Ultimately it is absurd to have a Government funded national overseas television service operated by anyone other than the Government funded broadcaster. However, since the commercial networks first had the Australia Television service tendered out under the Howard Government (won by Seven) that has been the accepted position.
Perhaps having it in commercial hands can provide greater cover for the service upsetting foreign powers; but the powers likely to be offended won't really comprehend the nicety.
The Australian today reports that the second assessment of tenders is going to recommend Sky.
But with its high News Ltd relationship making the decision either way can be spun by the Opposition. If the tender is awarded to the ABC then the action is to "punish" News for its coverage; if it is awarded to the ABC it will be a "bribe" for News to change its coverage.
Ultimately that is always the problem with any process where a media player is the potential beneficiary of a Government contract.
That is an additional reason to have the service run by the ABC. But the decision should be made not to award the contract to the ABC, but to abandon the tender process totally and to amend the ABC charter so that the provision of Australia Television is part of its ongoing function. That change should be accompanied by legislation that entitles Australia Television to a mechanism to "compulsorily acquire" sporting and other culturally (yes sport is cultural) significant coverage content if that content is not otherwise being internationally distributed.
Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est