The ABC has become what it claims is the first mainstream western media organisation to open a Chinese registered web portal in a development that will go some way to softening last year’s blow of losing funding for the Australian Network.
The public broadcaster has created 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.
It comes almost a year after the ABC signed an agreement with its main Chinese media partner, the Shanghai Media Group (SMG), where it agreed to build an online portal, and nine months after the Coalition Government withdrew ABC funding for the Australia Network.
The decision forced the ABC to shut down the operation with the loss of 80 jobs.
ABC International chief executive Lynley Marshall described the launch of AustraliaPlus.cn as a “landmark day”.
“From today Australia has an important new gateway through which to connect to millions of Chinese. We now have the ability to engage directly with our Chinese audiences from within China supported by our valued Chinese partners,” she said.
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, congratulated the ABC on its achievement, saying the launch “is testament to the high degree of respect for Australia and for the ABC within China”.
Multi-media content on the site will be produced in Chinese with some English language content. It will feature stories and information targeted at Chinese people wanting to know more about Australia and its people or wanting to work, study, do business or holiday in Australia.
The portal also features a selection of ABC English language programs including documentaries, drama and children’s programs.
President of the Shanghai Media Group Madame Wang Jianjun also welcomed the launch.
“The ABC and the Shanghai Media Group have been long term international partners and we have over the past run TV weeks for each other for many years, and we are making progress on other aspects in our partnership,” Madame Wang said. “We warmly congratulate them on this new achievement they have made”.
ABC’s signing of the Chinese deal last year was heavily criticised by News Corp, which branded it a “standard program co-operation and exchange deal”, rather than the landmark deal the broadcaster claimed it to be.
The criticism had a historical backdrop with Sky News Australia infuriated at the decision of the former Labor government to award the $223m Australia Network contract to the ABC for 10 years. Sky News Australia, and Murdoch’s News Corp had lobbied the Coalition to have the ABC’s contract dumped.
The Australian News Channel, which runs Sky News, announced late last year it will launch its own Australia Channel as a subscription over the top content service available internationally.