Australia Network to remain with the ABC

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Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has announced the fate of Australia’s international broadcaster, Australia Network. The network will remain with the ABC, and it will stay with the national broadcaster permanently.

The move to keep the network with the ABC, who currently holds the contract to do so until 2012, comes after a failed tender process which had been compromised by leaks. The tender process was then scrapped in November, and the AFP called to find the source.

“The Government believes it is unfortunate that this process did not reach a satisfactory solution, however, in light of the circumstances it is now in the national interest to make a clear decision about the future of the service rather than allowing uncertainty to continue,” Senator Conroy said in a statement announcing his decision.

“Having reflected upon the process to date, and what the service really needs to provide, the Government has determined that Australia’s international broadcasting service should be delivered by the national broadcaster.”

Both the ABC and Sky News Australia were competing for the tender. The channel – co-owned by News Corporation (via BSkyB), Seven Network and Nine Network – was reported to have made a more attractive bid and was the forerunner to win the contract.

It has held the contract since 1993, and has used its resources with its other international broadcasting outlet Radio Australia. It has also used the resources of Australia Network for news with its news channel, ABC News 24.

The move is obviously a good result for the national broadcaster, as it has advocated permanent ownership of Australia Network, citing a study by the Lowy Institute for International Policy finding that the most major government funded-international broadcasters were not outsourced.

“The work has been kept in safe hands [from outsourcing] for the very good reason that public broadcasters have not just expertise and experience, but also the reputation for editorial independence that best matches these responsibilities,” managing director Mark Scott said in a speech in August last year.