Concerns in the Pacific over Australian broadcasting cuts
Cuts to Australia's broadcasting services in the Pacific will have far reaching consequences, according to a fellow at the Lowy Institute.
An analyst with Australian thinktank the Lowy Institute says there is huge concern across the Pacific at the cuts made to services provided by Radio Australia and the Australia Network.
The ABC was forced into making cuts after the Australian Government ended a long-term TV contract.
The broadcaster decided to make the cuts in its international arm, which now has just 40 percent of its previous budget.
Dozens of jobs are going with a number of prominent presenters and journalists already out of work.
A fellow at the Lowy Institute, Tess Newton-Cain, told Don Wiseman that Radio Australia is vital to people's understanding of critical events in the Pacific.
TESS NEWTON-CAIN: There is a huge concern across the region that people are losing what has been and what continues to be a really vital resource. We see lots of work done with media organisations in the region. They tend to be a bit a peak and trough thing - there's a good bit and sometimes that is not sustained, but whenever those gaps have come Radio Australia has been there to fill them and if you look at, particularly the situation we have had in Fiji, people that want to know about Fiji know that really the only credible source of news they have been able to have is what is provided by international broadcasters, including your own, but obviously Radio Australia has contributed hugely to that.
DON WISEMAN: Canberra has talked a lot about wanting to improve its relationship with Pacific countries but this is a step in exactly the other direction isn't it?
TN-C: To be completely clear, this is an ABC management decision - the cuts to Radio Australia. Having said that it is as a reflection or as a consequence of the DFAT [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] decision to cancel the Australia Network contract. Having said all that what Radio Australia provides is a relatively cheap way of maintaining Australia's presence in the region, of explaining Australia to the region, of explaining the region to Australia, of sharing information and ideas and music and culture across numerous countries. Of being the partner of choice which Australia has said it wants to be for the region. So yes I do agree that I consider this to be a backward step.
DW: This smaller service comes soon after AAP were forced, for economic reasons I guess, to pull out of places like PNG, and other news agencies around the region have also cut back, but there is a desire for news everywhere and there is a vacuum there, isn't there. What is happening?
TN-C: There is a vacuum and I think there are a couple of ramifications of that. One of is in terms of how mainstream media in Australia and the Australian population in general learn about their nearest neighbours. Generally Pacific news and Pacific issues are not well represented in the mainstream media and I feel that [with] the cutting of Radio Australia's services - that is a situation that is going to get worse, it is not going to get better. To come back to your point about the vacuum - nature abhors a vacuum and that space is already being filled, in particular we have seen - as my colleague Jenny Hayward-Jones has noted - we have seen an increase in broadcasting into the region, in English, by Chinese broadcasting services - both in terms of TV and radio. And I think that we can expect to see more of that.
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