Australian Public Broadcaster to Step-Up Presence in Asia-Pacific Amid China Competition

By Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
December 19, 2021 Updated: December 19, 2021

The head of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) says the national broadcaster is looking to ramp up its presence in the Asia-Pacific seven years after it closed a dedicated service to the region.

The move comes as competition for influence in the immediate South Pacific region heats up between Beijing and democratic allies.

David Anderson, managing director of the ABC, said the broadcaster was looking into potential expansion into the region.

“We have an ongoing dialogue with the minister for the pacific with regard to what else we could be doing should they wish to fund us because I think there is the intergenerational trust between those nations and Australia,” he told The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

“We’re always interested in expanding our presence should the government wish to do so. I think it would be an important initiative,” he added.

The ABC did not provide further details but hinted that they would begin expanding coverage next year amid ongoing discussions with the government on its next three-year funding arrangement.

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

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

On Dec. 12, Australia, Japan, and the United States committed to building a high-speed, undersea cable to connect Kiribati, Nauru, and the Federated States of Micronesia. It is expected to benefit around 100,000 people across the 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, which is the main carrier for Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tonga, and Fiji.

At the same time, many Pacific leaders have continued engaging in regular dialogue with Beijing, hoping to benefit from vaccine diplomacy and aid.

The issue of misuse of aid funds bubbled to the surface recently following unrest in the Solomon Islands that saw parts of the country’s Chinatown burned to the ground—likely causing the deaths of three people.

The unpopularity of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, compounded by his 2019 decision to switch diplomatic ties from Taiwan to Beijing, are currently thought to have been the motivation for for the riots.