FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS’ ASSOCIATION
The Foreign Correspondents’ Association (FCA) was formed in 1985 to address the needs of overseas journalists reporting on Australia, such as access to news-makers, including government officials and institutions, particularly Parliament House in Canberra.
Its aims are to promote the professional interest of foreign correspondents working in Australia and the South Pacific; to foster good relations between foreign correspondents and Australian authorities and local press; to assist foreign correspondents and journalists visiting Australia; to provide forums for discussion of current affairs and matters of professional concern in Australia and the South Pacific region; and to provide a social meeting place and entertainment, on a non-profit basis, for members and their guests.
From the 1970s, a number of foreign news agencies and news bureaux with broad interests in South Pacific affairs established offices in Sydney. This coincided with an upsurge of internationally relevant stories from the region, including the activities of the Whitlam Labor government, political disputes in Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Bougainville, and nuclear-related issues in Palau (US nuclear port rights), Mururoa (French nuclear testing) and New Zealand. At a lunch in Sydney’s Chinatown in 1985, a number of journalists, including Radio Australia’s Trevor Watson, Australian Associated Press bureau chief Peter O’Laughlin and Newsweek correspondent Carl Robinson, decided to establish an association to promote the professional interests of overseas correspondents.
The association established a presence in Parliament House in Canberra for visiting Sydney-based journalists for overseas news services. The FCA provided a forum for reporters to be addressed by ‘news-makers’ who were aware of the different audience for their message (non-domestic populations and decision-makers).
In 1995, the Keating Labor government set up an International Media Centre (IMC) in Sydney as an operational base for the FCA and to facilitate the work of international correspondents. The IMC in Margaret Street allowed FCA members to meet, read newspapers and access wire-services. The facilities included a radio and television recording and editing studio, provided by FCA sponsors. After the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the Howard Coalition government reduced support for the IMC, which meant that it functioned more as a liaison institution with the government of the day. The FCA does not have a ‘clubhouse’ for social gatherings outside of the organised presentations.
The FCA has developed relationships with state tourism bodies, and invites ‘news-makers’ to address brief functions and present policy statements. Prime Ministers and Foreign Affairs Ministers have addressed the FCA. In 2011 the association partnered with the National Press Club to host the 2011 General Assembly of the International Association of Press Clubs (IAPC).
Overseas reporter members of the FCA include stringers and freelancers, local reporters employed by international news agencies and overseas nationals posted to Australia. The membership has changed with shifting priorities in overseas reporting. In particular, general and political news from Australia and the region has given way to a growth in business reporting.
There is now less focus on Sydney, with a number of agencies—including Bloomberg and Reuters—establishing offices in Canberra to address the growth of interest in economic news. Increasing interest from Chinese agencies in Australian news has seen more reporters to cater for this market.
The membership categories of the association have also expanded beyond overseas correspondents to include domestic journalist members and associate members (diplomats, public relations officers and others with an interest in international reporting). In 2014, the FCA had around 140 members.
REFs: J. Tebbutt, interview with T. Watson, 24 May 2013; http://www.foreigncorrespondents.org.