For the first time since 1952, Australians won’t be able to listen to the Olympic Games on the ABC.
In a decision labelled by the Australian Olympic Committee as “short-sighted” and “contrary to the ABC Charter”, it has today been confirmed that the national broadcaster will not be picking up the non-commercial radio rights for next year’s event, despite the Tokyo games being held in a favourable timezone for an Australian audience.
The decision has been made due to budgetary reasons. The Federal Government announced in 2018 that the ABC’s budget will be frozen for three years, a decision which cost the organisation $83.7 million – among $254 million in cuts since 2014.
“The decision was made due to the cost of covering the Games as well as budget pressures and the changing broadcast environment,” an ABC spokesman told The Age.
“This means the ABC will not be providing live commentary for the Olympics on radio, however ABC News and ABC Grandstand will provide daily Olympic updates throughout the event.”
The decision to not pick up the non-commercial radio broadcast rights attracted immediate criticism.
Having worked on a few games for the ABC, this is a pretty sad state of affairs.. And a games that is in our time zone. Once it’s gone it’s gone forever. pic.twitter.com/IzkGUsqnfM
— Julian Abbott (@JulianBAbbott) November 10, 2019
I can remember lying in bed as a kid to the ABC radio call of Kieran Perkins in Barcelona… plus plenty of other unforgettable Olympics moments. This is terrible news… hard to believe given every major news organisation on the planet will be there https://t.co/ky4VI3sz9q
— Phil Lutton (@phillutton78) November 10, 2019
A sad day with news the ABC won’t be broadcasting on radio the Tokyo Olympics next year … it ends a 70-year heritage … in recent times the coverage has been pared back with every Games … now “budget pressures” will see it cease altogether … feel for the current staff ????
— Glenn Mitchell (@MitchellGlenn) November 11, 2019
A sad day for all of us who rely and enjoy the diversity and thoroughness of the ABC at the Olympics… Australia as a nation will lose so much following our athletes https://t.co/9bzqRycadd
— Robert Smith (@OnyaDon) November 10, 2019
— ????Sal (@SalPiracha) November 10, 2019
ABC Radio Olympics coverage was as good as sports on the radio got in this country. Remember listening to Glenn Mitchell call the famous Kookaburras gold in Athens. They also had Steve Hooker's Beijing gold live, minutes before Seven went to air with it. Sad day.
— Andrew (@andrew_54) November 10, 2019
Summed up perfectly by Q. Unbelievably disappointing. There's a number of ways the $$$ could be better spent around the ABC for the Grandstand Olympic tradition to remain. The depth of story and intimacy of sporting ???? broadcasts can't be replicated. A national shame indeed ! https://t.co/wDKpskvf81
— Chris Glassock (@glassockclassic) November 10, 2019
The AOC has now called on the ABC to reverse their decision, with CEO Matt Carroll slamming the development on Monday afternoon.
“The ABC should reconsider this decision. The AOC is prepared to put this case to the chair of the ABC directly, on behalf of the eight million Australians who participate in Olympic sports,” Carroll said.
“Not to mention the millions more who follow, support and celebrate those athletes.
“The AOC believes the decision is monumentally short-sighted and a great let down to Australians who rely on their national broadcaster – from the smallest of communities to our suburbs.
“Tokyo 2020 presents such an opportunity to do that, given the time-zone, in particular.
“The Olympics can inspire Australians to embrace something valuable and as the ABC’s Charter indicates – to contribute to a sense of national identity. There’s no bigger event in the world to fulfil this ambition.
“There is no sporting movement in Australia that covers the multi-cultural and geographical diversity of our country as the Olympic movement – we will be sending athletes to compete in some 42 disciplines in Tokyo. These are things go to the heart of the ABC Charter.”
The ABC first broadcast the Olympics 67 years ago with their coverage of the 1952 Helsinki Games. Channel Seven have the Olympic TV and digital broadcast rights to next year’s event, but the decision by the ABC has thrown into doubt what the radio coverage in Australia will be.