The ABC will shed 400 jobs, around 10% of its staff, in response to federal government funding cuts.
Around 300 jobs will go immediately, with 100 news journalists an estimated 50 going from radio as the national broadcaster looks to shift its focus to the digital era and online services. Flagship television programs such as Four Corners, Lateline and Australian Story will be trimmed, while hourly radio news bulletins will be reduced from 10 to five minutes.
ABC managing director Mark Scott told staff at a meeting today that 40 proposed efficiency measures are on the table in response to the Abbott Government’s decision. The plans have already been backed by the ABC board.
Rationalisation and centralised services are at the core of the savings, along with the closure of several production facilities and stripping back of management, with administrative staff comprising more than 10 per cent of the proposed redundancies.
Last week, communications minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed the ABC’s budget would be cut by $254 million over five years from an annual budget of $1.1 billion. SBS is also losing $53.7 million. The funding reduction comes despite then opposition leader Tony Abbott’s pre-election promise of “no cuts to the ABC or SBS”.
The cuts are on top of an efficiency dividend in the May budget and following on from a review by Seven West Media CFO Peter Lewis, who was subsequently appointed to the ABC board by the federal government. While Turnbull says the sayings are around 5% and that anyone in business “that could not manage to find 5 per cent out of efficiencies is not even trying”, arguing that programming should not be effected.
But on Friday, Mark Scott told Senate estimates challenged the minister’s assertion, saying it was inevitable that programming would take a hit.
“If the ABC shuts down digital radio, is that a content question or an efficiency question? I think it’s both,” Scott said.
The ABC boss argued that $59.1 million in savings singled out by Lewis in his report would cost $76 million to implement. Scott argued that because redundancies are unfunded, the size of the cut is close to 8% when the cost of redundancies and the loss of the Australia Network are factored in.
Addressing ABC staff this morning, Scott outlined the changes the national broadcaster will make.
* The closure of TV production studios in Adelaide
* State-based Friday editions of 7.30 will go, replaced by a national edition.
* Five regional radio stations will close: Wagin, Morwell, Port Augusta, Gladstone, Nowra. The ABC says there are no content implications and minimal staff impact.
* ABC1’s Lateline will move to News 24.
* Sports coverage will be reduced, with the focus shifting to national sports. State-based local sports coverage will cease.
* Radio National’s Bush Telegraph program is cancelled.
* The winding back remaining production activities in the smaller states, outside news and current affairs.
* As part of a review of property assets, the ABC’s Lancely Place site in Sydney will be sold.
* Websites will be rationalised, with the goal of closing down more than 100 sites.
* The number of concerts recorded on Classic FM will be cut.
* A major shakeup of Radio National and Local Radio, however, the ABC says the majority of radio savings are in administration and management.
* Newcastle’s radio station 1233 will be downgraded from a metro to regional station, with a third of the staff, 8 people, going, including popular afternoon show presenter Carol Duncan, whose show is cancelled, along with the Helen Clare’s Sunday show.
* Changes to the foreign bureaux, with a new outpost in Beruit.
* A new National Business Team to improve business and finance coverage.
The plans also include:
* looking at joint purchasing arrangements with SBS
* state-based directors will be abolished.
* rationalising outside broadcast TV vans.
* a new regional division.
* replacing the Innovation Division with an ABC Digital Network Division, to prioritise online and mobile expenditure.
* a $20 million investment fund, to fund new content.
“Many of the initiatives outlined today are still in the planning stages, but all are designed to help position the ABC for a challenging future. The package of proposed measures recognises that, in a context of demand for access to different services and reduced funding, the ABC must further prioritise choices,” Scott said.
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