Australian Olympic Committee slams ABC’s Tokyo 2020 radio rights snub

The Australian Olympic Committee has called on public-service broadcaster ABC to reverse its decision not to pursue radio rights to the 2020 summer Olympic Games, calling the stance “monumentally short-sighted”.

ABC’s radio coverage of the Olympics is an Australian institution that stretches back to the 1952 summer Games in Helsinki, Finland. However, the broadcaster has declined to acquire non-commercial radio broadcast rights from rights-holder, commercial broadcaster Seven, due to the cost of covering the Games, which next year take place in Tokyo, along with budget pressures and the “changing broadcast environment”.

The rights fee isn’t understood to be the main sticking point, but rather the cost of producing live coverage, according to The Guardian. ABC is trying to cope with an AUD$84m (€52.3m/$57.7m) reduction in its budget as a result of a government funding cut in May 2018.

In a statement, AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said the decision runs contrary to the ABC Charter. He added: “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. 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.”

Carroll said ABC’s decision comes at a time when even more Australians should be inspired to participate in sport, to defeat the growing issues of obesity and mental illness. He added: “Tokyo 2020 presents such an opportunity to do that, given the time-zone, in particular.”

ABC told The Guardian: “This is an incredibly tough decision, especially given our 67-year run as the official non-commercial Olympic Games radio broadcaster. Due to competing budget priorities coupled with the fact that Australians can access Olympic Games coverage in many other ways, we have chosen not to pursue rights in 2020.”