Difficult news for some but much to be optimistic about: Michael Mason

In a memo to staff announcing the 2017 network lineups, Director of ABC Radio Michael Mason acknowledged that some of the lineup decisions for next year would be “difficult” for some staff, with 7 jobs to be lost across the Radio Division, mostly from RN.

John Cleary’s Sunday night religious program has been dropped from the Local Radio network and there is no mention of Cleary in then 2017 schedule. It is not known which other staff may leave the national broadcaster as a result of the changes, announced today.

Specifically mentioning Cleary in the memo, Mason thanked him for his 25+ years with the ABC. “He is an outstanding broadcaster and has been a committed and loyal member of ABC Radio. I sincerely hope he will return to radio in some form. Nightlife on Sundays remains committed to exploring and discussing religious and spiritual content via a regular weekly segment of the show.”

Commenting on the expected job losses, Mason said:

“There will be difficult news for some, but there is also much to be optimistic about in the commissioning of what I think is first-class audio, with the addition of some presenter talent that is genuinely exciting and which speaks to our strategy of connecting with more Australians.”

Acknowledging significant changes to the RN lineup, and movement of shifts for some high profile presenters, such as Classic FM’s Margaret Throsby, Mason said:

“There’s significant change involved, not only in the movement of our people around our networks and in the commissioning and de-commissioning of content, but in some of the fundamental approaches we take to programming and even some of the structures we’ve established within the teams.”

Full details of changes around the networks are in our other report.

RN will see the most changes, with a move away from music programming and the merging of the Features & Documentaries and the Creative Audio Units.  Mason told staff these changes will strengthen RN’s “focus on big ideas and big thinking.”
“We’ve made a strategic decision to shift contemporary adult music content to Double J and are investing further in that highly successful digital platform.
“We will also merge the RN’s Creative Audio and Features and Documentaries units, creating a single team with a sustainable and flexible structure.  The new structure will allow the network to build on its already enviable reputation and expertise for digital audio podcasts.
“We haven’t made these decisions lightly, and there is a potential impact on seven positions in RN. Decisions like this are never easy, particularly when they affect colleagues whom we value, respect and like,”
he said in the memo.
The changes are aimed to make the on-air offerings of each network consistent for listeners and to have a clear brand image for each network.

“While we are reducing the number of brands at RN, we will be able to provide audiences with a more cohesive offer, and focus on engaging with new audiences looking for great audio and digital stories, ensuring this content is freely available when and where the audience is.
“We think the future of RN is its unique ability to shine in superb spoken word content, and in the provision of specialist content and expertise to other parts of ABC Radio and the wider ABC…  I think our commissioning for 2017 has underlined the progress we’ve made with diversity on several fronts.”

Explaining the effects of ABC Radio’s digital first strategy (reported previously on radioinfo), he said:

“The increase in digital-first commissioning at RN reflects our commitment beyond our existing audiences, to the next generations of ABC Radio listeners who will in future years seek out ABC Radio for compelling, relevant digital audio that is unequalled in Australia.”

Mason is aiming for 1 billion downloads of ABC Radio programs by 2020.

Taking a swipe at a story in today’s Guardian, Michael Mason said: “This morning many of you may have read a leaked story to the Guardian which announced some of the changes we’re making in RN.
“Clearly, when change happens it’s our intention and our responsibility to inform staff ahead of the media. I am deeply sorry that the leak meant that some staff whose positions may be affected read about the changes in the paper before we could tell them in person.”

The triple j 2017 lineup, and lineup changes for ABC 666 Canberra and ABC 612 Brisbane, will be announced in the coming weeks.

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