|Owner||Australian Broadcasting Corporation|
|20 December 1939|
|Language||English, Pidgin, French|
ABC Radio Australia, also known as Radio Australia, is the international broadcasting and online service operated by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Australia's public broadcaster. Most programming is in English, with some in Tok Pisin.
Radio Australia broadcasts on FM transmitters in seven countries across the Pacific Islands, and to the rest of world via online streaming.
Short-wave services from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation were inaugurated in December 1939 by the then Prime Minister of Australia, Robert Menzies. One of the functions of Australian shortwave broadcasting was to counter propaganda by the Axis powers, particularly that of Japan. However, the ABC's transmitters were much weaker than the Japanese or German services. The transmitter of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) (AWA) near Sydney had 10 kilowatts (kW) of power, and stations VLR and VLW had 2 kW each.
In 1941, following consultation between the British and Australian governments, a transmitter site in Shepparton, Victoria was selected, in part because of a flat landscape and soil conductivity. The site was completed in 1944 with one 50 kW and two 100 kW transmitters. The station was then formally named Radio Australia.
A new transmitting facility was installed by the PMG's Department at Cox Peninsula near Darwin in the late 1960s, rebroadcasting programs emanating from Radio Australia studios in Melbourne. Equipment included three Collins Radio 250 kW HF transmitters and five log-periodic antennas directed at East Asia and South-east Asia. The antennas were largely demolished by Cyclone Tracy on 25 December 1974, and Radio Australia broadcasts from this locality were not reinstated (by then Telecom Australia) until about 1988.
Radio Australia had a considerable range of broadcasts to the Asian region in the 1970s and 1980s, and was hugely popular in China, where the only alternative was the state media controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. During the first Gulf War in 1990/91 the Darwin station provided valuable information and support to expatriate Australians caught in Iraq, and others working in places like Saudi Arabia.
In 1993, the ABC launched its international TV broadcasting, but Radio Australia's budget was cut significantly under the Howard government, causing the closure of its Cantonese, Thai and French services, as well as shutting down the short-wave transmitter to South-East and North-East Asia. This move was condemned by newspaper editors (including that of The Australian) and politicians alike, who saw the loss of Australia's ability to wield "soft power" in the region. The Mansfield Review which had led to the cuts also suggested that international television could be supported by DFAT. Due to financial and political pressures transmissions from Darwin's Cox Peninsula were also shut down in the late 1990s.
In January 2017 the ABC terminated its last short-wave radio broadcasts to the Pacific region. Vanuatu's prime minister, Charlot Salwai, expressed concern, with his country having been helped by the short-wave service during Cyclone Pam in 2015; short-wave transmission is capable of reaching remote islands without FM services, enabling the provision of emergency information and warnings. ABC's former frequencies were bought by China Radio International, China's national broadcaster. ABC boss Michelle Guthrie was grilled in the Senate Estimates over axing short-wave radio broadcasting in February 2017. The decision attracted criticism from cattle station owners, Indigenous ranger groups and fishermen, who argue it was done without community consultation and would deprive people in remote areas of vital emergency warnings, leading to Nick Xenophon introducing legislation to force ABC to reinstate short-wave radio service. In September 2017 the Nick Xenophon Team announced it had negotiated a review of the reach of Australian broadcasting services in the Asia Pacific region, including examining if short-wave technology should be used to be included in the Government's Media Reform Bill.
On 14–15 March 2020 the Shepparton and District Amateur Radio Club organised a special event station VI3RA, with amateur radio operators connected their equipment to the disused antenna arrays at the Shepparton site in order to communicate with amateur radio operators worldwide.
Radio Australia's short-wave signal was primarily aimed at the Asia-Pacific region. Programming was broadcast in multiple languages, namely English, Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Khmer, French, Burmese, and Tok Pisin (a creole language commonly spoken in Papua New Guinea). A daily Pacific news bulletin is podcast in French. Though Radio Australia did not directly target North America or Europe via shortwave, some of its transmissions could be heard in those areas.
Radio Australia could also be heard on CBC Radio across Canada during their overnight broadcast. The station resumed Fiji transmission through negotiations with the Ministry of Information and the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) in July 2012. Radio Australia can be heard on 106.6FM in main cities of Fiji.
Radio Australia programs are also available via the Internet. These services are streamed from machines hosted by Akamai Technologies in Steinsel, Luxembourg ensuring good network connectivity for listeners in Europe.
Asia Pacific was a regional news and current affairs program broadcast from Tuesday to Saturday at 12.05am and repeated at 5am on Radio National, for a domestic audience, from around or before 2009. It was created by Radio Australia. Schedule changes by ABC Radio Australia in 2013 saw the show lose its domestic radio audience.
Radio Australia's English language programs consist of material produced by ABC Radio Australia, and also other ABC radio networks such as ABC Local Radio, ABC Radio National, ABC Classic FM, Triple J, Triple J Unearthed, Double J, ABC Grandstand and ABC NewsRadio.
Radio Australia has been implicated in the Indonesian mass killings of 1965–66 for its propaganda broadcasts that contributed to the anti-Communist hysteria in Indonesia. At the time Radio Australia was the most popular foreign radio station in Indonesia and had a high signal strength. It was popular with students as it was the only station in Indonesia to play rock music. The Indonesian National Armed Forces gave Radio Australia daily briefings on what it should report and what phrases should be used. The station was instructed to report manipulations of the truth as if they were facts.
The Australian Department of External Affairs gave daily guidance to Radio Australia over its Indonesian broadcasts, instructed it on the topics it should report on and the phrases it should use, and often edited the station's programming. Radio Australia was instructed to not broadcast disavowals by the Communist Party (PKI) of responsibility for the attempted coup, and was told, "Radio Australia should not give the impression that the army alone was acting against the PKI. Civilian organisations should be mentioned as often as possible. ... Reports should never imply that the army or its supporters were in any way pro-Western or right wing." Radio Australia faithfully followed these guidelines.
The Australian ambassador, Mick Shann, encouraged Radio Australia to report manipulations and misconstructions of the truth in line with requests from the Indonesian Army, and told the station to not compromise the Army's position. He said Radio Australia's broadcasts were "excellent propaganda and of assistance to the anti-PKI forces" and "we must be a bit dishonest for a while."
Richard Woolcott explained his guidance to the radio station by saying "Radio Australia should, by careful selection of its news items, not do anything which would be helpful to the PKI and should highlight reports tending to discredit the PKI and show its involvement in the losing cause of the 30th September movement."
The propaganda encouraged militias and civilians to participate in the slaughter, and justifying the killings through the demonisation of the victims.
ABC's Asia-Pacific television network, as of 2021[update] known as ABC Australia, has been broadcasting to the region since 1993.
The ABC has increased its Internet presence for international audiences; the iview streaming service is available via an app, and ABC News Online includes Chinese-language and Tok Pisin articles.