News Archive

(for the latest news go to the Home page)

'You need to be prepared to make enemies': Caro Meldrum-Hanna on Four Corners

Amanda Meade - The Guardian - December 30, 2016

ABC's flagship current affairs show had a blinder of a year - continuing its groundbreaking journalism and grabbing sometimes unwelcome attention.

Nine's 60 Minutes might have hogged the headlines with its kidnapping antics in Beirut this year but in Australian TV current affairs it was the ABC's Four Corners that made its presence felt.

The program's shocking images from inside the Don Dale detention centre forced a royal commission into youth detention in the Northern Territory the day after Australia's Shame was broadcast. Full story [here]

ABC most trusted news source, poll shows, after Turnbull minister accuses it of 'fake news'

SMH - Stephanie Peatling - December 23, 2016

People trust the ABC more than any other news source and would like to see it given more money and protected from political interference, research shows.

The poll, conducted by Research Now for think tank the Australia Institute, found voters trusted and were supportive of the national broadcaster regardless of their political leanings. Full story [here]

Bishop presses ABC on Pacific 'concerns' over shortwave radio cut

Stefan Armbruster - SBS - December 22, 2016

Australia's foreign minister Julie Bishop has raised the Pacific region's "concerns" about the ABC's planned abolition of Radio Australia's shortwave service with the national broadcaster and will "seek an update in the New Year".

A chorus of criticism from the Pacific greeted the decision to pull the plug on the almost eight decades of broadcasting on January 31, with warnings it would deprive the region of "life saving" information.

Radio Australia shortwave reaches parts of the Pacific lacking FM radio or the internet, from the isolated Papua New Guinea Highlands to remote atolls, and is especially valued during natural disasters and political upheavals. Full story [here]

Cabinet minister Matt Canavan accuses ABC of publishing 'fake news' in bizarre Adani interview

SMH - Stephanie Peatling - December 23, 2016

A Turnbull government minister has accused the ABC of running "fake news" in its coverage of the Adani coal mine and treating regional Queensland like "flyover country".

In a bizarre interview with the broadcaster's AM radio program on Thursday morning, Resources and Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan said the ABC's coverage of an Indian finance ministry probe into the Adani group was "nothing but fake news". Full story [here]

Your ABC or your ASX

The Australia Institute - Rod Campbell & Fergus Pitt - December 15, 2016

The ABC is not biased against business according to the recent ABC Editorial Review of business and economics coverage.

Far from being anti-business, research released today by The Australia Institute finds that the ABC's ample coverage of business and economics skews towards big business.

Big business receives three to five times more ABC coverage than the small to medium businesses that make up a third of the Australian economy. Full story [here]

Friends go National!

There are ABC Friends or Friends of the ABC associations in each state and until recently have operated quite independently. There was always talk of a national coming together but for one reason or another it never eventuated. In June 2015 the Presidents from each state met in Adelaide to develop a national campaign for the forthcoming federal elections. The National Campaign Committee was formed and drove a highly successful campaign leading up to the 2 July 2016 elections.

During the campaign the advantage of working together, sharing resources etc., became even more obvious and so a National Steering Committee was formed to set up a national umbrella organisation for ABC Friends. Bobbie Mackley (WA), Margaret Reynolds & Kate Durkin (Tas), Sue Pinnock (SA/NT), Peter Monie (Vic) and Chris. Cartledge (NSW/ACT) have developed the necessary documentation for incorporation as ABC Friends National Inc.

On 12 December 2016 it became a reality when ABC Friends National Inc. was officially registered! The States will continue to operate as they do now, managing membership, finances and local campaigns/events but will no longer stand alone. Already standard membership categories and fees have been agreed, a national website developed ( and the Friends social media (Facebook) significantly enhanced.

Michelle Guthrie, the ABC and the turning of a once-shining jewel into mainstream sludge

Richard Ackland - The Guardian - December 14, 2016

All public broadcasters are engaged in a constant process of chopping, slicing and reinventing, and every boss spreads his or her own brand of unhappiness.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is going through one of its periodic meltdowns, brought about because a new managing director has come down from the moon and set about doing things her way.

Michelle Guthrie has arrived at the public broadcaster via Google and the House of Murdoch, with a mission to trim the budget and to keep pace with technology and its impact on viewing patterns. Full story [here]

ABC News: End of shortwave radio service 'could be life threatening'

The Swinging Post - December 2016

An Indigenous ranger group in the Northern Territory says the ABC's decision to end its shortwave radio service could be life threatening.

The ABC announced this week its three HF shortwave radio transmitters at Katherine, Tennant Creek and Roe Creek (Alice Springs), would be switched off on January 31, 2017.

ABC Radio will continue to broadcast on FM and AM bands, via the viewer access satellite television (VAST) service, streaming online and via the mobile phone application. Full story [here]

Pacific nations lose shortwave radio services that evade dictators and warn of natural disasters

Alexandra Wake - The Conversation - December 9, 2016

Australia's decision to take another step back from international broadcasting by ceasing its far reaching border crossing shortwave radio services has raised questions about who will fill the void.

For almost 80 years, Australia has provided such shortwave services, including vital emergency service information, to Asia and the Pacific. But government funding cuts saw Asian services turned off in January 2015. And now the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has decided to cut the remaining services to residents of remote parts of the Pacific, Papua New Guinea and parts of northern Australia by ceasing its shortwave radio services to the Pacific from the end of January 2017. Full story [here]

Michelle Guthrie's bruising first year atop the ABC: 'The way it was done was brutal'

Matthew Knott - SMH - December 9, 2016

Just four days into the job, it was clear Michelle Guthrie was in for a bumpy start as managing director of the ABC.

Guthrie was appearing at the May Senate estimates hearings and had told the committee she wanted to make her 7pm flight to Sydney. This left less than an hour for questions. The senators were not impressed. "Our response: you finish when we stop asking questions," one angry senator texted journalists. "My goal is to make her miss her flight." Full story [here]

'She doesn't get what we do': has ABC boss Michelle Guthrie got the insiders on her side?

Amanda Meade - The Guardian - December 9, 2016

Despite an encouraging start, the former Murdoch and Google executive has drawn fire from staff angry at cuts, an allegedly detached leadership style and apparent lack of understanding of some of Aunty's key values.

At the Lowy Institute in August, the ABC managing director, Michelle Guthrie, praised Four Corners for its story on youth detention in the Northern Territory, singling out the investigative journalism program as one of the jewels in the public broadcasting crown.

"Investigations like the searing Australia's Shame put together by Caro Meldrum-Hanna and her team on Four Corners that prove the adage that real news is revealing what someone else is trying to keep secret," she said in her keynote speech. Full story [here]

Jaws drop at ABC as Michelle Guthrie defends Radio National cuts

Amanda Meade - The Guardian - December 9, 2016

Michelle Guthrie was in Perth last week to attend the opening of the new Screenwest office located on a vacant floor inside the ABC building. The ABC managing director welcomed the screen funding agency's co-location, saying they were both in the business of making "exceptional content". And later in the afternoon she held a meet and greet with some of the ABC people who make that exceptional content, at an informal gathering over a cup of tea with local radio, news and RN staffers. Guthrie inadvertently found herself sitting at a table with staff from Radio National, which has been subjected to yet more cuts. ABC bosses 'morally and spiritually bankrupt' for axing Catalyst, RN presenter says.

Staff asked Guthrie questions about the loss of programs and experienced program-makers, and told her how upset the staff and listeners were to lose more documentary and music programs and explained why they had signed a no-confidence motion against RN management. But it didn't go at all well. Full story [here]

You say 'elite media', I say real journalism. And now more than ever we must fight to keep it

Denis Muller - The Conversation - December 9, 2016

A word, if I may, on this nasty new term of abuse "elite media" - they who perpetrate "elite journalism".

This is the journalism said by those who use the term to be out of touch with so-called "ordinary people" and their everyday concerns.

It is the journalism said to be done by people living inside the "goat's cheese curtain", in the chic inner suburbs of our cities, who are dismissed as having no idea what it is like to live in the outer suburbs, much less in regional or remote areas.

The phrase was invoked recently by Liberal Democratic senator David Leyonhjelm in his irrational proposition that he could generate a "freedom offset" against the impositions of the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation by forcing the ABC to conduct community forums after its board meetings.

This, he argued, would force its people to receive knowledge from those who lived beyond the "curtain" and so help broaden the ABC's collective mind. Full story [here]

Michelle Guthrie appoints Murdoch consultant to restructure ABC

Amanda Meade - The Guardian - December 6, 2016

Jim Rudder, who has spent most of his career working for Sky, has been brought in to help deliver Guthrie's plans for the ABC

Michelle Guthrie has hired Jim Rudder, a veteran consultant to Rupert Murdoch's global pay-TV company, Sky, to help restructure the ABC.

A former product executive at Foxtel in Sydney, Rudder has spent most of his career working for Sky. The Australian journalist has consulted for Sky operations in the UK, Germany, Italy, the US and Australia. He also spent a year as news director for Channel Nine in 2003.

