Australian PM defends Australia Network decision

Louise Duffy ©RapidTVNews | 06-12-2011

Australian prime minister Julia Gillard has been criticised for the government's decision yesterday to award the ABC a A$223 million contract for the Australia Network, the country's overseas television network.

The government said the ABC would permanently hold the contract, ending a rival bid by Sky News.
Last month, the tender for the right to run Australia's overseas television network was halted by the Gillard government after it called in the Australian Federal Police to investigate leaking of key information about the bidding process. The board reportedly twice recommended that the contract should be awarded to Sky.

Gillard said with the tender process terminated, it was appropriate that the public broadcaster be given the contract.
"This is an important arm of soft diplomacy for Australia," she said.
"Many other nations around the world that have comparable services have them associated with the public broadcaster."
"[The decision] is not out of the blue for us," she said, adding that the tender process needed to be brought to an end even though investigations into it had yet to be finalised.