The ABC will axe up to 250 jobs and cut programming as it deals with budget cuts of $84 million.
Managing director David Anderson said a flagship radio news bulletin would go, the ABC Life lifestyle portal would be rebranded, and programs would be reviewed as part of a major overhaul of the national broadcaster.
There will also be cuts to travel and to spending on television productions, as the organisation moves to become more relevant to more Australians and better reflect community diversity, he said.
Mr Anderson said the redundancies and savings would affect every division across the ABC.
“We anticipate we may farewell as many as 250 colleagues through this process,” he told staff in a briefing.
He said there would be changes to executive staffing, but did not offer any details.
And he said the organisation would aim to have 75 per cent of its content-makers based outside its Sydney headquarters by 2025..
The ABC had already flagged that it would shed about 250 jobs due to a three-year funding indexation pause announced by the federal government in 2018.
Mr Anderson said the flagship 7.45am radio news bulletins would end, and be replaced by a five-minute bulletin at 8am. A 10-minute bulletin at 7am will remain.
The changes include:
- ABC Life will become ABC Local and have a “broader editorial direction”;
- the travel budget will be cut by 25 per cent
- spending on external and independent television productions will be cut by $5 million a year
- the ABC Comedy television channel will be rebranded to cater for a broader array of programs and content
- leasing of space at the ABC’s Sydney headquarters will be explored
TV and radio broadcast channels will remain, but transmission cuts have been flagged for future years
ABC Life editor Bhakthi Puvanenthiran said on Twitter that her team would be halved under the change.
“It’s devastating news and the details are unclear right now, but what I know for sure is I’m really proud of what we’ve built, telling diverse stories the ABC has never told before,” she said.
After the indexation freeze announced in the 2018 budget, then-managing director Michelle Guthrie said the organisation had suffered $254 million in cuts since 2014.
The changes were announced as part of the ABC’s new five-year plan, the main focus of which is pivoting the corporation towards on-demand and digital services, and being “more relevant to more Australians”.
Government welcomes plan to move staff outside Ultimo
The ABC has long faced criticism from federal Coalition politicians, particularly those in the Nationals, who have accused it of being too Sydney-centric.
“To be more relevant we need the ABC to be in more communities,” Mr Anderson said.
“This is a difficult time for everyone. But the changes we have announced today are necessary to ensure the continuation of the essential services we provide in an increasingly challenging global media market.
“The changes we make today will strengthen our position for the next five years and beyond.”
Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said he welcomed the ABC’s commitment to make sure the bulk of its workforce was outside of the Ultimo offices.
“The ABC needs to reflect all of Australia, and Sydney is not Australia and Ultimo is not Sydney,” he said.
“I welcome the fact that there’s a commitment to no loss of jobs in regional Australia.”
Mr Fletcher said the job losses as a result of the funding cuts was not the Government’s responsibility, but the ABC’s board and management.
Journalism jobs shed across media industry
The ABC job losses come after cuts and restructures at other Australian media organisations in 2020, bringing hundreds of job losses.
The Australian Associated Press newswire was saved from impending closure after a group of investors and philanthropists stepped in, offering to buy the business.
In May, News Corp announced a major restructure that will involve almost all of its community and regional newspaper titles moving to a digital-only format.
Earlier this year, online news site Buzzfeed shut its Australian operations and Network 10 closed its website 10Daily.
Federal Labor Leader Anthony Albanese said the value of the ABC to both city and regional audiences was clear.
“The ABC cuts that were made by this Government have had an impact on jobs and the quality of services provided,” he said.
“During the bushfires the ABC literally saved lives … people were relying on the ABC, it was the thing they could depend upon to tell them whether to go or leave.
“It’s appalling that the government hasn’t recognised that.”