Along with the "business transformation expert" Debra Frances, Rudder was brought in on a short-term contract in November "to assist the Executive in delivering our 2020 strategic objectives", Guthrie told her executive team in an email. Full story [here]

ABC Exits Shortwave Radio Transmission

ABC Media Release - December 6, 2016

The ABC will end its shortwave transmission service in the Northern Territory and to international audiences from 31 January 2017.

The move is in line with the national broadcaster's commitment to dispense with outdated technology and to expand its digital content offerings including DAB+ digital radio, online and mobile services, together with FM services for international audiences.

The majority of ABC audiences in the Northern Territory currently access ABC services via AM and FM and all ABC radio and digital radio services are available on the VAST satellite service. Full release [here]

ABC board demands director of radio explain Radio National cuts

Amanda Meade - The - December 7, 2016

The ABC board has asked the director of radio, Michael Mason, to explain the rationale behind the cuts to Radio National at a monthly, two-day board meeting in Sydney on Wednesday and Thursday.

Guardian Australia understands the managing director of the ABC, Michelle Guthrie, did not brief board members before the announcement last month of severe cuts to documentary and music programs. Full story [here]

ABC chair Jim Spigelman not expected to be reappointed by Turnbull government

Matthew Knott - SMH - December 5, 2016

The ABC is set for more uncertainty over coming months with the Turnbull government not expected to reappoint James Spigelman as the public broadcaster's chair when his term expires in March.

The ABC has been beset by tension and controversy over recent months because of changes to television and radio programming for 2017, including an overhaul of TV science program Catalyst and the removal of most music programs from Radio National. Full story [here]

Cutting on the bias

Jane Goodall - Inside Story - December 5, 2016

ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie has had a bad time in the headlines over the past couple of weeks. After responding to Noel Pearson's allegations that the ABC is "a miserable racist broadcaster" she has faced a barrage of criticism for recent cuts to Radio National programming and the loss of Catalyst from ABC television, along with its team of seventeen specialised science broadcasters. Variously accused of being "out of her depth" and "morally and spiritually bankrupt," of "gutting a cultural treasure trove" and "remaking the ABC in Murdoch's image," is she taking more heat than she deserves? Full story [here]

'If they don't like it they should leave': tensions escalate between ABC management and staff

Matthew Knott - SMH - December 5, 2016

Some of the ABC's most prominent presenters have urged their colleagues not to resist change as tensions intensify between staff and management over the direction of the ABC under managing director Michelle Guthrie.

ABC staff have in recent weeks been openly critical of programming changes for 2017, including an overhaul of TV science program Catalyst and the decommissioning of almost all music programs on Radio National. The changes follow earlier decisions to abolish the ABC Fact Check unit and online opinion and analysis site The Drum. Full details [here]

ABC wins 5 Walkley Awards in 2016

The 61st Walkeley Awards for Excellence in Journalism announced recently saw the ABC receiving a total of five awards - see full details [here]

1) Radio/Audio News and Current Affairs - PM and AM, ABC Radio, "Voices from Besieged Syria"

2) Business Journalism & Investigative Journalism - Fairfax Newspapers and ABC TV Four Corners, "Money For Nothing"

3) International Journalism - Foreign Correspondent, ABC TV, "Yemen: The War on Children"

4) TV/AV Daily Current Affairs - 7.30, ABC TV, "Anglican Church Paedophile Ring"

5) Interview - Four Corners, ABC TV, "Jackson and Lawler"

Senior ABC staff say Michelle Guthrie 'out of her depth'

Mike Seccombe - The Saturday Paper - December 3, 2016

There are many reasons the ABC comes up in survey after survey as the country's most trusted institution. Robyn Williams, it is fair to say, is one of them.

The list of honours and achievements he has collected over more than 40 years with the national broadcaster's science unit is impressive. He has 10 books to his name, multiple honorary doctorates, holds various positions with several universities here and overseas, was the first journalist to be made a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, and was voted a national living treasure by the National Trust of Australia (NSW). And that list barely scratches the surface. Full story [here]

ABC bosses 'morally and spiritually bankrupt' for axing Catalyst, RN presenter says

Amanda Meade - The Guardian - November 30, 2016

Robyn Williams laments 'trashed' science team as prominent musicians and writers call on Michelle Guthrie to reverse cuts to ABC music.

Pressure is mounting on ABC managing director, Michelle Guthrie, and the board as the community backlash to recent cuts to specialist programming on radio and television grows.

ABC radio broadcaster Robyn Williams called ABC management 'morally and spiritually bankrupt' for axing the magazine-style science program Catalyst as many of the nation's prominent musicians backed a campaign to reverse cuts to ABC music.

Hundreds of artists including Paul Kelly, Gurrumul, Missy Higgins, Archie Roach, Kate Ceberano, Tim Freedman, Sarah Blasko, Megan Washington and Katie Noonan have signed an open letter to Guthrie and the ABC board saying they are appalled by the decision to axe Daily Planet, Inside Sleeve, The Live Set, Rhythm Divine and Jazztrack. Full story [here]

Neither the ABC nor SBS have anything to fear from community forums

Brian McNair - The Conversation - November 30, 2016

Some have questioned senator David Leyonhjelm's demand that in return for his support on the government's bill to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission, the public service media organisations ABC and SBS be required to hold regular community forums. Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young described it as "a ridiculous suggestion", and accused Leyonhjem of "playing off the ABC and SBS in order to exchange votes in the Senate".

Motivations aside, it can't be a bad idea for publicly funded media to be held more accountable to their taxpaying users than has been the tradition in Australia. A community forum seems a sensible way of going about it. Full story [here]

ABC board meetings emerge as David Leyonhjelm's latest ABCC bargaining chip

Matthew Knott - SMH - November 28, 2016

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has emerged as the latest bargaining chip in the government's frenzied bid to reintroduce a building industry watchdog before Parliament rises for the year.

As revealed by Fairfax Media on Monday, Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm has agreed to support the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) in exchange for changes to the way the ABC board conducts its meetings. Senator Leyonhjelm's vote will be crucial for the government to pass its bill to reintroduce the ABCC, one of its double dissolution election triggers. Full story [here]

Changes to Radio National are gutting a cultural treasure trove

Siobhan McHugh - The Conversation - November 25, 2016

"RN is the home of big thinking, big ideas, and the national conversation," the statement from ABC management said. It seems odd that, in pursuit of that notion, RN intends to halve the output of its documentary program, Earshot; cease almost all music broadcasting; abort its flagship sound art show, Soundproof, and a short-form storytelling show, PocketDocs; and dispense with the services of respected religious broadcaster John Cleary as well as seven music and features producers.

Cleary's show, Sunday Nights, deals with "religion and ethics, beliefs and values, as they shape the issues affecting daily life in Australia and around the world". Given how much religion has informed the geopolitical landscape since 9/11, it is extraordinary that the ABC would terminate a presenter who is not only manifestly expert in this sensitive area, but whose ratings are also remarkable. Often, they were within a few points of the popular host Tony Delroy, who until recently occupied the slot weeknights. Full story [here]

Meet Fran Kelly, disc jockey: ABC bosses defend their music cuts

Amanda Meade - The - November 25, 2016

Our story last week about the big changes to Radio National in 2017 has sparked a great deal of anger from fans of the ideas network who fear management is dismantling the public broadcaster's intellectual heart with cuts to specialist programming. This week there were emotional scenes at a meeting between staff and management as the changes - including giving a second program to conservative Tom Switzer and cutting most of the music programming - were discussed. Management team members were jeered when they claimed there was still music on RN because Fran Kelly played music on Breakfast. On Thursday staff passed a no-confidence motion against management - namely the architect of the changes, director of radio Michael Mason. Full story [here]

ABC staff move no confidence motion against management over radio cuts

Ebony Bowden - SMH - November 24, 2016

ABC employees have fired a warning shot at their superiors, telling them that staff have lost confidence in their ability to manage the organisation.

More than 60 Radio National staff met at the broadcaster's Ultimo office on Thursday.

They unanimously passed a motion of no confidence, citing "systemic failure" in senior radio management and "the erosion of the editorial and managerial responsibilities of executive producers". Full story [here]

Poffington, bring me another 11 Pimms. I've been sacked by the ABC

First Dog on the Moon - The - November 18, 2016

The conservative media were delighted at the news that the Guide to Modern Living - the jewel in the crown of Radio National - had been sold to the IPA. Cartoon [here]

Malcolm Turnbull called out on the thought behind 'elite media' criticism

Chris Johnson - The NewDaily - November 20, 2016

Malcolm Turnbull is not the first prime minister to criticise journalists and their editors, but when he described the ABC and other outlets as "elite media" last week, political watchers across the country were bemused.

With the nation's very recent history proving that a fight with the media is not one any political leader should want to have, some pundits are describing Mr Turnbull's comments as unwise in the extreme.

"Has he not learned anything from Tony Abbott?" asked political lecturer at Australian National University, Dr Andrew Hughes. Full story [here]

Margaret Throsby's Midday to end in ABC Classic FM shakeup

Clive Paget - Limelight Magazine - November 17, 2016

State Symphony Orchestra Chairmen express collective disappointment at station's less talk, more music direction.

