ABC Regional Stations begin restructure

ABC Radio has begun a process of consultation with its regional staff as the national broadcaster prepares to introduce a new regional division that will combine news, rural and regional programming staff into one area.
Some staff fear they will lose their jobs as a result of the restructure.

The restructure comes as part of wider changes that begun when budget cuts were made in ABC funding under the Abbott government’s first budget.
The vision of the new structure is “to be the champion of regional voices in Australian conversations, culture and stories,” which will “reflect and develop regional communities and enrich national conversations,” according to a briefing document obtained by radioinfo.  
The restructure aims to “create a network which remains connected to News and Radio, with strong links to other divisions,” which will “underpin high quality, timely and relevant content to rural and regional Australians.”
Better communication, resource sharing, improved training and clearer career paths are being promised in the new structure.
The new structure includes the proposed transfer of staff listed below into the new regional division:

Radio staff:
• All regionally-based Local Radio program teams and managers (except in Gosford).
• All Rural staff – whether in a metro area or a region.
• All regionally-based ABC Open producers and some members of the ABC Open central team.
• All regionally-based cross-media reporters.
• The Radio training team, which will provide support to both divisions.
• Staff working for Australia All Over and Saturday Night Country.

News staff:
• All regionally-based News editorial staff (except in Geelong, Gosford and Ipswich)
• The editorial teams working on Landline and the new ABC Regional TV series.

Staff remaining with their existing divisions are:

  • News Operations staff (eight camera positions in regional locations)
  • Radio staff with principally national roles (such as sport)
  • ABC Open producers in Darwin and Hobart
  • Some staff in Radio multiplatform with roles aligned to Radio’s national networks
  • Staff working in support areas such as administration and technology who will also provide services to Regional

A new Director of Regional will be appointed to oversee the new division, with a staffing structure that includes heads of various sections.

Most existing regional radio staff will fall into the regional content department, as shown in the detailed chart proposed in the briefing document.
36 Chiefs of Staff will oversee regional content gathering on a daily basis for an assigned location to meet changing coverage and content requirements across all platforms. They will report to the Regional Editor responsible for their state or territory.
The Chiefs of Staff in Newcastle, Gold Coast and Ballarat will be non on-air roles, due to the size of the teams and the complexity of the operations, but all others will have some content making responsibilities.
Rural and National programs, including Australia All Over and Saturday Night Country, will work to a Head of Rural and National Programs under the proposed new structure.

Regionally based Rural Reporters will liaise with the Chief of Staff in their location, but also work directly to the program teams they provide content for on a state and national level.
A new Regional Affairs Reporter will be appointed in Canberra, based at Parliament House.
A new team of Regional digital producers who will take on the responsibilities performed by the Rural Online Producer position, is proposed.

Some current roles will no longer exist, including Regional Content Directors and State Editors Multiplatform, who will face redundancy or redeployment.

The briefing document, obtained by radioinfo, says staff occupying these jobs have already had discussions with management and will be able to apply for new positions if they wish.
Many of their functions of the Regional Content Directors and State Editors Multiplatform will be split among new roles including Regional Editors, Regional Planning Editor and Manager Regional Content, Manager Broadcast Content Quality, Manager Digital Content Quality and Digital Producers.

The Regional Content Manager role will no longer exist.
Radio will retain responsibility for Emergency Broadcasting for now, but this will be reviewed in 18 months.
Staff and unions received the briefing document last Friday and a round of consultations will begin tomorrow, lasting one month.
On the 1st of July, as the new financial year begins, the ABC Regional Division will officially become operational, with budgets and assets being transferred from that date. A six month transition is envisaged in the plan.

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