Australia Plus, originally Australia Television International and later ABC Asia Pacific and Australia Network, is an international satellite television and digital service operated by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation since 2001. It is not free-to-air in most countries, being only available via paid cable and satellite services. The television and online service broadcasts 24 hours a day on 7 days a week, to approximately 44 countries in Asia and the Pacific. The channel broadcasts a mix of programming, including lifestyle, drama, sports, English-language learning programs, children's programming and news and current affairs.
The international television service's current incarnation launched on 1 January 2002. It was partially funded by Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as well as some advertising (unlike the ABC's domestic television services). The channel is targeted at local audiences in 44 countries across parts of Asia and the Pacific. Australia network, along with international radio network Radio Australia, is a part of the ABC's International, Corporate Strategy and Governance division.
In the 2014 Australian federal budget, all funding to the Australia Network was cut and its closure was announced. It was officially replaced by Australia Plus from 29 September 2014.
Australia Television International the forerunner to Australia Network was launched on 17 February 1993. Radio Australia had been operating as part of the ABC since 1939 while the passing of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act in 1983 allowed the Corporation to operate an additional international television service. The channel was originally proposed by directors Mark Armstrong and David Hill, who felt that a television channel would further heighten Australia's presence in the Asia-Pacific region and demonstrate the ABC's technical abilities.
The new channel was to be funded by a combination of government subsidies and commercial sponsorship. The presence of commercials, not previously seen or heard on the ABC, resulted in the creation of an updated edition of the ABC Editorial and Programme Practices stipulating that the 'Australia Television service will retain editorial control and independence in all programming'. Paul Keating launched Australia Television International on 17 February 1993 – televised live to 50 countries in the southeast Asian region, from the ABC's television studios in Gore Hill.
Funding cuts made in the 1997–1998 federal budget, and recommendations made in the Mansfield Report, meant that control of Australia Television was handed over to the Seven Network in 1998. Under Seven's direction the channel continued to receive federal funding, and carry some ABC News.
Despite efforts made by Seven to expand into Asia using the service, it continued to lose money. In 2002, the government announced a five-year, $50 million tender for the service – at the time watched primarily by Australian expats for its news programmes, football coverage, and children's programming. Seven chose not to bid, while Imparja Television's application was unsuccessful. The ABC won the contract and replaced Australia Television with ABC Asia Pacific on 1 January 2002, with content from the Seven Network, Nine Network, Network Ten, and the ABC's own original content, as well as news bulletins produced by Sky News Australia.
The tender was renewed in 2005 however the ABC was re-awarded control of the service, over other applicants including Sky News Australia. Soon after, the network stopped showing content from Sky News Australia, replaced with bulletins produced by the ABC's own news and current affairs division from its Southbank studios in Melbourne.
ABC Asia Pacific changed its name to Australia Network on 7 August 2006, at the same time introducing a number of new programs, as well as the expansion of its existing news programs and English-language learning programs. Following a restructure of the ABC in early 2007, Australia Network became a part of the Corporation's International, Corporate Strategy and Governance division.
The channel was not available in Australia or New Zealand, owing to rights restrictions, although ABC News for Australia Network bulletins were carried overnight on ABC News 24 in Australia and on Face TV in New Zealand. Several Australia Network programmes are also available online in Australia on the ABC's iview platform. Australia Network became available in Malaysia on Astro (Channel 514) in December 2008.
In the 2014 Australian federal budget, all funding to the Australia Network was cut and its closure was announced, days before it was about to sign a contract with Shanghai Media Holdings to begin broadcasting in China (making it only the third foreign broadcaster with access to the country). 80 jobs, mostly in Melbourne, were lost and the government was forced to compensate the Australian Broadcasting Corporation 10 million dollars for breaking its contract.
Following the closure of Australian Network, Australia Plus, a new multi-platform international service was launched on 29 September 2014 as a replacement. The channel will continue to broadcast entertainment, sports, education and English learning shows from ABC through Asia and Pacific partners. Big events from Australia, such as Melbourne Cup, Sydney's New Year's Eve Fireworks and the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race will also be featured on the channel.
Australia Plus shows a range of programming targeted at audiences within the region, including evening news bulletins at two-hour intervals targeted at different parts of the region, and a number of English-language educational programs produced by the Network including Study English, Living English, English Bites and The Business of English. Drama series shown include Home and Away, Offspring, Packed to the Rafters, Rake, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, The Time of Our Lives, factual entertainment programs Bondi Vet, One Plus One, and Cosmo Times, lifestyle programs Big Break, Food Safari and Poh's Kitchen, music program Rage, light entertainment programs Gruen Planet, Good Game and Good Game SP, the children's shows Play School, Blue Water High, A gURLs wURLd and Scope.
News bulletins are shown in the mornings, lunchtime and evenings. Australia Plus News is presented from the ABC's Sydney studios with additional content from Canberra and stories from ABC reporters based in and around Asia and the Pacific. Following the channel's relaunch in 2006, four new correspondents based in New Delhi, Beijing, the South Pacific and Jakarta were added to report exclusively for the bulletins.
Some programs produced by ABC News and Current Affairs are shown on the channel.
News programs ABC News Breakfast, Weekend Breakfast, Grandstand, The World and The World This Week, Current Affairs programs #TalkAboutIt, 7.30, Australian Story, Big Ideas, Business Today, Foreign Correspondent, Four Corners, Insiders, Inside Edge, Landline, Lateline, Offsiders, Q&A, State To State, The Business and The Quarters are aired in this channel.
In addition, other current affairs programs such as Financial Review Sunday, Living Black, Insight and Dateline are also broadcast on Australia Plus. Part of the 2014 relaunch has resulted in several ABC News 24 programs being telecast on the channel as well.
Australia Plus Television broadcasts a number of Australian sporting events, such as W-League matches, Melbourne Cup, Australian Football League matches and highlights from A-League.
In 2002, ABC Asia Pacific used the same logo as ABC in Australia. The station idents also feature the same silver ring and elements as ABC Television's 2002 idents.
In 2003, generic break bumpers are used between commercial breaks, using a simple background and a simple ring animation.
In 2004, the channel used the new slogan Everyone's ABC Asia Pacific, with new idents using the same ribbon package of ABC TV Australia, but usually keeping the 2002 idents.
In 2006, ABC Asia Pacific rebranded as Australia Network, using a new logo as a stylised lower-cased 'a'. In 2009, the logo's color simplified from gold to simple white, with new idents using the new logo in guise of a balloon.
In 2014, Australia Network was replaced by Australia Plus, with new logo using the upper-cased 'A' and a plus symbol.