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Popular Australian shows like Neighbours, Masterchef and The Voice will be beamed into Pacific countries as part of a Morrison government push to counter the rapid rise of Chinese media in the region.
Free TV Australia, the industry body which represents the interests of broadcasters including Nine Entertainment Co, Seven West Media and Network Ten, is also in the process of finalising agreements to allow broadcasting of live sport matches and review shows for codes like the rugby league, AFL and netball. Nine is the owner of this masthead.
International Development and the Pacific minister Alex Hawke said Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji are the first of seven countries to receive the content, which also includes Better Homes & Gardens, Border Security, 60 Minutes and Legomasters.
The programmes are part of a $17.1 million (US$11.1 million) three-year PacificAus television initiative, announced last year, which will seek to provide the region with 1000 hours of content annually free of charge. Papua New Guinea's National Broadcasting Corporation and EMTV, and Fiji's Mai TV will be able to broadcast the content from this week.
“The PacificAus TV initiative is a terrific demonstration of shared cultural ties and links between Australia and the Pacific. While Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji are the first to switch on to the Pacific TV initiative, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru will follow in the coming months,” Hawke said.
Television shows will be distributed through portal or satellite and then incorporated into local broadcast services to meet their audience and programming requirements. Free TV has ordered satellite dishes for broadcasters in markets like Tuvalu and Nauru.
“We are excited to share with our Pacific neighbours so many of the quality television programs that Australian audiences know and love,” Free TV chief executive Bridget Fair said.
The government's initiative aims to increase Australian voices and to help the countries strengthen their independent media at a time when Chinese media is steadily growing throughout the region.
It was criticised by media executives last year for being a "multi-million dollar thought bubble" that duplicates services already provided by the public broadcaster. Senior industry members described it as a “doubling up” of responsibilities between the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the commercial free-to-air broadcasters. But the initiative is viewed by Free TV and the government as acting as a conduit between broadcasters and production houses, unlike the ABC which is the international broadcaster.
China's footprint has been particularly strong in countries which have switched diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to Beijing in recent years, including the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
Along with the influence of Beijing, many Pacific island nations also have an issue with promoting free and independent media.
The government is currently in discussions with broadcasters to work out options on how to increase Australian content through initiatives like production and support for journalists' professional development in the region.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher thanked Free TV for its involvement. “Our close neighbours across the Pacific can now enjoy more Australian television content including lifestyle programs, news, drama and sports on their local free-to-air television stations through the initiative,” Fletcher said.
Foreign affairs minister Marise Payne said the announcement was one way to strengthen links between Australia and the Pacific.
“Free TV Australia is in the process of finalising arrangements for sport to be broadcast from codes including netball, cricket, soccer, AFL and NRL,” Payne said.
Kora Nou, managing director of NBC, Mai TV director Stanley Simpson and acting chief executive of EMTV Sheena Hughes welcomed the content and the efforts of Free TV to cover licence contents. Nou said that NBC expected to share local content with Australian broadcasters in future.
SOURCE: BRISBANE TIMES/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
Media Helping Media