Margaret Throsby's Midday Interview is the major casualty in a shakeup of ABC Classic FM announced yesterday. A staple for many radio listener, Throsby’s popular, long-running weekday programme will be replaced by a single three-hour show, Saturday Morning with Margaret Throsby. "The decision was entirely mine, and sought by me in the middle of this year," Throsby told Limelight. "The move is being made with the ABC's blessing”. Full story [here]

Malcolm Turnbull's change of tune strains ABC friendship

Stephanie Peating - SMH - November 16, 2016

From leather-jacketed guest to constructive critic, the PM has all bases covered when it comes to the national broadcaster.

On a chilly winter's night in Canberra two years ago, Malcolm Turnbull attended the launch of a new group of cross-party MPs keen to show their support for the ABC. Full story [here]

Malcolm Turnbull turns attack on ABC and the 'elite media' for distracting people

Fergus Hunter - SMH - November 15, 2016

The ABC and "elite media" are to blame for distracting people from the government's focus on economic growth, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said, at pains to emphasise that he is in touch with the concerns of real people.

Grilled by the ABC's Leigh Sales on 7.30 about the persistence of Coalition MPs seeking to amend section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, the Prime Minister agreed that the issue is not a priority for the electorate. Full story [here]

The ABC is failing the people of NSW but Michelle Guthrie has the power to fix it

Sean Nicholls - SMH - November 11, 2016

Six months since her appointment in May, ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie will on Friday wander up to Martin Place from Ultimo for a sit down with Premier Mike Baird.

No doubt, like any meeting between a political leader and the head of a media organisation, issues of coverage and balance will be high on the agenda. Full story [here]

The ABC Friends' 2017 Fundraising Calendar


Printed in Australia on high-quality paper, the ABC Friends' 2017 Calendar is a beautiful addition to any wall. With a series of stunning photographs, we bring you a subtler vision of our great country, with pictures that highlight Australia's everyday beauty. It would make a great Christmas gift!

The Calendar is large-format, with plenty of space for you to write-in appointments and events, and includes useful and entertaining information about Our ABC. All profits from the calendar will be spent on defending the ABC's funding and independence. More details [here]

What the ABC's new Catalyst could mean for science on TV

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Joan Leach & Merryn McKinnon - The Conversation - November 4, 2016

The ABC says the run of the popular science television show, Catalyst, has reached the end in its current format.

In its place, the ABC has proposed it will deliver a series of 17 one hour-long documentaries that will be aired later in the evening than the current half-hour science magazine style programming.

It would appear that most Catalyst staff will be let go from the new series as the ABC says "up to 9 ongoing staff members may be affected" although "some staff" will be offered other positions.

This change is despite Catalyst's popularity and relatively inexpensive costs. Many documentary makers are somewhat sceptical of the ability of the ABC to follow through on the promise of the 17 documentaries independently produced from outside the ABC. Full story [here]

ABC boss Michelle Guthrie muddles her answers - then wields the axe

Amanda Meade - The Guardian - September 16, 2016

It's been the worst week for Michelle Guthrie since she started as the ABC's managing director in May. At Melbourne University's New News conference last Friday she made a couple of remarks which had to be hosed down at the weekend by her corporate minders. Then on Monday she was at the centre of a last-ditch attempt to reverse a decision by the ABC board to get rid of the award-winning science magazine show Catalyst, which is watched on TV and on digital platforms by 1 million people a week. Axing a popular show which is made in-house and which is central to the ABC charter is not a good look for a new MD. Full story [here]

'A fundamental challenge to the ABC's independence': ABC chair unloads on Turnbull government

Matthew Knott - SMH - November 2, 2016

ABC chairman Jim Spigelman has lashed out at the Turnbull government, accusing it of posing a "fundamental challenge to the independence of the ABC" by attempting to influence the broadcaster's staffing policies.

The government is furious with the ABC over a new three-year pay deal with its employees that includes 2 per cent annual pay rises, a $500 sign on bonus, two weeks' extra paid parental leave and a new provision for domestic violence leave. Full story [here]

ABC Friends' Annual Award Night Party - November 25, 2016

Join us to celebrate our Excellence in Broadcasting Award. This year the award goes to the ABC flagship program 4 Corners.

ABC's Annual Report 2016

The ABC's Annual Report for 2016 is available [here]

ABC in 2017: Diversity a focus, but which popular shows aren't returning?

Michael Lallo - SMH - November 2, 2016

As the ABC prioritises cultural diversity, some popular programs face an uncertain future.

When Michelle Guthrie took over as managing director of ABC in May, she knew the broadcaster had a problem. "I have heard it said ... that the ABC has captured the hearts and minds of every preschool and aged-care facility," the former Google executive joked in her first major speech.

Under her watch, she vowed, Aunty would strive harder to appeal to all Australians. Full story [here]

ABC axes Friday edition of 7.30 program to make way for Stan Grant show

Fergus Hunter - SMH - October 28, 2016

The ABC has axed the Friday broadcast of the 7.30 program less than two years after it controversially replaced state-based editions of the show.

From 2017 the slot will be filled by a current affairs program hosted by veteran journalist Stan Grant, who has also been appointed as the national broadcaster's new editor of Indigenous affairs. Full story [here]

It's on: government says ABC offered staff a soft pay deal

Noel Towell - SMH - October 28, 2016

A new front has opened in the Coalition's war on the ABC as government ministers accuse the broadcaster of going soft on its staff in a new pay deal.

The government says the ABC's workplace agreement snubs the Coalition's hardline public sector bargaining policy being pushed by Employment Minister Michaelia Cash. Full story [here]

Sabra Lane quits 7.30 to host the ABC's flagship radio show, AM

Michael Lallo - SMH - October 26, 2016

If politicians think this is good news for them, they should think again.

After three years as 7.30's political editor, Sabra Lane is leaving the ABC's nightly current affairs program. But Australia's politicians shouldn't breathe easy. They'll still cop a grilling from Lane, with a national audience. Only the medium will be different. Full story [here]

Attacking the ABC is a win-win for conservatives. The latest furore is no surprise.

Lee Zachariah - The Guardian - October 21, 2016

Conservative attitudes to the ABC are best summed up in a single exchange with John Howard on ABC radio to promote his show on ABC TV.

Monday night's Four Corners program about the treatment of asylum seeker children on Nauru has seen the program and the ABC attacked by both the Australian and Nauruan governments. These broad swipes - attacking the ABC as an institution rather than addressing the merits of the journalism - is an approach that only works if you've been undermining the national broadcaster through years of culture wars.

The entire conservative attitude towards the ABC was summed up in a single exchange last month. Full story [here]

Sydney Morning Herald Editor Judith Whelan quits Fairfax Media to join the ABC

Georgina Mitchell - SMH - October 14, 2016

The Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, Judith Whelan, will leave Fairfax Media to join the ABC.

Ms Whelan has been appointed the Head of Spoken Content at ABC Radio and will oversee the capital city radio network, Radio National and sports network Grandstand. Full story [here]

One Nation's Brian Burston slams ABC

Francis Keany - ABC News - October 12, 2016

A One Nation senator has suggested de-funding the ABC and establishing the "Patriotic Broadcasting Corporation" instead.

New South Wales senator Brian Burston has criticised multiculturalism and Muslim immigration in his maiden speech to Federal Parliament. Full story [here]

The Conversation working with The ABC

Misha Ketchell - The Conversation - October 3, 2016

Today I'd like to fill you in on some work we've been doing behind the scenes. The Conversation's mission is to help create a better informed public debate by making it easier for academics and researchers to take part.

One way we do this is by sharing the expertise of The Conversation's academic authors as widely as we can. We make everything we do free to republish under creative commons and work in partnership with key media organisations in Australia and globally.

A few weeks ago we deepened our collaboration with the ABC to ensure the Australian public broadcaster gets the best from The Conversation authors. For the past six weeks Adam Connors, a senior member of the ABC news team, has been working with us to alert ABC journalists to our upcoming articles and identify opportunities to work with the ABC to inform its audience with deep context and explanation. Full story [here]

Michelle Guthrie pushes ABC executives to go for the X-factor

Amanda Meade - The Guardian - September 16, 2016

The ABC's managing director, Michelle Guthrie, has embarked on a grand plan to reshape the broadcaster, starting with a hand-picked team of executives dubbed Think-X.

Shorthand for "Thinking Experience", Think-X has a clear goal: work out how to be more "pan-ABC", whatever that means. "Think-X came from the MD's observation that we need a more strategic, pan-ABC approach to shaping and raising engagement across our three main stakeholder groups - staff, audiences and community," the leaked memo says. Full story [here]

Aussie TV viewers' biggest gripes revealed

SMH - Michael Lallo - September 11, 2016

When Labor was in power, Aussie TV viewers had a prosaic list of gripes: shows that started and finished late (or disappeared mid-season) and incorrect program guides. But during Tony Abbott's prime ministership, a bigger concern emerged: keeping our public broadcasters free of government influence. At least, that's what TV Tonight's audience survey respondents say.

