By Bernadette H. Carreon
The government of Australia is conducting a review of Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) services in Asia and the Pacific, which could revive a 24-hour FM transmitter here.
Jemima Garrett, former ABC Pacific Correspondent in an email interview said there is a movement in Australia to boost international broadcasting in the Pacific.
The government review is seeking submissions until August 3 from the Pacific, including Palau.
‘This Review is a great chance for people in Palau and other North Pacific countries to ask for those services back,” Garrett stated.
“The ABC was the only media service that brought people in all the Forum Island countries together in one conversation. ‘There is so much scope for innovative partnerships for programs on everything from arts, culture and the environment to the economy, business and regional policy issues,” she stated.
In 2010, Radio Australia launched its FM transmitter in Palau and to kick off its first broadcast here, ABC covered that year’s Micronesian Games being held here.
Palau joined other FM broadcasts in the Pacific centers of Port Moresby and Lae in Papua New Guinea, Honiara in Solomon Islands, Port Vila and Santo in Vanuatu, Apia in Samoa, Nuku’alofa in Tonga, Rarotonga in Cook Islands, and Tarawa in Kiribati.
That year, Radio Australia said it wanted a presence in the North Pacific.
However due to budget cuts by the Australian government s on Nov. 30, Radio Australia ended its hosting 24-hour FM transmission in Palau.
The end of the broadcast was due to the recent cuts made by the Australian government in its agreement with the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Because of this, Australia had to switch off several services including radio transmitters in the Federated States of Micronesia and Kiribati.
Australia is “stepping-up” its engagement in the North Pacific after a high-level visit from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in Palau on June 3.
President Tommy Remengesau Jr. welcomed Australia’s government visit saying it was a sign Canberra’s commitment to being a strategic partner in Micronesia.
“We truly appreciate the visit of the Foreign Minister Bishop and the bipartisan senators, we would like to look at this as a sign of Australian commitment as a strategic partner,” Remengesau said in an earlier interview.
Remengesau also said he supports the strengthening of Australian presence in the region and in Palau.
Meanwhile, a press release from the supporters’ group of the ABC government review said Radio Australia’s shortwave frequencies into the Pacific and Asia have been taken over by China Radio International.
The supporters group says that now because of a “new political environment in Canberra and across the region, the time is right to propose a major upgrade of ABC radio, television and digital services to the Asia Pacific,” it stated.
The group said it would like to see the Review recommend the reinstatement of full ABC Asia Pacific broadcasting with a new model of stronger partnerships between Australia and the region.
The supporters group includes household names in the Pacific like former ABC-Radio Australia correspondents Sean Dorney and Garrett along with former Radio Australia Network Manager Sue Ahearn.
Ahearn says this is a chance for those who care about independent journalism and democracy to be heard.
“Your submission does not need to be long, even a few sentences is valuable. The more perspectives the Review receives the better,” Ahearn stated.
The Review is asking for submissions from individuals and organizations in Asia and the Pacific as well as Australia.
A link to the submission portal is here. https://www.communications.gov.au/have-your-say/review-australian-broadcasting-services-asia-pacific