ABC Radio will not cover the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

ABC Radio will not be covering the Olympics next year, due to cost pressures.

For the first time since the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, the ABC will not have a live radio broadcast of the Games, with the national broadcaster citing “budget pressures and the changing broadcast environment” as reasons not to bid for the non-commercial radio rights. Channel Seven is the top level rights holder in Australia.

An ABC statement said:

“This is an incredibly tough decision, especially given our 67-year run as the official non-commercial Olympic Games radio broadcaster… Due to competing budget priorities coupled with the fact that Australians can access Olympic Games coverage in many other ways, we have chosen not to pursue rights in 2020.”

Head of Local and Regional Judith Whelan told James Valentine on ABC Radio Sydney yesterday:  

“it’s a money issue… it has been a hard decision to make but the ABC is in a very tight monetary situation… eventually we do have to make hard decisions about what content we should be doing.”

The Olympics radio coverage would have cost about $1 million to mount, according to Whelan. “The rights are not the majority of that, the majority is staging the commentary over the 16 days, sending commentators, producers and technicians… running websites, podcasts and social media.”

Whelan’s budget is already overrunning due to more emergency broadcasts this year, so she says something had to give. “It’s not an easy decision to make, but at some stage we have to say we are going to prioritise this over that and there are some things we will have to stop doing.”

The Australian Olympic Committee says the ABC should reconsider the decision. “The AOC is prepared to put this case to the chair of the ABC directly, on behalf of the 8 million Australians who participate in Olympic sports,” said AOC chief executive Matt Carroll.

The Greens passed a motion in the Senate on Wednesday, noting the ABC’s decision and calling on the government to provide “stable and adequate funding” for the national broadcaster.

Labor echoed the sentiment and blamed the Morrison government’s budget cuts for the decision.

“After years of cuts at the hands of the Liberal National government and with a further three years of cuts ahead for the ABC, they’ve been left with no choice,” Labor senator Deborah O’Neill told parliament.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the decision will “disappoint many Australians,” but added it is the ABC’s responsibility to manage its budget and explain the decision.

Mounting the coverage is a mammoth task, as Scott Whyte told radioinfo in July 2012. “All up we shipped 510kg of equipment this time, while for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi we shipped 900kg.”

As we reported at the time the International Broadcast Centre accommodated 21,000 accredited media communicating the Games to a potential worldwide audience of 4 billion people. The specialist media venue had 52,000 square meters of studio space over two floors up to 10 metres high, plus a further 8,000 sq m of offices over five floors at the front of the building.



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