Saturday 23 Mar 2019 | 08:33 | SYDNEY
Saturday 23 Mar 2019 | 08:33 | SYDNEY

Despite internet, television endures

6 December 2010 11:29

Bruce Dover has been Chief Executive of  the DFAT-funded, ABC-operated, Australia Network since August 2007. He was previously Managing Editor of CNN International – Asia.

Prakash Mirchandani's alternative for the DFAT-funded Australia Network service raises some interesting options, but is based on some rather outdated notions of what today comprises 'satellite TV'. During Mr Mirchandani's time at Australia TV, the service was indeed intended to be delivered 'direct-to-home' via satellite. But Australia Network is today delivered courtesy of the some 640 re-broadcasters who down-link the signal and re-distribute it through the myriad of predominantly pay-TV cables across Asia and the Pacific.

Thus satellite TV is no longer a broadcast medium but a very effective means of distributing the signal for re-broadcast to tens of millions of viewers in a region that stretches from Afghanistan in the West to Tahiti in the east and from Vladivostok in the north to the Cook islands in the south.

And while internet penetration is indeed increasing across Asia, it remains very low in 22 Pacific nations where Australia Network is distributed by satellite. It is then re-broadcast, in many cases free-to-air, ensuring the widest possible viewing by an audience unable to afford either a satellite dish or an internet connection.

Australia Network is currently available in some 31 million homes across the region, which gives it far better reach than its much bigger and better funded rivals, including Japan's NHK World, France TV5 Monde, Germany's Deutsche Welle and even Al Jazeera. And in terms of our two biggest and most strategically important neighbours, China and India, cable television penetration still far outstrips the internet.

Mr Mirchandani is right to suggest that 'the most successful programs are collaborative ones', and we have long argued the key to more relevant and engaging programming to a regional audience is through co-production and cooperation with our partners from the Asia Pacific. Specifically commissioned and targeted programming would represent a more engaging and accurate view of Australia than that provided by repeats of 'Home and Away'. However, Australia Network is not funded to enter into co-production arrangements.

That said, Australia Network's non-expat audience has increased some 20 per cent over the last three years – at a time when there has been a proliferation of new channels across the region, leading to further fragmentation of the audience. Independent analysts put the viewing audience well in excess of two million a month. In India, our audience reach matches and regularly exceeds that of both BBC World and CNN International.

So despite the challenges of the market and new technology platforms such as the internet and IPTV, the model still works and people are indeed still watching.

Photo by Flickr user lecercle.