Australian Government scraps overseas TV network bid process
Rebecca Hawkes ©RapidTVNews | 08-11-2011 The tender for the right to run Australia's overseas television network has been halted by the Gillard Government after it called in the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to investigate leaking of key information about the A$223 million bidding process.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the bidding process had been stopped following advice from the government's solicitor, due to "significant leaks of confidential information to the media" regarding the tender. He also confirmed the AFP had been invited to investigate the leaks.
It is the second time in over nine months that the controversy-ridden tender process to run the taxpayer funded Australia Network has been curtailed.
The current contract to run the network, which is broadcast by public broadcaster ABC to 44 countries across the Asia-Pacific region, expires in February 2012.
Sky News had then hoped to step in as the network's operator until 2022, through a bid managed by Australia News Channel (ACN), which owns the Sky channels in Australia and New Zealand. (ACN's parent company is Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment Company and British Sky Broadcasting.)
"Australia News Channel is surprised by the government's extraordinary action in cancelling the second tender process for the Australia Network and is currently considering its options," Angelos Frangopoulos, head of both Sky News and ACN, said in a statement.
"We are concerned that both tender outcomes were rejected after each of the tenders had closed and the independent tender evaluation board had delivered its recommendations," he added.
During the Senate's Question Time on Tuesday (8 November), the minister said the government was "extremely disappointed" the process had been compromised.
"It's no longer possible to be certain what each bidder knew about their rival's bid," he said, but added that the decision to call a halt to the process had not been taken lightly.
When pressed for further information about the source of the leaks, Senator Conroy said he was unable to divulge details of an ongoing police investigation.
In light of the tender termination, the minister says ABC will be now granted a six month extension to run Australia Network until August 2012.