“Let’s talk,” says Australian Olympic boss Matt Carroll in response to ABC “Radio silence”


The Australian Olympic Committee has today opened its doors to negotiate with its National broadcaster the ABC just 24 hours after news broke that there would be “radio silence” form the Olympic Games for the first time since 1952.

While ABC Programming director Judith Whelan has declared its budget is simply too tight to afford the $1 million needed to broadcast the 2020 Tokyo Olympics live on radio.

The AOC’s CEO Matt Carroll appeared on Australia-wide ABC News Breakfast television to appeal to its Chair, Ita Buttrose to initiate discussions with Rights Holders Seven West Media confirming the ABC’s charter indicates, that it must “contribute to a sense of national identity.”

And Carroll’s appeal comes after respected ABC athletics commentator Quentin Hull described the network’s decision not to provide radio coverage of Tokyo 2020 as a “National shame!” with reaction to the news going viral on social media outlets.


In the booth with Quentin Hull. Photo Courtesy: ABC

Carroll told the show’s co-host Lisa Millar, who covered the Games herself in Beijing in 2008, that the news came out of the blue.

“Were you given a heads up on this – was there any consultation?” asked Millar.

“No it came as a complete shock,” replied Carroll who later in the interview said “I’m happy to talk to the Chair of the ABC and to have a conversation with the rights holders and see if we can work things out.

“We are obviously disappointed but we are disappointed for all Australians…so let’s at least have the conversation.

“The Olympic committee is here to assist, to make sure that as many Australians as possible can follow the Games in Tokyo…. we are here to help.

“It’s non commercial rights so I don’t think we are talking about huge sums of money….if it is an issue..let’s talk.”

Carroll said there has been a fantastic partnership between the Olympics and the ABC since 1952 and it was important for all Australians to be able to follow their Olympians throughout all their opportunities.

“The Games will be in Tokyo which will a perfect opportunity; the perfect time zone, a one hour time difference is a great opportunity for Australians to get behind the team and to follow them in regional Australia where often other opportunities for broadcasting is unavailable,” said Carroll.

“Radio still plays such a huge part…particularly the ABC…which prides itself on sport coverage…people are driving around in cars, tradies (tradesmen) on construction sites…they can’t look at the other forms of broadcast…and radio in regional parts of Australia…

“At least have the conversation..we would be happy to take up the discussion with the rights holders.

“The Olympic Games is the one thing that unites all Australians …the biggest sporting event on earth….people love to cheer on their Australian Olympians….whether they are medallists or doing the best they can.”

Carroll reiterated the decision would make a huge difference.

“The ABC is very good about telling stories about athletes and adding that extra colour…that’s what radio can do….athletes stories and journeys are so important for the next generation of Australian athletes to take up sport.

“The Olympic committee is here to assist, to make sure that as many Australians as possible can follow the Games in Tokyo so we are here to help.”


Swimming broadcaster Gerry Collins in Beijing. Photo Courtesy: Gerry Collins

ABC commentators – past and present – have themselves reacted strongly to the decision with track and field caller Quentin Hull saying: “The ABC will lose part of its DNA by not being at the Tokyo Olympics…the coverage has always shed a light on amazing stories of not only Australians but human achievements the world over..It’s a National shame.”

Former ABC swimming caller Gerry Collins – who called the Olympic and Paralympic action from poolside in Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London and so many great calls alongside the legendary Norman May, said: “Surely the ABC will see sense and reverse this decision before its too late.”

And ironically the decision comes in the middle of a major ABC campaign labelled Australia Talks – Where do you fit ? A survey asking 54,000 people about their attitudes, behaviours and experiences…helping people understand where they fit in modern Australia.

Maybe they should have started talking in their own studios.

The ABC has said its budget is simply too tight to afford the $1 million needed to broadcast the 2020 Tokyo Olympics live on radio.

Whelan said the $1 million price tag included the costs of sending commentators to Japan and setting up the broadcasting system.

Ms Whelan said the public broadcaster’s budget was “running hot” because of the amount of emergency broadcasting it was committed to that had extended from a six month period to 12 months across the nation.

“Our budget is very tight. It has been tightened tremendously over the past five years and we are facing more budgetary pressure at the moment,” she said on Tuesday.

Ms Whelan said Australians would still be able to pick up Olympics coverage on other digital platforms, with the ABC still providing daily updates.

Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the decision would “surprise and disappoint many Australians”.
“Under its legislation, editorial and content decisions are a matter for the ABC’s board and management, and it is for the ABC to explain why it has taken this decision,” Mr Fletcher said.


Photo Courtesy: Norman May Collection


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