Mark Scott again makes the case for ABC as steward of Australian international broadcasting, including Australia Network.

Posted: 07 Aug 2010

The Australian, 6 August 2010, Rowan Callick: "The ABC's managing director Mark Scott has defended his organisation's claim on government funding to keep running Australia Network. Australia Network is beamed by satellite into the Asia-Pacific region. He attacked commercial media -- which have in the past been invited to tender to run the service -- for having 'both the liberty and the habit of aligning your editorial agenda to suit your commercial agenda'. ... Mr Scott claimed research into 10 international broadcasting services conducted by the Lowy Institute found none 'were outsourced by their government'. The 'soft power' or 'public diplomacy' propagated through Australia Network 'helps achieve foreign policy and trade objectives', he said."

Sydney Morning Herald, 6 August 2010, Hamish McDonald: "Mark Scott, the managing director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, is puzzled why Rupert Murdoch is chasing a $20 million-a-year subsidy from Canberra. After all, the Australian-born American print and broadcast media tycoon on Wednesday reported a stunning $US2.5 billion ($2.7 billion) annual profit for his international News Corporation. Yet back in his homeland, his part-owned news channel Sky TV is vying to wrest the international TV broadcast service Australia Network, largely financed by a $20 million-a-year allocation from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade budget, from the ABC."

Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 5 August 2010, text of Mark Scott's speech "Soft Power, Public Diplomacy and the Role of the Public Broadcasters" to the Asialink public luncheon: "A Government's willingness to fund a public institution like the ABC which determinedly holds Government to account, seems to me a powerful expression of Australia's democratic values: a symbol of a belief that independent journalism is essential to a free society. It shows that Australians do not just preach democratic ideals, but live them. And it shows the limits to Government power in democratic societies. By representing the values of the Australian people and the Australian way of life - rather than the Government's views - the ABC makes the most meaningful contribution to Australia's public diplomacy. ... In running a commercial media service, you can have both the liberty and the habit of aligning your editorial agenda to suit your commercial agenda -- as various print outlets or Fox News do for instance. This is perfectly acceptable commercial practice. In doing so, the Board of News Corporation is serving its commercial shareholders just as it's expected to. Meanwhile, the Board of the ABC is expected to do its duty on behalf of its stakeholders, trustees working in the interests of every Australian."

Recommended reading: this is a theoretical approach to international broadcasting. Mr. Scott stresses ABC's credibility but is willing to place ABC's international activities in the category of "public diplomacy." I prefer the BBC World Service practice of dichotomizing the work of international broadcasting and public diploimacy.

I also don't agree that commercial broadcasters are necessarily biased towards their commercial stakeholders. In fact, it could be argued that it's easier to maintain independence when funding comes from dozens of advertisers, with their influence thus diffused, than from one government, with all the power to increase or decrease funding. Keep in mind, too, that BBC World News and CNN International are advertiser funded. With a few vocal exceptions, most people do not consider these channels to be biased.

AFG Venture Group, 6 August 2010: "Michael Fay, head of AFG Venture Group's education division, today took part in the launch of a nationwide [Australian] safety campaign for international students. The 'Think Before' campaign ( is being distributed worldwide using innovative digital animation video on social media platforms and mobile phones to improve both pre-arrival information as well as personal safety advice to international students already in Australia. There are an estimated 650,000 international students from over 100 countries studying in states and territories across Australia. The safety messages are in English and twelve other languages - Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Nepalese, Portuguese, Punjabi, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese. The student safety initiative was spearheaded by Australia Network television, Victoria Police, and International Education Association Inc. (ISANA).", 3 August 2010: "Australia Network, available across the Asia-Pacific region, has acquired a total of 337 hours of programming from Endemol Worldwide Distribution, including the soap hit Home and Away ... Packed to the Rafters, Rescue Special Operations and Tangle, the first season of Rush and Spirited. The network's head of programming, Rod Webb, said ... 'This new deal with Endemol reflects the strength and quality of the revival of the Australian drama production industry, and will enhance our ability to provide a window on Australian culture to our Asian and Pacific neighbors.'"

Copyright 2006–2018 Kim Andrew Elliott.