Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Personal Commentary on the Future of Radio Australia

Australia - The End of the RA English Service - A Personal Commentary.

I received this from a friend at Radio Australia this morning:

"Greetings again from down under...

By week's end the RA English Service, as we know it, will have ceased. All original RA programming will have disappeared to be replaced by yet more domestic programming from a range of ABC networks. This Monday and Tuesday, the English language unit received their official marching orders and will be all out the door by next Wednesday. The Asia Pacific News Center will continue to produce news bulletins for part of the day but for the rest it will be like listening to ABC domestic radio.

Most of them would not have chosen to leave. Fortunately, all receive redundancy packages and for those who were with the organisation for some time those packages will be quite large, in dollar terms. Some compensation I suppose. If they had been working in commercial radio they'd be lucky to get much more than a few weeks pay."

So, there you have it. Yes, I suppose the news could have been worse in that shortwave or the service itself could have been shut down entirely. It's true that the net result between this change and the last of the string of previous changes that came before it can be viewed as being merely incremental. However, it's also true that this last change has an air of finality to it the proverbial "last nail in the coffin" is not an inappropriate take.

For those of us with a longer memory, the wholesale merger of what we appreciated as an independent international service known as "Radio Australia" into some sort of amalgam that no longer recognizes a difference in the needs, wants and characteristics of an international audience vis-a-vis a domestic one is not an insignificant nor "happy" occasion. Having it engineered, not as a well thought out coordinated plan to improve services to such audiences, but as another thoroughly last-minute emergency response to an ideological putsch from a government which let's not put too find a point on it lied about its intentions in this regard makes it that much harder to swallow.

The saddest part is that the powers-that-be no longer appear to view such targeted, tailored, well-considered mass international outreach as necessary to a culture's cross-border communication efforts. International understanding is left to social media (shoot-from-the-hip "tweets"), ubiquitous popular culture and commercial ventures whose principal aim is to exploit an audience for pecuniary gain over objectively informing that audience on matters that arguably transcend the mere commercial needs of media sponsors.

To be sure, many if not most "international services" of government-supported broadcasters often did a lousy job of this as well, attempting to exploit such audiences all the same but for the political and ideological benefit of the sponsoring country. However, this was not true of ALL such broadcasters. And this was never true of Radio Australia.

Testament to this fact is the sense of loss being expressed by listeners in the Pacific region, a largely geopolitically forgotten area that received special consideration from Radio Australia in a way that no other such broadcaster saw or sees fit (other than Radio New Zealand International, now also apparently under some new duress) to provide.

So, make no mistake. While there still will be a 24/7 shortwave presence from Australia, while that space will likely be filled by thoroughly fine programming from the excellent Radio National, something significant even vital has been lost. Probably forever. While some may disagree, I thinkn that's something to lament.
(J Figliozzi/DXplorer Aug 13/WWDXC Top Nx 1173)