Industry body welcomes $17m plan for PacificAus TV, but critics question value

Free TV, the body charged with representing Australia’s free to air commercial networks, has welcomed the Federal Government’s $17m plan to provide some Pacific countries with Australian television content for free.

But critics of the decision have questioned whether it will provide Australia with enough value.

Communications minister Paul Fletcher, foreign affairs minister Marise Payne and minister for international development and the Pacific Alex Hawke announced the joint venture last week, saying audiences in Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea would have access to premium Australian TV content through the deal. A roll out across Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru is planned in the coming months.

PacificAus TV has sourced content from Australian commercial television networks and other content providers to supply Pacific partner broadcasters with 1000-plus hours of Australian television content each year for the next three years.

Bridget Fair, CEO of Free TV Australia, said audiences in the Pacific will be able to enjoy iconic Australian programming through the partnership.

“We are excited to share with our Pacific neighbours so many of the quality television programs that Australian audiences know and love,” said Fair.

“Through our Pacific partner broadcasters PacificAus TV will offer the best of Australian drama, entertainment, children’s programming, sport and lifestyle shows to viewers in our region.”

The content provided to PacificAus TV will include Neighbours, Better Homes & Gardens, Totally Wild, Border Security, 60 Minutes, The Voice, Masterchef, 800 Words, Paramedics and Lego Masters. Free TV Australia is also in the process of finalising agreements for live matches and review shows from Australian sporting codes including football, netball, cricket, rugby league and AFL.

Fletcher said the $17.1m deal wouldn’t have been possible without Free TV’s involvement.

“Our close neighbours across the Pacific can now enjoy more Australian television content including lifestyle programs, news, drama and sports on their local free-to-air television stations through the initiative. I want to acknowledge the efforts of FreeTV who made this possible,” Fletcher said.

In some markets such as Tuvalu and Nauru, broadcasters do not currently have the necessary satellite dishes to receive the PacificAus TV content. Free TV has ordered satellite dishes for these broadcasters and, given the constraints on travelling presented by COVID-19, Free TV will offer remote support to local broadcasters with their installation.

Minister Payne, said the announcement builds on the range of initiatives under Australia’s Pacific Step-up, strengthening links between Australians and people across the Pacific.

“Having the opportunity to watch the same stories on our screens will only deepen the connection with our Pacific family. For decades, many Pacific countries have had access to Australian programmes and televised sporting matches and this initiative will expand those entertainment options. Free TV Australia is in the process of finalising arrangements for sport to be broadcast from codes including netball, cricket, soccer, AFL and NRL,” Payne said.

But some have questioned whether beaming Australian content directly to the Pacific is the right choice. Speaking to SBS, Jemima Garrett, co-convenor of the Supporters of Australian Broadcasting in Asia and the Pacific, said Australia should be working with the region on developing their own content.

“The point is whether this is the right kind of broadcasting and whether the government will get bang for its buck,” she told SBS News.

“We want to be talking with the region, not to the region. If we’re sending rich people renovator shows, does that talk with them or to them?

“Rich people renovator shows aren’t going to build that sense of community.”

Garrett said the government should be open to working with the Pacific on what the region actually needs, including radio broadcasts and journalism and news content.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.