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Australia Network stays in Aunty's lap

Murdoch empire out in cold as tender scrapped

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The Australian government has scrapped all future intentions for a competitive tender for the Australia Network broadcasting contract and has instead handed national public broadcaster the ABC with a permanent contract.

Cabinet met last night to discuss the contentious issue and make a decision on the vexed ten-year, $AU223 million contract which featured bids from Sky News and incumbent provider the ABC.

Last month, the government announced that it had terminated the protracted and controversial tender due to leaks which were hampering the process.

The ABC was nominated to continue to manage the broadcast into Asia until August 2012 while the government decided on how to handle the tender.

The Australian Federal Police and the Auditor General are currently investigating the media leaks. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said in a statement on Monday that “several leaks have compromised the process and prevented a fair consideration of the bids.”

“Having reflected upon the process to date, and what the service really needs to provide, the government has determined that Australia's international broadcasting service should be delivered by the national broadcaster. The ABC has been performing well in the role and the government believes that the national broadcaster will maintain and further enhance the Australia Network in the years ahead,” he said.

The Australia Network broadcasts to 44 nations in Asia and the Pacific.

The ABC welcomed the news but Sky News, which is co-owned by Rupert Murdoch, described the decision as “extraordinary.” “We expect to be fully compensated,” Sky News CEO Angelos Frangopoulos said.

Sky News was originally invited by the Australian government to bid for the tender. ®

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