Australia’s trusted voice in Asia and the Pacific,” Buttrose said. “It has a proud record of achievement, having told Australian stories, reported fairly and fearlessly, taught generations to speak English and delivered critical information in times of crisis for 80 years.”
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