International Broadcasting and Its Contested Role in Australian Statecraft

International Broadcasting and Its Contested Role in Australian Statecraft

Middle Power, Smart Power

By Geoff Heriot

Anthem Studies in Soft Power and Public Diplomacy

Anthem Studies in Australian History

An insightful and timely reappraisal of international broadcasting as an instrument of discursive rather than ‘soft’ power and its contested role in Australia’s Indo-Pacific regional statecraft.

PDF, 292 Pages


March 2023

£25.00, $35.00

EPUB, 292 Pages


March 2023

£25.00, $35.00

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About This Book

This book re-appraises the concept and utility of state-funded, multi-platform international broadcasting as an instrument of statecraft, which offers cultural representation with the political purpose of contesting relations of power. This at a time when issues of transnational media, the credibility of news and the perils of disinformation and information warfare, figure worryingly in public discourse. The book reflects the perspective of middle power Australia, the circumstances and options of which differ from a great power. It dissects and evaluates the political purpose and efficacy of international broadcasting, its means as an instrument of inter-cultural communication and the variables that enable or impede its effectiveness. The author draws both on extensive scholarly research and his extensive professional experience in journalism, international broadcasting and media management in Australia and internationally.

Heriot proposes a model for the strategic analysis, application, organisational design and operation of multi-platform international broadcasting. Necessarily, the model is informed by an analysis that situates international broadcasting in relation to contemporary theories of soft/hard/smart power projection and inter-cultural communication. He applies the model to the contentious political history and performance of Australia’s international broadcaster, Radio Australia, during the late Cold War decades of the twentieth century and asserts the relevance of this approach to an increasingly media-dense – though asymmetric – international environment. The model eschews general or coded descriptions of purpose and identifies six specific functions appropriate to the circumstances and imperatives of Australia as a resident power in the Indo-Pacific region.

The flawed success of Radio Australia during the later years of the Cold War arose from the interaction of a broad range of external and internal variables to which it was exposed. These included geostrategic and national political factors; the formal prerogatives and constraints of the broadcaster’s mandate in pursuing defined objectives; institutional relationships across government; Radio Australia’s programming or editorial outlook, which determined information agendas and framed the coverage of issues; the production norms and socio-linguistic processes involved with inter-cultural communication; resource constraints and the effect of work design on the character and performance of the broadcaster; and the management of professional and cultural biases (including boundary work demarcations and in-group/out-group rivalry). 


His is a timely and important intervention, for in bringing light to this aspect of the nation's media history, Heriot also speaks deftly to the pressing security concerns facing Australia today.[…] Heriot’s work speaks to both historical matters and present-day concerns. In doing so, it has a lot of insight to offer to Australian historians as well as those interested in Australia’s contemporary security and diplomatic challenges —Australian Outlook

Offering both theoretical and practical insights from business practice, media and communications studies, international relations and foreign policy, Heriot provides an accessible multidisciplinary analysis of the varying roles of RA against the backdrop of Australian political history, global events and the often-tumultuous Asia-Pacific. The book is also rich with insights from his nearly fifty-year career in broadcasting— Australian Journalism Review

“Combining his top-notch scholarship and personal experience, Geoff Heriot has created an insightful multidisciplinary account of the rise and fall of Australian international broadcasting. Heriot deftly blends theoretical insights from international relations and communication with history to explore Radio Australia’s contribution to its country’s foreign policy. This is an important addition to the literature on Australia’s foreign relations and middle power foreign policy, as well as international radio, and public diplomacy” — Nicholas J. Cull, author, Public Diplomacy: Foundations for Global Engagement in the Digital Age.

“This valuable and original book deftly combines attention to soft power and its limits as a tool of analysis with deep knowledge of international broadcasting, especially giving fascinating insights into the history of Radio Australia” — Rodney Tiffen, Emeritus Professor in Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney.

International Broadcasting and its Contested Role in Australian Statecraftexamines a national broadcaster’s influence on overseas audience. Identifying variables hampering international broadcasting, it assays the instrumental efficacy of broadcasting practice. Multiple sub-focuses, interdisciplinarity, readability and scholarship will be appreciated by researchers, course convenors and students of media and international communication” — Naren Chitty AM, Professor Emeritus, Inaugural Director, Soft Power Analysis and Resource Centre, Faculty of Arts, Macquarie University.

The International Broadcasting and Its Contested Role in Australian Statecraft: Middle Power, Smart Power is a fascinating, timely and challenging account of Australia’s attempts to project itself through broadcasting, largely on the ABC international feed to countries in the region. Geoff Heriot’s work is timely and illuminating of the issues facing the country and its public broadcaster. His framework is closely argued; his historical chapters, insightful and entertaining. Heriot’s framework and case studies are useful in themselves, but doubly important now that the issue of Australian soft power to counter China in Asia and the Pacific is back strongly on the political agenda—Pacific Journalism Review, 29 (1 & 2) 2023, pp. 280–282, Jeremy Rees, Radio New Zealand

Heriot’s International Broadcasting and Its Contested Role in Australian Statecraft: Middle Power, Smart Power examines the role of international broadcasting in positioning Australia globally as a smart democratic middle power. Through its chosen case study, Heriot’s book ‘reappraises the concept and utility of state-funded international broadcasting as an instrument of discursive power, which offers cultural representation with political purpose’ —Media International Australia, 7 August 2023, Benjamin Kooyman, The Australian National University


Author Information

Geoff Heriot is a former Australian broadcasting executive and strategist, a foreign correspondent and journalist, with extensive Indo-Pacific regional experience.


Anthem Studies in Soft Power and Public Diplomacy

Anthem Studies in Australian History

Table of Contents

List of Figures; Foreword by Geoffrey Wiseman; Acknowledgements; One Introduction; Two Media and the Contest of Ideas; Three International Broadcasting and Its Discursive Properties; Four Mobilising ‘Softer’ Power in a Hard World; Five Australia’s ABC: State Interests, National Evolution; Six Purpose, Performance and Evaluation; Seven Modernising the ABC; Eight Policy, Priorities and Qualified Independence; Nine Engaging with Intercultural Audiences; Ten Indonesia, the Crucible; Eleven Strategic Contingency and War; Twelve Looking to the New Disorder; Index


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