And for the second year running, they've nominated the independence of ABC and SBS as their greatest worry. Full story [here]

ABC clarifies Swisse sponsorship after uni 'damned by association'

Amanda Meade - The Guardian - August 30, 2016

The ABC has had to clarify its sponsorship arrangements with Swisse Wellness after Monash University came under fire for being too closely associated with the vitamin brand on the ABC's international website.

Last week the ABC promoted its new commercial sponsorships by displaying three logos - Swisse, Monash and the Victorian government - together in a blue banner on Australia Plus. Full story [here]

Letter from Lynley Marshall, Chief Executive ABC International

"ABC International is expressly permitted under the ABC Act to accept advertising and sponsorship. It does so in accordance with the ABC Editorial Policies, ensuring that editorial decisions are in no way influenced by any companies, Government, universities or other organisations who advertise or provide sponsorship on Australia Plus." Full letter [here]

Nielsen Digital Ratings: ABC Leads Unique Audience, Enters Top Five

B & T Magazine - August 29, 2016

The ABC News websites have surged into top spot for unique audience, overtaking previous leaders of and smh. Meanwhile, has made its first appearance in the top five, following its recent rebrand.

The ABC’s news sites have seen an increase in unique audience of 30 per cent to 6.5 million, compared to the previous month. Full story [here]

Landmark study finds diversity lagging on Australian TV

The Conversation - Madeleine de Gabriele - August 24, 2016

In 1999, there were just two Indigenous actors on Australian television: Aaron Pederson and Heath Bergerson. Today, 5% of all main characters on our small screens are Indigenous, while Indigenous people make up 3% of our population.

This dramatic turnaround is one of the most positive findings of a Screen Australia survey of all 199 dramas aired on Australian television between 2011 and 2015. On screen portrayal of other culturally diverse groups, such as those of non-Anglo Celtic background and those identifying as LGBTQI lags far behind their representation in the community. Full story [here]

ABC under fire over deal with vitamin giant Swisse Wellness

SMH - Matthew Knott - August 24, 2016

The ABC has come under fire for signing a sponsorship deal with Swisse Wellness that will help the vitamin giant promote its products throughout the Asia-Pacific.

The ABC this week announced Swisse, the Victorian government and Monash University as its three "foundation partners" for its international media service Australia Plus. Full story [here]

ABC announces partnership with Swisse Wellness - Sheshtyn Paola - August 23, 2016

ABC International, a division of the ABC responsible for the broadcaster's international outlets, has announced it has taken on its first partners to support the expansion of its online media service Australia Plus.

These partners are Monash University, the Victorian State government and Swisse Wellness, which it refers to in its press release as "Australia's leading natural health brand".

Australia Plus Foundation Partners receive exclusive branding and advertising opportunities across all Australia Plus online platforms, digital and social media channels and Australia Plus TV, as well as through regional partners including Beijing TV and Singapore's Mediacorp. Full story [here]

A Global ABC: Address to the 2016 Lowy Institute Media Award Dinner

Michelle Guthrie - MD ABC - Aug 11, 2016

"My first few months at the ABC have highlighted the importance of an international perspective in the job."

"The ABC is an immensely proud Australian institution with an 84-plus year history. However, if it is to flourish up to – and beyond – its 100th birthday, the Corporation cannot pretend that best practice will come from looking inward. Our audiences and our media colleagues long ago transcended national borders and the ABC needs to be truly global in its thinking and its actions."

"The challenges the ABC is facing are the same as those confronting every media company in the world – from the traditional players, through to the new, digital upstarts." Read the full address [here]

Protect ABC Classic FM - Petition

ABC Classic FM, Australia's only national classical music broadcasting network, is at risk of a major restructure which will replaced established presenter-led live-to-air formats with pre-recorded, digitally managed programming.

Broadcasting 24 hours a day, it presents a broad range of music to a loyal listenership, curated by knowledgeable and expert presenters. It has been a showcase for many talented Australian orchestras and musicians.

Act now to save this precious jewel of the ABC by adding your name to a petition to new ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie. Sign the petition [here]

Nats ‘ignored’ ABC funding concerns

Echonet Daily - July 27, 2016

The group Friends of the ABC says the National Party has not responded to a recent survey it sent to federal candidates in Page and Richmond and requests to meet with the party's Page MP Kevin Hogan and Richmond candidate Matthew Fraser were 'ignored'.

ABC Friends Northern Rivers recently wrote to local MPs and electoral candidates for the three major parties in Page and Richmond, asking them to 'indicate their position regarding the value and role of the ABC'.

Peter Dickson, President of the Northern Rivers ABC Friends said that 'our key questions to these politicians and would-be politicians related to maintaining the independence, continued public funding and future direction of our ABC, given the broken promise made prior to the 2014 budget.' Full story [here]

Waleed Aly to present the 2016 Andrew Olle Media Lecture

ABC Media Release - July 27, 2016

The 2016 Andrew Olle Media Lecture will be delivered by Waleed Aly, one of Australia’s most respected and versatile media talents on Friday 14 October 2016 and broadcast on 702 ABC Sydney.

ABC Managing Director Michelle Guthrie described Waleed as an original voice in Australian national affairs and an outstanding choice for this year’s Andrew Olle Lecture, delivered in memory of one of Australia’s greatest journalists.

“The ABC is delighted Waleed has accepted our invitation to deliver the 2016 Andrew Olle Media Lecture,” Ms Guthrie said. Full story [here]

Changing their tune: ABC news theme update back on agenda

Matthew Knott - SMH - August 6, 2016

It has long been a dream at the ABC: a single theme song played at the start of news bulletins on both television and radio. And now it's back on the agenda.

Fairfax Media understands the ABC wants to update its news themes and create a consistent brand across all its platforms.

Having different themes is seen as out-dated in the digital era, as audiences increasingly consume content on their mobile phones and computers.

As part of these discussions, the ABC has explored resurrecting a much-loved former theme which has since taken a new life as a dance-floor favourite. Full story [here]

ABC source dries up as transcripts of news and current affairs shows curtailed

Amanda Meade - The Guardian - August 5, 2016

Some broadcasters at the ABC are not happy with a decision by management to dramatically wind back transcriptions of news and current affairs programs. The transcripts of AM, The World Today, PM, 7.30 and Lateline are a major journalistic source at Aunty and beyond, and are also widely used by politicians, researchers and the public.

But a note from the head of current affairs, Bruce Belsham, seen by Weekly Beast, says only one key interview from each radio program will be transcribed. "From Monday 8th August there is a change to our transcription set-up and from then only the key interviews from our programs will be transcribed," the note said. Full story [here]

ABC's Four Corners shines light on NT juvenile justice system

Mark Day - The Australian - August 1, 2016

Even the ABC's sternest critics must grant this: Aunty hit a purple patch last week. Its fearless reporting made global headlines, sparked immediate government action and quite possibly provided us with a glimpse of the future of journalism. It was quite a week.

7.30 kicked it off on Monday with a report on age abuse which showed an apparent attempt to suffocate an 89-year-old man in a nursing home. That disturbing incident was quickly overshadowed by Four Corners' scandalous vision from inside Northern Territory detention facilities - a report sure to be another Gold Walkley Award contender from reporter Caro Meldrum-Hanna. Full story [here]

Four Corners' NT justice story exemplar of mainstream media

Chris Mitchell - The Australian - August 1, 2016

The media takeout from the astounding Four Corners program on Monday night and the royal commission into juvenile justice in the Northern Territory announced Tuesday morning has to be this: mainstream media is more important to our nation continent in the age of Twitter and 24-hour current affairs television than it has ever been.

Never has there been more media to less effect. Millions of words were written and spoken this week about the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre and the five children whose plight was highlighted in closed-circuit television footage aired on the program. Full story [here]

ABC cleared of 'anti-business' bias in independent review

Matthew Knott - SMH - July 22, 2016

The ABC has been cleared of systemic "anti-business" bias in a major review of its coverage, with former ANZ boss Mike Smith confessing he has rethought his negative perceptions of the broadcaster.

The independent editorial review, for which Mr Smith was a key adviser, has been one of the broadcaster's most comprehensive yet. As well as analysing a week's worth of ABC programming, the review included interviews with ABC business staff and submissions from business groups, think-tanks and unions. Full story [here]

Top Liberal aide takes senior role at ABC to ensure 'constructive relationships'

Amanda Meade - The Guardian - July 22, 2016

The ABC appears to be shoring up its Liberal credentials with the appointment of Josh Faulks, the deputy chief of staff to the attorney general, George Brandis. Faulks takes up the role of head of partnerships and policy at the broadcaster, working with head of TV, Richard Finlayson, to secure funding for content.

Finlayson says Faulks will “ensure that we have open and constructive relationships with our stakeholders and partners in the sector”. In other words, he will be a lobbyist. Full story [here]

ABC TV appoints Josh Faulks as Head of Partnerships and Policy

Imogen Corlette - Communications Manager ABC Audience and Marketing, ABC TV - July 20, 2016

ABC TV is pleased to announce the appointment of Josh Faulks as Head of Partnerships and Policy.

This role will be responsible for identifying and prioritizing opportunities for ABC TV to enhance funding sources and content partnerships. It will also take on strategy, advocacy and stakeholder communication activities for the TV Division, working alongside the Corporate Communications team.

