ABC restructuring cuts – benefits still hypothetical

Friday 10 Mar 2017

Kay NankervisA Charles Sturt University (CSU) academic says it's clear television and radio will lose out further to digital online platforms in the latest round of restructuring at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Journalism lecturer in the CSU School of Communication and Creative Industries in Bathurst, Ms Kay Nankervis (pictured), said it's too early to know what will happen to programs and other content.

"ABC Managing Director Ms Michelle Guthrie is determined to capture and keep audiences who are shifting from traditional platforms to new digital ones," Ms Nankervis said. "It was the change she was hired to make, and that is primarily what this week's job cuts are about.

"We won't know exactly how the axing of 200 mostly Sydney-based jobs announced by the national broadcaster will benefit the ABC's digital space until programming and content changes are made.

"But Ms Guthrie says the savings will go into a fund for developing new digital content. So we can expect fewer resources for radio and TV programming unless the money is spent on wedding them even more closely to new digital, interactive, and social media platforms.

"Radio and television appear to be in ABC management's sights. Ms Guthrie confirmed in a media interview yesterday that all ABC programming is up for review – and this could mean some old established favourites going by the wayside or being radically pruned.

"So while the ABC is presenting its job cuts as a pruning of excess middle management, a third of the positions being axed appear to be people who make programs, including technical and camera staff.  Many of those programs people were told on Monday and Tuesday that they are being made redundant.

"One ABC staffer has told former ABC colleagues that the entire field camera department, which films vision and records sound for programs including Landline and Gardening Australia, were made redundant this week. Staff say they have no idea who is going to shoot and catch sound for these programs now.

"Michelle Guthrie on Tuesday also promised to create 80 new ABC jobs in the regions, roughly the same number of positions axed from program staffing on Tuesday. But what that means for regional content and services won't be clear until those new positions are implemented and we can see what the additional ABC people in rural centres will be doing."

Ms Nankervis noted that regional programming was restructured recently in the final phase of then-Managing Director Mr Mark Scott's tenure.

"This restructure saw the closure of some regional stations and the creation of a 'Regional' division in the ABC, with many of those staff based in Ultimo in the centre of Sydney.

"So a shift to take jobs out of capital cities and into the regions could in some part reverse what happened under Mark Scott," Ms Nankervis said.

"These new regional jobs will create online digital content rather than radio or television, and this digital content in many cases will not make it to radio airwaves or television screens. So it will take some time to be able to measure whether ABC services to regional areas will be improved by changes announced this week and those implemented under Mark Scott.

"I hope that the people creating that new content in their new jobs in the regions will get away from their screens and head out to the people and places they're representing. If they stay in their chairs doing digital searches for content, then there's not much point moving people back from the city to the country to cover the regions."

Ms Nankervis also said ABC staff morale is reportedly very low and staff are aggrieved.

"When the ABC under Mark Scott announced 400 job cuts from news and current affairs not long ago, the organisation was criticised for the callous way it determined who should leave; staff had to apply to stay and list their skills. Some staff left immediately in protest at the process.

"It would seem staff are again offended by the way they are being shed, and by how their job losses are being explained to the public. When you say you're not cutting programs just middle management' it sounds like you're talking about people who haven't been pulling their weight or won't be missed.

"After this round of redundancies it'll be clear as the restructure filters through to programming and content that some talent and expertise has gone from the ABC - and is no longer wanted," Ms Nankervis said.


Media contact: Bruce Andrews, (02) 6338 6084

Media Note:

Contact CSU Media to arrange interviews with Ms Kay Nankervis.