Up to 250 jobs will go at the ABC as the broadcaster undertakes the biggest shake-up in its 88-year history.
The proposed savings initiatives include:
- A greater focus on digital and on-demand news services, including discontinuing the 7.45am broadcast-only radio news bulletin and shifting focus to provide news across all our audio platforms (more info here)
- Giving ABC Life a new editorial direction and name, ABC Local, sourcing content from across the ABC, including outer suburban and regional areas.
- Rebranding ABC Comedy to create a home for a range of genres, such as Arts, Science, Education and Religion. Comedy will continue to be commissioned for ABC main channel and a destination on iview.
- Reducing independent production by approximately $5m p.a., predominately from the factual and entertainment slate, with the ABC prioritising investment in Drama and Children’s programming.
Managing Director David Anderson has launched the ABC’s five-year strategy and outlined proposals to address budget cuts while protecting the Corporation’s independence and Charter responsibilities for all Australians.
“The ABC Five-Year Plan 2020-2025 will guide us as we continue to transform from a traditional broadcaster to the nation’s most trusted and valued digital content provider across all platforms,” Mr Anderson told ABC employees.
“This strategy lays out the next steps in the ABC’s proud 88-year history, ensuring that now and into the future we remain the home of Australian stories, trusted information and conversations that connect us all.”
Mr Anderson said the Federal Government’s indexation pause, which cut the ABC’s budget by $84m over three years with an ongoing reduction of $41m a year from 2022, coming on top of the $64m in ongoing cuts imposed in 2014, made difficult decisions affecting jobs and services inevitable.
“The proposals announced today ensure the ABC can enhance its value to all Australians now and into the future,” he said. “However, we anticipate we will farewell as many as 250 people through this process, valued colleagues who have made tremendous contributions to the ABC and to our audiences.
“This is a difficult time for us, as it is for the broader economy and community as we all struggle with the events of this year.”
ABC Chair Ita Buttrose said “the ABC Five-Year Plan is a robust blueprint for the future of the ABC that emphasises the important role the ABC plays in the Australian way of life.”
The ABC has also reduced travel budgets by 25%, reviewed its property portfolio and will consider options to either improve accommodation, lease vacant space or relocate if it is more beneficial.
Spare capacity for leasing in ABC Ultimo could potentially create a $4 million p.a. saving.
Increased investment in regional centres will see 75% of content-makers working outside the Ultimo headquarters by 2025, ensuring greater engagement with local communities.
The plan speaks about radio in various sections, including:
“The ABC’s audio content includes live broadcasts and programs on AM, FM and DAB+ radio, as well as via streaming and on-demand options on the ABC Listen app. The radio services range from local stations in capital cities and 48 regional bureaux to national networks that serve different audience needs and interests…
“Local radio stations in the eight capital cities attract two million listeners a week, and the ABC’s extensive regional network plays a vital role in the lives of outback Australians and reflects its commitment to all Australians. The ABC’s international services extend its stories to audiences all over the world, including to Australians abroad. These radio and online services serve to bring communities together and keep Australians connected with one another…”
Speaking about the impending budget cuts, Anderson foreshadows the possibility of closing radio networks. “While these [financial] measures aim to minimise cuts to services and output, they will result in job losses and have an impact on audiences. Any further budget reductions beyond this will have an even more significant impact on services, such as consolidating TV channels, radio networks, and some regional services…
“[The ABC] must invest in technology and connectivity that achieves operational excellence, including end-to- end digital processes for production. Data must be used to drive decision making and give audiences the ability to personalise services.”
At the same time, the ABC must “maintain its established broadcast services to ensure that all Australians can continue to access the ABC. Broadcast radio and television are expected to remain important in some form for ABC audiences for at least another 20 years,” says the plan.
Discussing international services the plan says: “In the Pacific, the availability of mobile telephony and internet services has grown in the past decade. The large youth population is embracing these technologies. Nonetheless, overall take-up remains low in most countries (an average of 38% across the Pacific) and providers forecast that it will increase only slightly (3%–5%) by 2025. As a result, broadcasting, particularly on radio, will remain an important way of reaching Pacific audiences. In Asia, by comparison, most markets for media services – from the high-technology media ecologies of Japan and South Korea to the less-developed markets of the Mekong – are already saturated with local providers. This not only diminishes the likely relevance of international services for local audiences, it reduces the number of frequencies and/or channel positions available for distributing traditional broadcasting services.”