Stress feared as ABC tears down the silos
ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie vowed yesterday to tear down the traditional silos of television and radio in her quest to bring the broadcaster closer to audiences, while unions feared months of change would increase staff stress levels.
“The initiatives proposed today come directly from you,” Ms Guthrie told staff in a national address from the ABC’s Melbourne offices. She said the TV and radio divisions in place since the 1950s would disband in favour of three content areas, as reported by The Australian on Monday.
“This exercise today is about making sure we work collectively in better and smarter ways to serve our audiences. There is no dumbing down. We will be boosting the capability and output of genre specialist teams.”
No job losses or programming cuts would occur, she said, and the three new content teams of news, regions, and entertainment and specialist would “keep faith with our obligation to inform, educate and entertain”. The ABC would devote $10 million to skills training, introduce a cadet program for content makers and accelerate its planned additional 80 regional content roles. The ABC immediately advertised for 24 regional journalist jobs.
“This is not about cost cutting, program changes or a reduction in networks,” Ms Guthrie said.
The old news and current affairs division remains the most intact, becoming a news, analysis and investigations team which will cover federal and state politics, state and network news, investigations, and in-depth reporting, led by current news director Gaven Morris.
The new entertainment and specialist team will include program makers for factual, arts, science, children’s, entertainment, comedy and indigenous who pre- viously worked for either television or radio but will now be expected to be platform agnostic. It will be led by the former director of television David Anderson.
The regional and local team will include capital city and regional productions and also cover sport, weather and live events. Michael Mason, the director of radio, will run this group, while Fiona Reynolds, director of regional for the past three years, takes leave.
The journalists’ union cautiously welcomed the changes but warned their implementation could “exacerbate the already tough working environment”.
“Staff are concerned these changes may make the job of delivering content to ABC audiences more difficult given editorial staff are already overworked and experiencing considerable stress,” the MEAA said in a statement.
The ABC Friends group welcomed the initiatives but warned only strong partnerships between management and staff would guarantee high standards of content. “Building staff morale and trust is fundamental to the success of the ABC’s announcement today,” ABC Friends resident Margaret Reynolds said.
The ABC will also create a Content Ideas Lab, which will supervise the Great Idea Grant content fund and implement the new ABC international strategy.
The first phase of the ABC transformation in March flattened the management structure and axed 200 managers and staff.