ABC, SMG sign programming deal

Agreement could lead to eventual co-productions

SYDNEY -- The Australian Broadcasting Corp. and the Shanghai Media Group Tuesday signed a long-term agreement that will see the two broadcasters' international channels share programming and news and provides for potential future co-productions.

The deal was formally signed in Shanghai by ABC chairman Maurice Newman and SMG president Li Ruigang, with Australian consul Tom Connor in attendance.

The ABC operates pan-Asian satellite channel Australia Network, under contract from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, while SMG is one of China's largest media operations, with Shanghai’s only English-language channel, International Channel Shanghai.

The agreement “represents an ideal opportunity for SMG and the ABC to build a strong relationship into the future around the cultural aspects of television broadcasting. It will unquestionably lead to a greater knowledge and understanding between Australians and Chinese," SMG’s Li Ruigang said.

“It is vitally important in today’s economic and cultural environment that solid international partnerships are forged and maintained between major international media companies,” the ABC’s Newman added.

“As the national broadcaster in Australia, we are very committed to actively developing this partnership which is firmly in the best interests of the cultural and economic relationship between China and Australia. We also look forward to contributing high quality Australian content to the wide range of international programming broadcast on International Channel Shanghai, and to continuing our long term co-operation with CCTV,” he said.

Initially Australia Network programs will be seen on International Channel Shanghai and the Shanghai Media Group will have access to studio and production support in Australia. The agreement also allows for longer term co-operation on TV program exchange, providing mutual news gathering support and content supply, and exploring international television program co- productions.

The deal is part of an emerging trend of reciprocal broadcasting arrangements between international broadcasters.

The ABC has a long standing agreement with Chinese state broadcaster, CCTV, and recently signed a cooperative agreement with Chongqing Television and Radio Group.

Pay TV channel Sky News Australia meanwhile recently signed a landmark programming agreement with CCTV.

Under that deal CCTV’s international English service, CCTV News, begins broadcasting in Australia on the Austar pay TV platform this Thursday.

But both the ABC and Sky are locking horns over their burgeoning international ambitions, particularly over the operation of the Australia Network. Sky, jointly owned here by BSkyB, and the Nine and Seven networks, wants management rights to the channel under a competitive tender.

The ABC wants to continue to operate the channel as it has done for the last decade, growing it to reach 22 million households and 220,000 hotel rooms across 44 countries in the region, showcasing a range of Australian entertainment, news and sports programming and becoming a tool for “soft” diplomacy.

The Australian government recently called for expressions of interest in how Australia Network should operate when the ABC’s current management contract expires next year.
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