Classic FM boss hits back at ‘automation’ claims

According to Limelight Magazine, senior sources suggest ABC Classic FM could be facing its most radical restructure ever, but Classic FM says the magazine has got it wrong.
The article in Australia’s classical music and arts magazine suggests the shake up will see “…a large number of redundancies, primarily of producers and presenters, including some of the broadcaster’s most high-profile figures, as well the loss of the majority of its existing live-to-air presented programming.”
It also suggests according to a ‘source’, management are in ‘lock down and are refusing to offer further information”.
So radioinfo asked Richard Buckham, Manager of ABC Classic FM about it. He was less than happy with the reporting in Limelight, which he says is “inaccurate,” denying shifts will be automated as reported by the magazine.

He sent us this statement.

 “There have been stories in the media in recent days about the future of ABC Classic FM, following a highly speculative piece in Limelight Magazine last week.
Limelight said: ‘Limelight understands that all but two existing shows will become largely automated, with only the Breakfast Show and Drive Time programme surviving the cuts, which according to one source are “imminent”. The rest of the broadcaster’s programming will be replaced by the pre-programmed “streamed” broadcasts similar to the type that replaced the overnight programming of Classic FM in November 2014.’
Limelight did not wait for a response from ABC Classic FM before publishing this. They didn’t include the full statement I sent them, and didn’t include any real evidence in their story.
There is definitely no move towards ‘automated’ music programming on ABC Classic FM. In fact, last year we employed four new full-time, very talented (human) music programmers.

They work with a newly-built database of music audio and associated information, to select and arrange music for our shows. Maybe the rumours about ‘computers’ choosing the music and programs being ‘automated’ originated in the introduction of this system. But the database is the servant, not the master of programming, and our humans are still very much in control, and will remain so.
ABC Classic FM is planning some changes to its Overnight program, which will actually mean more, not less voiced presentation on air. Overnight is currently a simulcast of ABC Classic 2, the online music stream launched by ABC Classic FM in 2014. A plan is on track to reintroduce a ‘voiced’ program for the midnight to 6 am timeslot before the end of the year.
As you probably know, we have great new presenters for some of our regular shows this year, including Martin Buzacott in Mornings, Genevieve Lang in Sunday Recital and Gordon Hamilton in Screen Sounds. We are also developing a group of new presenters to take on regular presentation roles in the future. We wouldn’t be investing time and training in new presenters if we were moving away from presented programs.
I hope this reassures you about the future of ABC Classic FM. We love making great music into great radio for our listeners, and we plan to keep doing just that.”

In response to Richard Buckman’s comments, Limelight has published an assessment of the current circumstances at Classic FM, written by former Classic FM staffer Greg Kenne. Read it here.

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