DP0770125 Dr JA Tebbutt
Approved Project Title: A study of the ABC in Asia and its role in cultural exchange
Administering Organisation La Trobe University

Project Summary
Technological and cultural exchange with Asia through the Australian Broadcasting Commission/Corporation has been critical in building cross cultural awareness in both Australia and Asia. Recording and assessing the breadth and character of this exchange assists Australia's capacity to interpret itself to the world. Analysing the interaction of a liberal democratic broadcasting model with social organisation in Asia will enhance our capacity to engage with a changing regional media environment. A critical assessment of the ABC's international role contributes to debates on the value of public broadcasting. The outcomes (database, oral histories) provide a permanent resource for researching media and Australia Asian relations.

A Study of the ABC in Asia and its role in cultural exchange (1956–2006)

Australian Research Council Discovery Grant Chief investigator: John Tebbutt, Media and Cinema Studies Program, La Trobe University

The ABC in Asia and its role in cultural exchange

This research documents the history of the Australian Broadcasting Commission/Corporation's relations with Asia between 1956 and 2006. The research presents a historically grounded description of institutional practices based on archival research, oral histories and interpretive analysis. It focuses on the ABC as a broadcaster, trainer and educator in Asia between 1956 and 2006.

Outcomes from this research in transnational media history analysing the impact of ABC reporting and educational activities in Asia include a number of journal articles and conference papers. They investigate the broadcaster's role as representative of liberal-democratic public service institutions and a the history of international communication in the context of global challenges to public broadcasting institutions.

Through a broad range of oral histories the study documents institutional change in the Australian Broadcasting Commission/Corporation. In particular the oral histories address the development of bureaus and the work of correspondents in Singapore, Indonesia and China.

The archival research has been compiled with a guide to ABC sources in the National Archive to assist other researchers with an interest in this field and in transnational media generally.


The project draws from previous research by Dr. Tebbutt that traced the cultural history of the Australian foreign correspondent. It expands on that work, considering not simply news practices but educational programming and technical training as well, while shifting the focus from the professional foreign correspondent to the national broadcaster’s activities in Asia. Australian public broadcasting has played a critical yet largely unrecognized role in cultural exchange between Australia and regions in Asia (particularly South, Southeast and North Asia). Australian academics have produced excellent descriptions of public broadcasting and media policy in China and Indonesia. Will Atkins’ work on new media and satellites has a regional perspective on public broadcasting and includes a succinct account of the ABC’s international television broadcasting from 1992 to 2001 (see, The politics of Southeast Asia's new media, Curzon Press, Richmond, 2002). Prior to this research however, there had been no comprehensive historical analysis of transnational broadcasting from an Australian perspective.

Overall, international broadcasting analysis has been narrowly theorised. Generally the focus has been on the relationship between different genres and cross-cultural audiences or the impact of particular technologies, most often television but increasingly the Internet.

The proposed research aims to address the broader issue of institutional practices in a transnational context. Further, it will explore how practices within the ABC have themselves been shaped by the interactions of administrators and journalists with Asia.