As a senior political staffer with experience in two governments as well as the Opposition, Josh well understands the policy and political process and has extensive networks at the highest levels of government. Most recently, he was Deputy Chief of Staff to the Attorney General and Leader of the Government in the Senate. He also has considerable experience of the media industry and media policy from his time at Communications Alliance and as Head of Corporate Affairs with Salmat Ltd. Full story [here]

Help Save Australian Public Broadcasting

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is under attack.

Through a "Death by a Thousand Cuts," the ABC is a shadow of its former self, and ABC Friends National is conducting an Australia-wide campaign to restore funding and save its independence.

Our campaign needs boosting

With just two part-time employees, and an army of volunteers, we created a very successful Federal Election Campaign. Our Social Media content reached millions of people, and helped put the fate of Our ABC on the political agenda.

You can join the campaign [here]

Celebrate 50 years of Play School with ABC

ABC TV - Safia van der Zwan - Television Publicist

Since its initial broadcast on July 18, 1966, Play School has been entertaining Australian preschoolers, providing them with new experiences and learning opportunities through music, crafts, stories, games, ideas and information. The series aims to encourage a child to wonder, to think, to feel and to imagine, and strives to reflect a modern, diverse Australian society.

Fellow national TV treasure Kate Ritchie will present Big Ted's Excellent Adventure: 50 Years of Play School, a documentary that takes a nostalgic journey through Aussie childhood, reliving the laughter and delights of half a century of Play School while charting 50 years of the nation's social history. Well known Australians, including, Mikey Robins, Hannah Gadsby, Nazeem Hussain, Craig McLachlan and members of the original Wiggles, share their personal memories of the show, alongside anecdotes from past and present Play School presenters, including Benita Collings, John Waters and Justine Clarke. Full story [here]

Play School presenters past and current share memories of the iconic show

SMH - Nick Galvin - July 18, 2016

In one sentence. Play School is a program of integrity for children under five that takes the time to engage the curiosity of children to educate them in an entertaining way.

Your most memorable gaffe? I once had to do a segment about tiny turtles and describe the way they pop their heads out of their shells. The rehearsal went brilliantly with each of the four turtles poking their head out. During the segment, none popped their heads out so I had to ad-lib as I tried to entice them out of their shells. When the show finished, we decided to find out why the turtles didn't appear. We discovered that all the turtles had died during the segment due to the heat from the studio lights. So not only did I feel like a fool, I felt like a murderer... Full story [here]

Veteran broadcaster Greg Keane speaks out about Classic FM

Limelight Magazine - by Maxim Boon - July 13, 2016

The former 'Classic Breakfast' producer challenges manager Richard Buckham's denial of station shakeup.

After being approached over a period of several months by current and former ABC Classic FM staff, Limelight published an article last week reporting alleged changes, believed to be imminent, that would affect the classical radio station's future offering.

The news item outlined the belief by several highly respected and credible sources connected to the broadcaster, that the station would be moving away from its established presenter-led, live-to-air formats in favour of pre-recorded, digitally managed programming with a substantially reduced amount of presenter commentary. Full story [here]

SAVING ABC CLASSIC FM ABC - Friends Launches New National Campaign

Media Release - July 12, 2016

Reports that ABC management is planning further cuts to ABC Classic FM has spread anger and alarm among the station's large body of supporters.

ABC Friends has launched a national campaign to save Classic FM, ABCF National Spokesperson and former Senator Margaret Reynolds announced today.`

She said music lovers are being urged to contact the ABC and Federal parliamentarians to insist that bureaucratic recommendations be set aside to protect this national icon.

"The problem with too many ABC management decisions is that they fail to understand what is valued by ABC shareholders," Ms Reynolds said.

"Of all the ABC's services, Classic FM has the most dedicated audience, scattered all over the continent." "For many of them it is their most important source of musical enjoyment," She said. Full release [here]

Major cuts to ABC Classic FM "imminent" say inside sources

Limelight Magazine - by Maxim Boon, Clive Paget - July 7, 2016

A drastic shakeup of the radio station could see the loss of several programmes and many popular presenters.

ABC Classic FM could be facing its most radical restructure ever, according to senior sources within the broadcaster. Under the planned restructuring, which is yet to be made public, the major shakeup of the ABC's classical music radio station 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.

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. Full story [here]

ABC closes opinion website the Drum with immediate effect

The Guardian - Amanda Meade - July 5, 2016

The ABC has axed its opinion website the Drum in a cost-saving move that is one of the first significant decisions in the reign of the new managing director, Michelle Guthrie.

The ABC insisted the decision had been driven by the ABC's head of news, Gaven Morris, in an attempt to corral the news division's online output into one place rather than under a separate masthead.

The Drum online is an opinion and news analysis website that publishes regular contributions from inside and outside the ABC, including from ABC journalists Barrie Cassidy, Ian Verrender and Annabel Crabb. Full story [here]

"Where Would We Be Without Our ABC?"

ABC Friends' Campaign Song

Last Media Watch 2017 - What could happen to our ABC!

Last Media Watch 2017 - What could happen to our ABC! - Video - YouTube 1:37

Watch all the Friend's videos on YouTube [here]

ABC's YourSpace

The ABC's YourSpace is an online community where your opinions will contribute to shaping the future of the ABC.

Why Join? Share your opinions and be entered into monthly prize draws. You'll be the first to get a sneak peek at what we're working on and you can help influence content and product decisions. More [here]

Nats 'ignored' ABC funding concerns

Echo NetDaily - June 27, 2016

The group Friends of the ABC says the National Party has not responded to a recent survey it sent to federal candidates in Page and Richmond and requests to meet with the party's Page MP Kevin Hogan and Richmond candidate Matthew Fraser were 'ignored'.

ABC Friends Northern Rivers recently wrote to local MPs and electoral candidates for the three major parties in Page and Richmond, asking them to 'indicate their position regarding the value and role of the ABC'. Full story [here]

Foreign Media Baron Enters Australian Election Fray

Foreign Media Baron Enters Australian Election Fray - Video - YouTube 2:14

Watch all the Friend's videos on YouTube [here]

ABC Friends Recruits Humphrey B. Bear To Paint Frightening Future Of ABC

B&T Magazine - June 9, 2016

An old Aussie favourite, Humphrey B. Bear himself, has resurfaced as part of ABC Friend's campaign to keep, and in fact completely restore, all the funding for the ABC. It's the second instalment of a series of 10 videos that show the terrible future of television should the ABC be left without financial support.

The world painted in this new clip isn't much better than the last, where host of 7.30 Leigh Sales was a contestant on 'I'm a Celebrity - Get Me Out Of Here', among other horrors.

This video shows an intensely commercialised ABC, where Bananas in Pyjamas are rife with product placement, and the Bananas wear Nike tracksuits and eat McDonald's Happy Meals. Full story [here]

ABC's Bananas 'trade pyjamas for Nike tracksuits, eat Happy Meals' in new campaign warning

Brisbane Times - Michael Gordon - June 8, 2016

A new video by the group opposing funding cuts to the ABC warns of product placement in children's programs and features the iconic figure of commercial children's television, Humphrey B. Bear.

The video features a young girl watching television with the bear "sometime in the future" and expressing incredulity as she discovers the extent of product placement. "Why do the Bananas in Pyjamas have Nike logos?" she asks, before she realises they are wearing Nike tracksuits and eating McDonald's Happy Meals. Full story & video [here]

Labor promises ABC a trip down memory lane

Screen ArtsHub - David Tilley

ABC marches wearily on, its pack full of bills, as the ALP goes back to the future with its single promise.

The theory out in apparatchik-land is that political promises only get made now when they have multiple benefits to an economic bottom line. Hence a symbolic commitment to restoring the battered public broadcasters.

Bill Shorten and Mark Dreyfus crowded into Melbourne's small Malthouse Theatre on Saturday 2 June to announce an arts policy which fixes the Brandis/Fifield funding problems, and adds an extra $20m per year over the next four years to the Arts Council.

It also offered the ABC $60m for new drama, presumably over the same period. it is noticeable that SBS in not mentioned at all. So far, the Dreyfus camp is refusing to be drawn on that issue, although I understand that this is not the final word in the arts area. There will be more to come. Full story [here]

We care about our ABC - Petition

Our politicians have forgotten how important our ABC is to us.

Constant funding cuts are placing the very existence of our ABC at risk.

While the ABC is trying valiantly to deliver services to metro, regional and local communities, it is continually being forced to cut back further. By the time we go to the polls on July 2, the ABC will have lost more than $100 million in funding a year!

The petition will be delivered to: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Treasurer Scott Morrison & Communications Minister Mitch Fifield.


Leigh Sales is a reality star and Kerry O'Brien is eating lizards for ratings: Parody video shows what the ABC would turn into if the broadcaster's funding is cut

Daily Mail Australia - Max Margan - June 2, 2016

A parody video has painted a bleak picture of what the ABC could look like if the public broadcaster's funding is not restored.

In the video, which is set in an Australian lounge room 'sometime in the future', investigative journalism is a thing of the past.

