Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk
A public broadcasting advocacy group has condemned Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s plan to commercialise Pacific broadcasting as not being able to provide quality public interest journalism to the country’s neighbours.
Supporters of Australian Broadcasting in Asia and the Pacific, a group linked to ABC Friends, has asked Morrison to rethink his plans.
“If Mr Morrison wants to restore a fresh initiative like the Australia Network he is dependent on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation which has the experience and professionalism to create strong partnerships with Pacific nations,” the supporters statement said.
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“The voice of Australia through Radio Australia, and more recently via a wider range of ABC media platforms, has long been valued by people in the Pacific and many ABC broadcasters have become popular in the region.”
Australian foreign policy would not be enhanced by the “commercial news judgements of Fox or Sky News”, which did not provide independent analysis of complex issues.
Professional broadcasting in the Pacific depended on “two-way respectful communication” that enhanced understanding of diverse perspectives in the region, the advocacy group said.
In recent months Pacific leaders had made clear their expectations of Australian/Pacific public broadcasting:
- Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwal has called for rebuilding public interest broadcasting;
- In a speech to the Lowy Institute, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi had called for the Pacific voice to be heard in Australia; and
- Other Pacific leaders had echoed this call, as well as Secretary-General of the South Pacific Forum.
“Significantly, if Australia were to accept this approach to Pacific broadcasting it would become the only nation to rely on the commercial sector to deliver its ‘soft power’ diplomacy.
“Just imagine Canada or Britain giving such a significant national task to commercial interests!” said the statement.
ABC Friends national president Margaret Reynolds urged Prime Minister Morrison to reconsider this public policy shift and take advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs which was more familiar with the needs of Pacific nations and managing diplomatic relations.