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Wednesday 23 Aug 2017 | 10:54 | SYDNEY

Australia Network: What else could $20M buy?

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3 December 2010 17:06

Prakash Mirchandani is a Visiting Fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre. He is a former Head of News and Current Affairs for Australia TV, the first iteration of the Australia Network.

There is a vigorous bid by the ABC, championed by its managing director, to re-capture the tender for the DFAT funded Australia Network, as a spearhead for Australia's public diplomacy. There is an equally vigorous counter-challenge by Sky News to wrest the $20 million for Mr Murdoch's coffers.

Neither of the bidders has reflected on the fact that satellite TV is an expensive hobby which has been overtaken by internet delivery. Nor have they considered the fact that successful international broadcasting is not about the English language or trumpeting the transmitting country's message. The most successful programs are collaborative ones, transmitted in the target country's language and frequently hosted by target country presenters.

Here is an alternative suggestion: for $20 million, you can produce 200 documentary programs of 50 minutes each.

How about setting up an expert panel of Australian and regional eminent media executives to oversee this money' The panel would invite top documentary makers from relevant countries to come and make documentaries on Australia free of charge – on any subject and in their own regional languages, with no editorial censorship. They would be shot and edited by Australians, giving a much needed shot in the arm to a flagging industry. Copyright would vest with Australia.

These documentaries would then be aired in regional television channels in local languages, because of the stature of the film makers. They would also be aired in English on an Australian internet TV channel, which would then provide a multilingual forum for engaging with regional audiences.

Such a program would be an exemplar of our democracy and openness to scrutiny, and we would truly accomplish the aims which Brand Australia has set for itself.

Photo by Flickr user Dr John2005.

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