ABC Friends News

International – The Folly of Losing the ABC Overseas Service

It has now been seven years since the Coalition government axed Australia’s international broadcasting voice – the Australia Network.

An established arm of the ABC which housed the largest dedicated Asia Pacific newsroom on Earth, the Australia Network was the television equivalent of Radio Australia.

As a result of savage coalition funding cuts, the Australia Network was axed and Radio Australia pared down significantly.

(2009 station promo for The Australia Network) 

In a recently published landmark article, ABC Alumni deputy chair Helen Grasswill described the loss as a “folly” and that it is a “national imperative” to revisit full overseas broadcasting from the ABC.

As Australia works to try to repair relationships with ASEAN nations after the expressed concern about the new nuclear submarine deal with the US and UK, the article about broadcasting into the region was published in the Pearls and Irritations public policy journal.


In the piece, Helen Grasswill said:

Consequently, the way was opened for other nations to fill the gap, including those that hold very different views to our own on issues such as the importance of a free and independent media, open democracy and human rights. This is already being seen in both Asia and the Pacific region, where China took control of Radio Australias former shortwave frequencies and its Xinhua News Agency and other government-related entities are rapidly expanding and advocating their state-controlled media model with negative consequences for media freedom, as documented in the Reporters Without BordersMedia Freedom Index.

As well, propaganda and misinformation are widespread through multiple means of mass and targeted communication via the many global social media and online outlets (including the FAANGs – Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google).

Now – with quality media across Asia and the Pacific facing very serious challenges to their ability to play their fourth estate” role – the counter-balance of a trusted, reliable and independent public media source of news, information, entertainment and specialist programming has never been more important to the security of both Australia and our near neighbours.


(Helen Grasswill)

Helen Grasswill has more than 40 years of experience as a journalist, author, editor, and television program maker. 

She was Australian Story’s longest-serving story producer and was part of the program’s foundation team. 

Her work has been acknowledged with many awards including the Walkley, peer-voted Logies, and the Human Rights Award for Television.