Current affairs program Four Corners 'hasn't been on for years' and has been replaced by Bush Survivor, a reality show set in the jungle. Full story [here]

Social media campaign shows terrifying vision of a future ABC - Liz Burke - June 2, 2016

Publicly funded investigative journalism is a thing of the past, current affairs veteran Kerry O’Brien is a reality TV star, reduced to eating barbecued lizards for prime time entertainment, and Leigh Sales has been voted off the island.

An interest group devoted to "keeping the ABC independent" has launched a social media blitz convincing voters this terrifying scenario is the future of the ABC under a Coalition government.

Videos depicting an Australian lounge room "sometime in the future", show a couple watching an ABC where Bush Survivor has replaced Four Corners which "hasn't been on for years".

O'Brien carries out humiliating tasks which Sales wasn't up to - she was thrown for not eating the tarantula. Full story [here]

ABC Friends' independence campaign targets marginal Coalition seats

The Guardian - Elle Hunt - June 2, 2016

A not-for-profit organisation is targeting nearly 30 marginal Coalition seats in a national campaign to "protect the independence of the ABC" ahead of the election.

ABC Friends is encouraging voters to support candidates who are on the record as supporting the national broadcaster following cuts under Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull's governments.

ABC Friends' first national campaign will target 27 marginal electorates, most held by the Coalition, across Australia: eight in New South Wales, three in Victoria, three in Tasmania, four in Queensland, and one each in Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory. Full story [here]

ABC suffering slow death by a thousand cuts

SMH- Ranald Macdonald - June 1, 2016

The ABC is needing support and protection because it is severely wounded.

Cuts to its funding have continued. One media analyst calculates that by the election on July 2, the ABC will have lost more than $100 million a year in base funding, tied funding and other government contracts for services since the Coalition came to power.

Australia needs a well-funded, independent ABC to provide an alternative voice,and to meet its charter requirements throughout this vast country. Its programming for all areas of our community is unique and extensive, as, for example, it provides emergency services and vital contact with the regional and rural communities. Full story [here]

Election 2016: Cashed-up marginal seat ABC campaign another headache for Malcolm Turnbull

SMH - Michael Gordon - June 1, 2016

A cashed-up campaign to oppose funding cuts to the ABC and defend the public broadcaster's independence will target more than 20 marginal Coalition seats in a new headache for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

More than 10 videos will be released on social media urging younger voters to support candidates who commit to restore funding cut since the last election. The national campaign has also enlisted thousands of volunteers to ask voters in the marginal seats to sign "pledge cards" supporting the ABC. Full story [here]

The federal budget and the end of ABC Fact Check

The Saturday Paper - Jim Middleton - May 28, 2016

The demise of ABC Fact Check brings into question government funding and the national broadcaster's right to decide where taxpayer dollars go.

Just before Christmas, ABC news director Gaven Morris and one of his offsiders, Bruce Belsham, called together about 20 senior reporters and executive producers. They had bad news. The Turnbull government was refusing overtures to discuss the national broadcaster's 2016 budget.

However, they assured the gathering that in assessing any future cuts, it would not be a case of "last on, first off" - that they should not assume any of the initiatives developed as a result of the Gillard government gifting ABC News $20 million in 2013 for three years would be scrapped. One of those was the fact-checking unit. Full story [here]

New ABC redundancies the direct result of latest budget cuts

MEAA - May 18, 2016

The axing of the Fact Check unit and other editorial redundancies at the ABC are the inevitable result of funding cuts in this month's federal Budget.

The announcement by ABC management this afternoon of 14 positions to be cut from the Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne newsrooms has been made more painful by yet another deplorable use of targeted redundancies.

Talented journalists, from the Fact Check Unit and National Reporting Team now have been given their marching orders, with little notice their position was in the firing line, and no chance to explore swap-outs or redeployment options before their positions were eliminated.

The loss of quality journalism and talented colleagues will impact newsrooms around the country, from Brisbane to Sydney, and Melbourne to Perth. Full atory [here]

ABC Fact Check unit to close following budget cuts

ABC News - May 18, 2016

The ABC's Fact Check unit is set to close as part of budget cuts likely to result in the loss of 14 jobs across the corporation.

ABC News director Gaven Morris confirmed the proposed changes in an email to staff on Wednesday afternoon.

On top of the ABC's regular annual budget, the former Rudd government provided $60 million over three years for enhanced newsgathering services.

In this month's budget, the Federal Government trimmed that funding to approximately $41.4 million for the next three years. Full story [here]

Details of Funding Cuts to the ABC - Primary Sources

Dept of Communications - Details of the ABC funding allocation in the 2016 budget [here] PDF 21pps 228KB.
On page 75 you will see "Total funds from Government 2015/16 is $1,084,413,000 and 2016/17 is $1,036,090,000" = $48,323,000 cut!

The ABC's FactCheck traces the government's broken promises on ABC funding [here]

The cumulative cuts to ABC funding since 2014, according to the February 2016 submission by the ABC to the House of Reps Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts [here] PDF 24pps 637KB
On page 3 - Table 1. ABC funding cuts 2014-15 to 2018-19

No cuts to the ABC? Public broadcaster $100m poorer than in 2013

Crikey - Myriam Robin - May 10, 2016

Remember when Tony Abbott promised no cuts to the ABC? "No cuts" turned out to mean $101 million worth of cuts.

By the time Australia goes to the polls on July 2, the ABC will have lost more than $100 million a year in base funding, tied funding and other government contracts for services since the Liberal government first came to power in September 2013. Full story [here]

Promise check: No cuts to the ABC

ABC FactCheck - May 8, 2016

On the eve of the September 2013 election, Tony Abbott promised that there would be no cuts to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation under a Coalition government.

During a live interview with SBS from Penrith football stadium, Mr Abbott said: "No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS."

This promise was broken when the Government announced cuts to the ABC worth $35.5 million over four years in the 2014-15 budget, as well as announcing the termination of the ABC's Australia Network contract, saving the Government $197 million over nine years.

Further cuts of $254 million over five years were announced in November 2014, and smaller ones in the 2016-17 budget. Here's how the promise tracked:

Stop the Cuts to the ABC - Sign the Petition

The ABC is one of the building blocks of Australian society - a fair and impartial media that's free of ads and free to access for everyone.

Every parent understands the important role the ABC plays for kids, but our national broadcaster also plays a crucial role in the social fabric of our country, providing news that matters to all Australians and telling local stories for regional areas.

Malcolm Turnbull's cuts mean an uncertain future for our national broadcaster. Sign the petition to stop the cuts to the ABC [here]

Memo to Michelle Guthrie: expert ideas for the new ABC era

The Conversation - Jonathon Hutchinson - Peter Manning - Vincent O'Donnell - May 9, 2016

The ABC’s new managing director, Michelle Guthrie, has been in the job for a week. She has already made it her mission to increase diversity at the broadcaster and Helen Vatsikopoulos offers some suggestions how to here. We asked a group of experts to consider what needs to be done in other areas: from news and current affairs coverage to local content to digital services. Read what they have to say [here]

Why ABC boss Michelle Guthrie is right about needing more diversity

SMH - Jacqueline Maley, May 6, 2016

The new ABC boss, Michelle Guthrie, commenced work this week, and started as she presumably means to go on - by calling for greater diversity in content and staff.

Her comments, sent in an all-staff email, echo those of her outgoing predecessor, Mark Scott.

Scott used one of his last interviews to obliquely admit the public broadcaster's extant domination by the Anglo male - a critter who, in other, less reality-constrained segments of the media, is considered to be the most persecuted species of all. Full story [here]

Letter to the SMH Editor

Dear Editor,
The ABC suffered massive cuts, again, in the Federal Budget. A total of $48m was cut from the corporation, undermining its News, Online and Mobile output. Unfortunately many media organisations wrongly reported that the cutbacks were less serious, because they failed to notice that the government had not included one of the cuts in the budget papers.

Please, let there be no mistake, the ABC has $48m less than it had before this budget, and ABC Friends isn't going to stand for it any more. We are gearing-up for the election campaign, drawing on our many thousands of volunteers across the country to target a selection of key marginal seats. Let the record be corrected: The ABC has had a big cut - just one of the thousand which will cause its death.

Mal Hewitt
President ABC Friends NSW
6 May 2016

Half of ABC staff don't think Aunty lives up to its values

Crikey - Myriam Robin - May 5, 2016

Only one in five (21%) of ABC staff think that senior ABC leadership executives work well together, communicate effectively and treat staff across the organisation well, according to a survey of almost 3000 ABC staff. And with more job losses threatened in the wake of funding being cut in the federal budget, dissatisfaction is likely to grow even further. Full story [here]

Huge Hit to ABC in 2016 Budget - Almost $50M cut Over the Next Three Years

ABC Friends Media Release - May 3, 2016

The 2016 Budget Papers reveal more severe cuts to the ABC, adding up to almost $50m over the corporation's next three-year agreement with the government.

The ABC's Triennial Funding was released as part of tonight's budget.

