Australia’s disappearing media presence in the Asia-Pacific makes us increasingly vulnerable. As we wrestle with our deteriorating relations with China and seek to strengthen our engagement with other countries, effective international communications by Australia have gone missing in action.
Since 2013, following substantial government funding cuts, the ABC has reduced its spending on Radio Australia and its international television and online services by more than two-thirds, to about $11 million a year. At the same time, China is investing billions in new global communications initiatives. Russia, Japan, Germany, France and the BBC each spend hundreds of millions annually.
In the past Radio Australia was recognised globally as an almost textbook model of how to do multilingual international broadcasting, successfully blending entertainment, education and highly valued independent news coverage. At its height, tens of millions of people around our region trusted RA to provide an honest, objective view of what was going on in their countries and the world.
Over the decades, Radio Australia produced content in Hindi, Bahasa Indonesian, Japanese, Thai, Khmer, Vietnamese, Burmese, Mandarin, Cantonese, French, Dutch, German, Tok Pisin (pidgin English) and English. Now content is produced only in Mandarin, Bahasa Indonesia, Tok Pisin and English. China Radio International broadcasts in 65 languages.