ABC to keep running Australia Network as Conroy cancels tender

The Government has terminated the Australia Network tender process, and will extend the ABC's operations by six months, while the AFP investigates tender leaks to media.

The Gillard Government has terminated the Australia Network tender process, and will extend the ABC’s operations by six months, while the Australian Federal Police investigates tender leaks to media.

“The advice which the Government has received is that due to significant leaks of confidential information to the media, the Australia Network tender process has been compromised to such a degree that a fair and equitable outcome may no longer be able to be achieved,” Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said.

“As a result, the Government has taken the decision that it is in the best interests of both tender parties, and the Government, that the process be terminated. The Government has asked the Australian Federal Police to investigate the leaks.

“The Government is extremely disappointed that such leaks have occurred and that the process has been compromised.

“This decision has not been taken lightly but the Government believes that the advice received about the tender process leaves no other option.”

The ABC will continue to manage Australia Network until August 2012.

The outcome follows delays within the government over delays on a decision of the tender process, and changes from Kevin Rudd to Stephen Conroy’s portfolio.

SKY News which was in a contest for the contract has previously lodged a formal complaint with the Department of Foreign Affairs over alleged lobbying of a senior cabinet ministers.

Today in an email to staff, ABC Managing Director Mark Scott welcomed the news.

“The Corporation appreciates the opportunity to discuss with the Government the future role international broadcasting can play across the region, providing insights into modern Australian life for audiences on radio, television and online,” he wrote.

“The role and nature of international broadcasting is changing as countries around the world respond to the exciting opportunities of digital media. The Australia Network is a wonderful opportunity to showcase Australian democracy in action, the best of our cultural, artistic and sporting life and deliver a credible and independent news service to the region.

“I particularly want to the thank the staff of Australia Network, the Asia-Pacific News Centre and all in the ABC International team for their dedication and professionalism over recent months given the uncertainty of the Australia Network tender outcome. They have continued to work diligently to provide services across the Asia-Pacific region of high quality and integrity. I am sure they will welcome the news of the contract extension announced today.”

The Government will now make a decision on the long term arrangements no later than the end of March.

17 Responses

  1. It’s a pity there hasn’t been more media scrutiny of this issue. It’s logical and preferable for all manner of logistical, political and cultural reasons that the network be run by the ABC. It absolutely should not be farmed out, least of all to Sky. I’d like to hear why the government thinks this option is even worth considering. Their true motivations might be quite enlightening.

  2. I dont quite understand why it is being put out to tender in the first place, i thought the ABC was doing a good job. I can only assume that because the Govt wants to get back into the black asap then they believe that by putting the Australia Network contract up for grabs that they will get it, if that is so (ofcourse the Govt will deny it) then they should sell it for a much higher price, say 1 billion dollars if News Limited wants it and Half a Billion if anyone else wants it, if they cant find a buyer then they should just stick with the ABC.

  3. I have no idea why this is going out to tender in the first place…It should always remain with the ABC…so at least this latest development stalls any plans to see it (eroneously) end up being managed by a currently hugely controversial commercial venture.

  4. I’m glad the ABC still has the funding and the ability to get the news from our region. It’s a stupid idea to gut that capability. How much money was wasted on the tendering process in the first place? They could of used the money on the ABC and staff to report more news in the first place. Why can’t they just decide to do that instead?

  5. What other country pays a private company to run its international media outlet when it already has a perfectly good arrangement with the government broadcaster? VOA? RNZ? BBC? NHK? CCTV? RAI? etc, etc.
    This tender idea was weird from the beginning. Great it’s been scrapped.
    @Matt- I don’t want to see 7 & 9 “news” recycled via Sky on my screens in Fiji or Samoa thanks. “Today” instead of ABC Breakfast (as inflicted on PNG viewers)? OMG!

  6. Of course Mark Scott is happy, as losing the contract would have produced big holes in the ABC24 schedule and caused a huge cutback in existing ABC Asia Pacific bureaus where some staff are Aus Net funded.

    No doubt SKY News people will scream blue murder. This is going to get messy, real messy.

    If you ask me, DFAT should run it themselves out of Canberra, and cherry pick from all existing broadcasters and commission their own spcecially prodcued programs.

    The ABC lack commercial experience to make it pay for itself and SKY News, no offence, are lacking in real news prodution and presentation, always rebroadcasting second-hand 7 and 9 packages. SKY News Australia is a really poor el cheapo imitation of its UK parent, which leaves SKY News Australia for dead.

  7. Finally, a sensible move. This should Never be tendered again.

    This service is far too important to Australia’s reputation to be allowed anywhere near the hands of a commercial organisation, and certainly not one with a Murdoch in the background.

  8. As a viewer of the current Australia Network, I think they should save the cash and rebroadcast abc news 24.
    The bulletins they show at the weekend are so much more interesting than the specially produced ones which we get during the week.
    I would imagine that most of the channel’s audience is made up of expats looking for news from home.
    If they showed news 24 with breaks for afl football and q&a then the channel would be greatly improved.

  9. Whatever your opinions on who should be operating the Australia Network, it is undeniable that the whole process has become a complete and utter mess – someone should lose their job over this…

  10. @ Peter Young
    Well I would be happier with the ABC keeping AN and getting a funding boost. The ABC constitutes a tiny amount of total government spending- it isn’t hurting the tax payer much if at all.

  11. The Australian Financial Review, which today revealed the AFP probe in the leak, also says the new contract to relay AFL matches into Asia via Australia Network was supposed to be finalised this week. Even though the ABC will manage AN until August, it does not mean the AFL will be broadcast on the channel and could go to other channels such as pay-per-view.
    I agree with Peter, it was a shambles.

  12. What a shambles this tender has turned out to be. Since Kev got the axe, Cabinet has been desperate to avoid awarding the tender to Sky News (part owned by News Limited). The unions inside the ABC would be up in arms if they lost so rank has been pulled in the Labor movement and all bets are off.

    Has anyone thought of the poor tax payer here?

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