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Seven hit by ABC decision to scrap Olympic radio broadcasts

Australian public-service broadcaster ABC will maintain its decision not to pursue radio rights to the 2020 summer Olympic Game, after a meeting between its chairwoman Ita Buttrose and Australian Olympic Committee John Coates last week.

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.

ABC’s radio coverage of the Olympics is an Australian institution that stretches back to the 1952 summer Games in Helsinki, Finland, and 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.”

The ABC estimates it will save AUD $1m by not broadcasting the Tokyo Games, but this decision will hurt commercial free-to-air broadcaster Seven, which according to the Sydney Morning Herald, paid about AUD $200m in 2014 for all media rights for the 2016,2018 and 2020 Games. Seven had expected to recoup about $400,000 from the ABC by selling on the radio rights.

Seven could sell the non-commercial radio rights to other Australian public broadcasters, but a spokeswoman for public-service broadcaster SBS revealed there are no discussions with Seven, saying: ” It’s not something we’re exploring.”

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that sources said there is little interest by SBS to pay for the rights, especially since most of its audio content is focused on creating radio and podcast programs in multiple languages, and it is unclear how Olympics coverage would fit into that strategy.