The Australian Broadcasting Corp. confirmed Monday it had pacted to beam its international service AusTV into homes across China.

Managing director David Hill and Ai Zhisheng, China’s minister for radio, film and television, signed the agreement with Central China TV, the country’s major television organization.

The move breaks the government regulation of foreign television, which hardened last September and threatened the future of Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV satellite service.

It is the first of several contracts that will open up a number of regional Chinese TV markets to the Aussie broadcaster — in addition to the provincial telecasters, there are some 500 separate cable operators in the country. John Crone, a Radio Australia exec fluent in Mandarin, will head the negotiating team.

The ABC already had a contract with the Guangzhou TV and Radio Broadcasting Corp. to give cable viewers in that province access to Oz-made programs.

“Numerically, the big one for us is China,” Hill said. “With this we dramatically increase the audience for Australia Television.”

AusTV uses Indonesia’s Palapa satellite, which doesn’t reach northern China, so it will take additional space on another bird to cover the region.

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