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.


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