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ABC asks PR firm if it paid money to journalists covering launch of Chinese service

Australia PlusThe ABC has asked its Chinese public relations firm whether it provided payments to Chinese journalists covering the launch event of its Australia Plus web portal.

Today’s Australian Financial Review Rear Window column noted there were questions over whether the public broadcaster had followed the standard Chinese business practice by giving journalists envelopes, containing around 200 Chinese Yuan (AUD $41), at last week’s event.

An ABC spokesman confirmed to Mumbrella it was asking its PR company whether payments had been made, insisting the only gifts it had authorised were Lavender Bobbie Bear toys. 

Last week, the public broadcaster launched AustraliaPlus.cn, a portal that will broadcast a combination of Australian stories including business, education and travel aimed at a mainland Chinese audience as well as Chinese living in Australia.

The ABC said it had contracted a local Chinese PR company to handle the April 9 event in Shanghai.

“The contract covers the supply of standard services associated with a major launch event including a communications plan, copy writing, media communications and media coverage reports,” said the spokesman. “The PR firm was not instructed to provide separate payments to attendees nor was this part of the contract.”

The ABC said the only authorised present for journalists attending the event was a Lavender Bobbie Bear from a Tasmanian farm. Present at the launch was ABC chairman and former NSW Supreme Court Justice Jim Spigelman.

The public broadcaster said it was aware of a practice in China of making payments for journalists’ “transport costs”, adding: “The ABC is aware, however that it is standard practice for publicity events of this nature to include a payment to cover attendees transport costs.”

Travel website TripAdvisor puts the 45km taxi journey from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to the City Centre at between 150-200 Yuan. 

Nic Christensen 

*An earlier version of this story said that the ABC had conceded that payments had been made, this is incorrect. The ABC only conceded that it was talking to its PR company about whether any payments had been made. 

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