The departure of ABC Managing Director Michelle Guthrie just two-and-a-half years into her five-year term reflects the board’s decision to seek “fresh leadership”, according to Chairman Justin Milne. Announcing Guthrie’s sacking today, Milne said “the board’s foremost consideration was the long-term interests of our own people and the millions of Australians who engage with ABC content every week”.
What Milne didn’t talk about was the millions of listeners, viewers and online visitors to the ABC who have been lost since the federal government and the ABC itself made cuts to its international output. The appointment of a new Managing Director opens up the opportunity for Guthrie’s replacement to re-engage the ABC with its international audience, particularly in the Pacific.
As respected former international broadcasting executives Ian MacIntosh and Bruce Dover pointed out last month on The Interpreter: “Australia’s international voice, once strong, influential and broadcast across much of the Asia Pacific, has become little more than a croak into the ether.”
The demise of a strong Australian media voice throughout the Pacific has seen Radio NZ Pacific (formerly Radio NZ International) become the dominant international media outlet in the south-west Pacific, Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia. Lurking in the background is Radio China International, which has taken many of the ABC’s shortwave frequencies, and is reportedly spending billions in foreign language programming to boost its presence.[…]
The Papua New Guinea government is contemplating restoring short wave radio services to Bougainville, after they were shut down during the civil war.
[…]The Bougainville regional member in the PNG parliament, Joe Lera, has raised concerns that the region’s mostly rural population lacks access to information.
He said in the absence of other media these people can be won over by groups like former combatants pushing just one view – that of independence.
Mr Lera said the Minister of Communications, Sam Basil, will take a team from the national broadcaster to Bougainville later this month.
“His thinking is two options. One, national government to immediately buy two shortwave transmitters and bring Radio Bougainville back to where it was before the crisis, and two, we want to keep FM. He is also talking national government paying for two FM transmitters.”
There is a push in Australia to re-establish Radio Australia’s services to the Asia/Pacific region.
Supporters of RA in Australia hope people around the Pacific will join them in sending submissions to inquiries underway in Canberra.
It comes after savage cuts at RA that included shutting down shortwave transmission, which is seen as a critical service in many parts of the Pacific, particularly during natural disasters.
It has recently been reported that those transmission frequencies have been taken over by China Radio International.
Former RA journalist Sean Dorney said the group, of which he’s part, is trying to convince the Australian government to get back into that space.
“So there is a bit of concern in Canberra about this and I suppose the group that I’m part of are trying to convince the Australian government that it’s time to re-focus our attention on the broadcast to the region.”
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