ABC Radio and TV news and current affairs have been hit with a walkout of newsroom staff in Melbourne and Adelaide, in protest against a Sydney based television sports wrap, launched nationally last night.
The debut of the Peter Wilkins sports bulletin followed a day of heated stopwork meetings by ABC staff around the country. Only Adelaide workers joined about 100 Melbourne colleagues in a 24 hour strike, with Sydney and other states voting not to strike on the issue.
The premiers of South Australia, Victoria and Queensland have written to the ABC, criticising the new sports format, while South Australia’s Mike Rann is threatening a parliamentary inquiry into ABC local content.
ABC management has successfully sought an Industrial Relations Commission order, forcing staff back to work, but more stoppages are possible.
Acting Victorian Premier, John Thwaites, thinks the “penny pinching” decision will backfire on ABC bosses, saying people will just switch off and ABC management will have to change its decision.
“The ABC is ignoring the community,” says Victorian Friends of the ABC spokesperson Terry Laidler. “The shared opposition to the ABC’s planned change to sport coverage indicates the breadth and strength of the community’s feeling on this matter… If editorial control of television sports news is centralized in Sydney, what will be next? Friends is concerned for the future of local news.”
Managing Director, Russell Balding, says the ABC will resist all attempts by outside parties to direct its news content.
In a strongly worded statement, Balding called the strike unlawful and apologised to listeners and viewers for the disruption to programs. He said:
“The decision by some ABC staff to go out on strike over proposed changes to the
7pm news bulletin was not only
regrettable, but unlawful.
The Australian Industrial Relations Commission has ordered ABC staff to return
to work, as there was no legitimate basis
or justification for their action.
This issue goes to the heart of the ABC’s independence.
It is utterly untenable for unions and others to attempt to determine what the
ABC broadcasts on its 7pm television
It is equally inappropriate for State Premiers to attempt to influence the ABC’s
The ABC shall and must resist all attempts by outside parties to direct its
content, particularly within a news
Plans to introduce a sports segment dealing with national issues will not harm
or diminish the level of local sports
covered by state based journalists. On the contrary it will enhance the overall
There has been much misinformation disseminated in this debate, particularly
assertions by some staff and other media
that local state sports bulletins will be replaced by a national segment coming
out of Sydney. This is simply not true.
The ABC apologises for any inconvenience this unlawful action has caused to its