It revealed a more than $6m would be axed from the ABC News Division annually, along with millions-of-dollars worth of cuts to the development of the ABC's online and mobile capacity. Full Media Release [here]

Read detailed ABC Budget Statement [here] PDF 21 pps 228KB.
On page 75 you will see "Total funds from Government 2015/16 = $1,084,413 and 2016/17 = $1,036,090

Budget 2016: Michelle Guthrie calls for more diverse ABC as fact check unit faces chop

SMH - Matthew Knott, May 2, 2016

Michelle Guthrie has vowed to use her position as the ABC's first female managing director to create a more diverse public broadcaster, with greater representation of women and multicultural communities.

In an email to staff on her first official day in the job, Ms Guthrie said the ABC must "extend our reach and our relevance into areas where we are under-represented", which "means more diversity in both our staff and our content". Full story [here]

The biggest challenge facing the ABC's new boss

The New Daily - Quentin Dempster - April 27, 2016

The ABC's new managing director Michelle Guthrie faces an immediate challenge in her first full week in command at the national public broadcaster.

Ms Guthrie, a former Google Asia, Foxtel and News Corp senior executive, will be sweating on Treasurer Scott Morrison's first federal budget next Tuesday.

If the ABC loses a $20 million special annual budget supplementation initiated by former treasurer Wayne Swan, Ms Guthrie will have to sack 10 per cent of her workforce of 1000 journalists. Full story [here]

Coalition Risks Marginals with ABC Closures

ABC Friends Media Release - April 26, 2016

ABC Friends is warning the Federal Government that it risks losing votes in marginal electorates if it closes a number of regional news bureaux.

It's widely anticipated that the ABC News Division will lose at least 10 per cent of its funding in next week’s Federal Budget.

Under the outlined cuts, the ABC would lose at least three regional bureaux in marginal seats: Corangamite, Blair and Parramatta. Full Media Release [here]

Outgoing ABC chief Mark Scott takes parting shot at Murdoch empire

The Guardian - Amanda Meade - April 25, 2016

In a wide-ranging interview, the managing director reflects on a decade at the helm of Australia's public broadcaster, the importance of an independent ABC, his battles with News Corp and the future of media in the digital age.

Mark Scott has rounded on the ABC's critics at Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, saying their opposition to public broadcasting is commercially motivated and out of touch with the public's great affection for it. Don't blame the ABC for problems of commercial media, says Mark Scott.

"I think there are some who actually don't want a strong public broadcaster," Scott told Guardian Australia before his final week as the ABC's managing director. Full story [here]

Broken promises, reality TV and 'loud critics': Mark Scott on 10 years at ABC

SMH - Michael Lallo- April 25, 2016

When Mark Scott was put in charge of the ABC, one columnist sniffed that he had "risen without trace".

A decade later, the Financial Review called him "the most attacked managing director" in Australia.

Everyone knows him now.

His admirers say he has dragged Aunty into the 21st century, with its News24 channel, iView, and opinion and news websites. They praise him as an aggressive defender of public broadcasting. Full story [here]

ABC Friends Appoints National Campaign Coordinator

ABC Friends Media Release - April 22, 2016

Distinguished former ABC journalist, videographer and author Jeff Waters has joined ABC Friends as its National Campaign Coordinator. The appointment signifies a major push by the Friends leading into the Federal Election, aimed at putting future funding of the ABC on the political agenda.

ABC Friends, the national lobby group supporting increased funding and independence for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, sees his as a significant appointment, as it tries to ensure that the continuous funding reductions are not allowed to continue. Full Media Release [here]

Mark Scott blames govt for ABC's Sydney focus

Crikey - Cassidy Knowlton - April 22, 2016

You want the ABC to cover regional Australia better? Give it more money, says departing boss Mark Scott. Full story [here]

ABC Managing Director Blames Government for Sydney-Centrism

Media Release - April 22, 2016

The ABC's outgoing Managing Director, Mark Scott, has admitted today that the corporation has become "Sydney-centric" as a direct result of government funding cuts.

ABC viewers and listeners across the continent have been complaining, over recent years, that news and programmes were starting to concentrate too much on Sydney issues, at the expense of the rest of the country. Taking talkback calls on ABC774"s morning programme with Jon Faine, Mr Scott said the move of jobs and resources to Sydney was a deliberate undertaking. Full Media Release [here]

More hits than misses for Mark Scott's ABC

The Age - Jonathan Holmes - April 20, 2016

I've worked for the ABC, off and on, since 1982. Mark Scott was the seventh managing director during that time, and in my view incomparably the best. Here are a few reasons why I think so.

Next week will be Scott's last as the ABC boss. Through it all, he has managed the Canberra public service and his political masters supremely well. For the first part of his tenure the ABC board had several members who seemed to have been appointed by the Howard government simply on the strength of their outspoken criticism of the ABC. They had no other visible qualifications. Scott coped. Full story [here]

ABC rejects criticism its Chinese web portal bows to Beijing censorship

The Guardian - Amanda Meade - April 16, 2016

The ABC has strongly rejected criticism its Chinese web portal,, helps Beijing to silence critical voices in the region.

An opinion piece in the Australian Financial Review by Prof John Fitzgerald, director of the Asia Pacific program in social investment and philanthropy at Swinburne University of Technology accused the ABC of selling out its news values in order to get a foothold in China.

"The ABC has not, and never has, entered into an agreement with China or any country in regards to censorship of its content," the ABC said in a strongly-worded statement. Read the full story [here]

ABC Friends say regional jobs will be the first to go if funding is not renewed

The Border Mail - April 11, 2016

Regional jobs will go first if funding for the ABC is not renewed in the 2016-2017 budget, according to ABC Friends national spokesman Ranald Macdonald.

Mr Macdonald addressed concerns about funding shortfalls with a crowd of about 100 people at a public forum at The Cube, Wodonga, on Thursday evening. Full story [here]

ABC Friends back senior broadcasters over management

ABC Friends Media Release - April 10, 2016

ABC Friends has expressed outrage at a new level of radio management being installed at the ABC, at the same time as the corporation is facing a funding-cuts crisis.

Friends Spokesman Ranald Macdonald says the reported re-structuring of ABC radio management, which included a number of new high-level jobs, was of "grave concern."

Mr Macdonald was speaking from Albury-Wodonga, where ABC Friends has been holding special campaign meetings ahead of a pre-election push in the marginal seat of Indi.

"I've just spent two days at public meetings about the ABC and its ability to maintain services, particularly in regional areas," he said. Full Media Release [here]

Veteran broadcasters condemn ABC radio restructuring plan

The Guardian - Amanda Meade - April 8, 2016

Veteran broadcasters Fran Kelly, Margaret Throsby, Robyn Williams, Norman Swan and Geraldine Doogue have written to the ABC board condemning a plan to add another layer of "preposterously named executives" which would be at home in an episode of the ABC satire on bureaucracy, Utopia.

Don't blame the ABC for problems of commercial media, says Mark Scott. The restructure will see an effective management merger between the ABC's five radio networks Radio National, Classic FM, Triple J, News Radio and local radio.

The letter, signed by 17 of Radio National's most senior broadcasters, expresses "profound concern" about a plan to restructure the radio division that could have "serious consequences" for ABC radio listeners if implemented. Full story [here]

ABC radio personalities need to tune out their left-wing bias

SMH - Jonathan Holmes, April 5, 2016

ABC management has failed to recognise a clear problem among some capital city presenters.

Ten days ago, on ABC TV's Media Watch program, presenter Paul Barry quizzed departing ABC managing director Mark Scott about his 10 years in the job. Scott's responses to Barry's more predictable questions caused apoplexy in even more predictable quarters.

"How can the man heading our biggest media organisation be so blind to the ABC's unlawful and dangerous Leftist bias?" frothed Andrew Bolt.

"Mark Scott has clearly failed to enact his promised reform agenda", fumed Gerard Henderson in his Media Watch Dog blog. Full story [here]

Federal budget 2016: ABC prepares for funding cut, journalist job losses

SMH - Matthew Knott, April 5, 2016

The ABC is bracing for a $20 million a year budget cut the broadcaster says would put the jobs of investigative journalists and reporters in regional areas at risk.

Funding, equivalent to around 10 per cent of the ABC's news budget, will expire this year unless the Turnbull government provides extra money in the May budget as part of the ABC's triennial funding deal.

"If the tied funding is not renewed, it will inevitably result in cuts to programming, content and personnel" Read full story [here]

The ABC should work with commercial media outlets, not compete with them

The Conversation - Brian McNair - March 30, 2016

As the ABC's managing director Mark Scott approaches the end of his decade-long tenure, Media Watch this week provided a platform for him to highlight his achievements and fire off a couple of parting shots.

It's not ideal to see the ABC CEO using an ABC program to defend the ABC, but presenter Paul Barry did a reasonable job of representing the other side. "Too rich, too powerful, and biased" was the gist of it.

Before responding, Scott emphasised two key achievements: the launch of ABC News 24, and the move online. iView in particular, he said, had led the Australian media market in streaming technology. Full story [here]

ABC MD Mark Scott on Media Watch

Managing Director of the ABC Mark Scott appeared on a special edition of Media Watch on Monday 28 Mar 2016. Watch it on iView [here] - 22 min video

You can download the program from [here] (MP4 80MB)

Update Newsletter - April 2016

ABC Friends produces a thrice yearly national newsletter called Update, which is sent to all financial members and is available [here] (PDF 20pps 3.0MB)

No politics at Aunty's table - Depoliticising the governance of the ABC

The Australia Institute - Fergus Pitt - March 2016

Tackling the ABC for its performance is part of the Australian political game. Partisan attempts to change the ABC's governance arrangements, however, amount to moving the goalposts.

