Australia will shine Neighbors, MasterChef and other popular television shows to seven Pacific island nations with the encouragement of soft power designed to ward off Chinese influence in the region regarded as Canberra’s own backyard.
The decision represented a change of heart for the Liberal-National coalition over media use and “soft diplomacy” to expand its international influence. In 2014, he stopped funding for ABC’s international broadcasting contracts.
The announcement came as diplomatic relations with China slumped to the lowest level in a generation Call Canberra for an investigation of the origin of the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, Beijing said it would impose trade sanctions on some agricultural goods.
Starting this week, up to 1,000 hours of Australian commercial programming will be available free of charge to Pacific broadcasters in seven countries, including Fiji and Papua New Guinea, under a three-year scheme at a cost of Canberra A $ 17 million ($ 11 million).
Programming includes current events 60 minutes and some reality TV shows like Border Security, a program that brings viewers behind the scenes of the country’s hardline immigration and immigration policies.
“Having the opportunity to watch the same story on our screen will only deepen relations with our Pacific family,” Marise Payne, Australia’s foreign minister said Monday.
Australia and other western countries increase their diplomatic presence in the Pacific in response to Beijing’s soft power diplomacy in poor areas that vote at the UN and are an important source of natural resources.
Jonathan Pryke, an analyst at the Lowy Institute, a think-tank, said: “Canberra has become increasingly concerned with China’s growing influence in the Pacific, which includes growing media interest in a region that is considered strategically critical and in its immediate environment. “
During “Cultural war“Between conservatives and progressives, the government imposed swingeing budget cuts on ABC, which reduced Australia’s output and programming coverage in the Pacific as Chinese media expanded their presence.
In 2014, the Liberal-National coalition withdrew funding for the ABC Australia Network, a 10-year international contract valued at nearly A $ 200 million to broadcast Australia’s programs to 46 countries in the Pacific and Asia.
In 2018 ABC cited budgetary pressure as one of the reasons for stopping shortwave radio broadcasts to the Pacific – a decision that allowed China Radio International to take over some of these frequencies.
Beijing has introduced study tours for Pacific journalists and expanded government-owned media coverage throughout the region. In Australia, he paid for supplements published in a local newspaper written by China Daily, an English-language spokesperson of the Chinese Communist Party.
Jemima Garrett, a former journalist and co-organizer of Australia’s Broadcast Support in Asia and the Pacific, said the government rethinking about the media was welcomed but questioned whether sending commercial shows to the Pacific would have much impact.
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“I’m not sure a TV program that depicts rich white people who renovate their homes in Australia will foster relationships,” he said. “We need to produce programs together with broadcasters in the Pacific and create more programs specifically designed for Pacific viewers.”
Free TV Australia, an industry group representing commercial broadcasters, said that Pacific broadcasting partners were fully consulted on Australian content that they felt was most suitable for their viewers.
“The government scheme aims to provide content that best reflects Australian culture and values and performances Neighbors of course do that, “said Bridget Fair, chief executive of Free TV Australia.
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