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Monday, January 24, 2022

Australian public broadcaster to step-up presence in Asia-Pacific amid China competition

The national broadcaster is trying to increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific, seven years after shutting down a dedicated service to the region, the head of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) says.

The move comes as Beijing and its democratic allies compete for influence in the immediate South Pacific.

ABC Managing Director David Anderson said the broadcaster is looking at possible expansion in the region.

He told The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald: “We are in talks with the Minister of the Pacific about what else we can do, should they want to fund us because I think there is intergenerational trust between those countries and Australia. ” ,

“We are always interested in expanding our presence, if the government wants to do so. I think it will be an important initiative.”

ABC did not provide further details, but indicated that they would begin expanding coverage next year amid ongoing discussions with the government over the next three-year funding arrangement.

ABC previously operated a channel that broadcast in 46 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, The Australian Network, but discontinued the initiative after budget cuts by the then Abbott government.

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The public broadcaster’s latest move will come as the battle for influence continues in the Pacific.

On 12 December, Australia, Japan and the United States committed to build a high-speed, underwater cable connecting Kiribati, Nauru and the federal states of Micronesia. It is expected to benefit about 100,000 people from all three countries.

In late October, the Australian government and major telecommunications firm, Telstra, pulled the trigger on an AU$2.1 billion (US$1.6 billion) acquisition of mobile business Digicel, the main carrier for Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tonga. . , and Fiji.

At the same time, many Pacific leaders continue to engage in regular talks with Beijing, hoping that vaccine diplomacy and aid will benefit.

The misuse of aid money recently came to the fore after unrest in the Solomon Islands, in which parts of the country’s Chinatown were burnt to the ground – likely to kill three people.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogaware’s unpopularity, compounded by his 2019 decision to switch diplomatic ties from Taiwan to Beijing, is currently believed to be the impetus for the riots.

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