The commercial radio rights are also available but, as of Tuesday, they had yet to be finalised, so there was still the possibility that Australians may yet have no radio coverage of an Olympic Games in their own time zone.
The AOC flagged their intention to meet with the ABC soon after the move was confirmed on Monday and made that official on Tuesday when they penned a letter to Buttrose hoping to find a solution to the impasse.
Speaking on ABC on Tuesday morning, programming director Judith Whelan said they were open to a meeting with the AOC but they had not considered a change of heart given the budget restrictions and the number of areas across the organisation that competed for a slice of the financial pie.
Part of that increase, Whelan said, was that its emergency broadcasting window now stretched across 12 months rather than six months. The ABC is currently devoting huge resources to its bushfire coverage.
She said the cost of purchasing the non-commercial rights to the Olympics, as well as sending commentary teams and setting up broadcast space, would come to around $1 million, although critics of the ABC’s stance would suggest that is good shopping for access to what is universally regarded as the second-biggest sporting event in the world.
“Our budget is very tight. It has been tightened tremendously over the past five years and we are facing more budgetary pressure at the moment,” Whelan said.
AOC chief executive Matt Carroll, who on Monday lambasted the decision as ‘monumentally short-sighted’, told RN Breakfast he was hopeful they could enter some meaningful dialogue over coming weeks.
When it was put to him that the ABC was reaching new audiences with its digital arm and podcasts, Carroll questioned what role radio continued to play in the overall ABC product offering.
“Why is the ABC still in the business of radio if that’s still the case? We’re standing here broadcasting across the country on radio. It reaches audiences,” Carroll said.
“We appreciate all boards need to make decisions about the allocation of its resources. We think the Olympic Games ticks a lot of the boxes of the ABC Charter.
“I understand constraints, I understand management decisions, I get all that. But there are other sporting events ABC continues to broadcast that cost money as well. We think this decision to not support the broadcast of the Olympic Games is ill-founded.”
Carroll said he did not believe the rights fee, which has was sold to Seven as part of its Olympic deal and then onsold to a non-commercial broadcaster, was the major hurdle but more the cost of staffing an Olympic team able to provide live calls.
“Let’s have a conversation about it. It doesn’t seem to be the rights fee, more the cost of the staff and time,” Carroll said.
“If it was the rights fee cost, let’s have a conversation with the rights holder. But it sounds more like a budget allocation.”
Carroll said the AOC had also written to the sports minister and health minister over the matter, while Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the ABC’s decision will “no doubt surprise and disappoint many Australians”.