The ABC's governance arrangements are designed to ensure it is independent and politically neutral. The success of these arrangements is demonstrated in repeated editorial reviews and its long running support from the Australian public. Given this success, changes to these governance arrangements should be made only when demonstrably necessary and certainly not for partisan political or commercial gain. Debate around the ABC's content, performance and personalities is welcome. Tackling the ABC for its performance is part of the Australian political game. However, attempts to use the governance arrangements as political levers are attempts to move the goalposts.

But that is what has occurred: Important aspects of the ABC's governance have become political battlegrounds - the ABC's Charter, the ABC Board and its appointment process, and the ABC's funding. Read the full discussion paper [here] PDF - 26pps - 1.3Mb

What was Mark Scott thinking when he poured petrol on plans to merge ABC and SBS

The Age - Debi Enker - February 29, 2016

Given all that he accomplished during his 10 years as managing director of the ABC, it's a pity that Mark Scott decided to toss a bomb on his way out the door. He'd led the complex and sometimes controversial organisation through turbulent times. On his watch, which officially ends in May, Aunty purposefully shed her image as a dusty ageing relative, becoming more Lady Mary Crawley than Dowager Countess Violet: a vigorous pioneer rather than a conservative force resisting change. Full story [here]

ABC hits back at Senator Bridget McKenzie's claim the broadcaster is abandoning regional Australia

ABC News - Matthew Doran - March 4, 2016

The ABC has hit back at claims it is not providing adequate services to regional Australia, describing a bill to amend its charter as demonstrating "a paucity of understanding of the ABC's operations".

The broadcaster has also made a pointed reference to Victorian senator Bridget McKenzie's demand for country-based board members, when the Senator herself lives in the city. Full story [here]

Bill forcing ABC to reallocate funds to regional coverage unnecessary, says broadcaster

The Guardian - Amanda Meade - March 4, 2016

The ABC already spends more than $385m - a third of its annual budget - in rural and regional areas and a National party push to amend the ABC charter is unnecessary if not dangerous, the broadcaster says.

A private bill from Victorian National party senator Bridget McKenzie proposes to promote regional news services and journalism in rural and regional Australia by forcing the ABC to reallocate its resources. Full story [here]

Australian Broadcasting Corporation Amendment (Rural and Regional Advocacy) Bill 2015 - Submissions

Amends the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983 to: amend the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's (ABC) Charter in relation to the delivery of services to rural and regional Australia in each state and territory; impose certain requirements on the ABC and the ABC Board; and provide for the establishment, functions and membership of the Rural and Regional Advisory Council.

The Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications is calling for submissions - you can download any of the submissions [here]

You can download ABC Friends' submission [here] PDF 10 pps 775Mb

The Weekly Beast: ABC braces for budget cuts as Mark Scott exits

The Guardian - Amanda Meade - February 25, 2016

Mark Scott wasn't kidding when he told the National Press Club on Wednesday that losing 10% of the ABC's $200m news allocation in the May budget would mean "significant cuts to jobs and programming" . On Tuesday ABC News's executive producers were briefed on possible budget cuts and asked to start making contingency plans should their budgets be trimmed again. (The word from Canberra was that the Turnbull government would not be as forthcoming as the Gillard government had been in topping up the ABC's news coffers three years ago.)

At risk is an additional $20m in tied funding allocated to the ABC each year for three years to create the national reporting team, establish the fact check unit and boost resources for the regions and digital content. "It also funded major, award-winning, in-depth prime-time documentary series like The Killing Season and George Megalogenis's TV series Making Australia Great - compelling award-winning work, unlike anything else on Australian television," Scott told the press club. Full story [here]

One Sure Bet: The Future of Public Broadcasting

Address by Mark Scott - National Press Club - February 24, 2016

The full address is available [here]

ABC boss Mark Scott proposes 'friendly merger' with SBS, makes case against funding cuts

ABC News - Jane Norman, February 24, 2016

The ABC's outgoing managing director Mark Scott has called for a "grown-up conversation" about merging the nation's two public broadcasters, arguing it could save the Federal Government $40 million a year.

In his last National Press Club address as ABC boss, Mr Scott also made the case for the Government to at least maintain the ABC's current level of funding, warning the only way the broadcaster will be "strong and relevant" in the future is with adequate financial support. Full story [here]

Mark Scott's final speech: time for 'grown up' conversation on ABC-SBS merger

SMH - Matthew Knott, February 23, 2016

Mark Scott has used his final major speech as ABC managing director to ramp up the case for the ABC to merge with SBS, saying it would save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year and stop the broadcasters "tripping over each other".

Mr Scott, who departs the ABC in May, also revealed he and former SBS managing director Shaun Brown had secretly agreed there should be a "friendly merger" between the two broadcasters and were prepared to make the case to government. But the idea was rejected by the SBS board and Mr Brown retired in 2011. Full story [here]

Mark Scott's farewell idea: fewer channels, shared ABC, SBS transmission

SMH - Matthew Knott, February 23, 2016

Mark Scott will use his last major speech as ABC managing director to propose an overhaul of the way the ABC and SBS transmit their television channels, a move that could save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year.

The change, if implemented, could see the broadcasters reduce their number of television channels and eventually move some channels online. Full story [here]

What will media reforms mean for regional Australia?

ABC Rural By Lucy Barbour

The debate about media reform is confusing, but changes to media laws could affect what regional audiences get to watch, read and listen to.

There are concerns proposed changes could mean fewer voices in rural media than ever before.

The Coalition is likely to introduce media reforms to Parliament next month and it is widely expected the proposal will include scrapping the reach rule and the two of three rule. Full story [here]

ABC power grab: Mark Scott suggests ABC and SBS should merge

SMH - Matthew Knott, February 10, 2016

Departing ABC managing director Mark Scott has questioned whether SBS should be merged with the ABC, a move that would see the multicultural network lose its special status as a standalone public broadcaster.

At his final appearance at Senate estimates hearings, Mr Scott said SBS was an "analogue solution in a digital world" and argued the broadcaster was losing its distinctiveness. Full story [here]

ABC appoints Michelle Guthrie after flawed selection process

The Saturday Paper - Quentin Dempster - January 30, 2016

The problems facing the ABC's incoming managing director, Michelle Guthrie, are various and substantial. There's a bush backlash. A decline in locally made drama and programming.

The declining share of free-to-air TV and radio audiences. A now frenzied, competitive online and mobile news and video streaming market, with aggressive global players trying to dislodge and divert your eyeballs. Full story [here]

How Australian is the ABC?

On Australia Day 2016 ABC FRIENDS is preparing for a year of action to return the ABC to the people.

As shareholders of the national public broadcaster it is only fair to ask “How Australian is the ABC”?

Is it the familiar national icon that provides a diversity of services and information to all Australians?

Or has the ABC retreated to its Sydney headquarters nervously assessing the impact of shrinking government funding?

National ABC FRIENDS Spokesperson Margaret Reynolds said “This year it’s time that we all spoke up in support of OUR ABC!” Read on [here]

Hand Off Our ABC Campaign

Hands Off Our ABC

Hands Off Our ABC is a community and advocacy campaign co-ordinated by the two unions that represent the vast bulk of employees at the ABC: the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance and the Community and Public Sector Union.

"Our goal is an editorially-independent ABC that is fully-funded by the government and meets its charter as a comprehensive national broadcaster, that is resourced to tell Australian stories across multiple platforms, and positioned to take advantage of new technology to retain its position as the most trusted and reliable source of news and entertainment in Australia". Full details [here]

Battered broadcaster's Bolt delusion - Jim Sparrow - January 26, 2016

Last week, Fairfax reported that Andrew Bolt was in the midst of travelling the country 'filming an ABC documentary on Indigenous constitutional recognition'. Margaret Simons The Content Makers

Bolt might seem a strange choice for such a program. Yes, he opines regularly about Indigenous issues. Yet, in the famous Eatock v Bolt case, Justice Bromberg found Bolt's writings on that subject to contain 'errors of fact, distortions of the truth and inflammatory and provocative language'.

Not much of a recommendation, one might think - particularly since the ABC is ushering Bolt back into its fold just as the Bolt Report (the show for which Bolt abandoned his regular segment on ABC's own Insiders) collapses for want of viewers.

To put Bolt's new gig in perspective, consider Liberal Senator Eric Abetz's press release on 21 December last year about the appointment of the ABC's new managing director. Full story [here]

The voice of regional Australia needs to be heard

The Drum - Chris Earl - January 21, 2016

Any debate about media reform and the ABC must acknowledge the fact that Australians who live beyond the capital cities deserve to have their stories told just as much as those living on the eastern seaboard, writes Chris Earl.

A showdown is on the horizon in the latest battle to sustain the identity, character and voice of regional and rural communities across Australia. Full story [here]

ABC should provide local television news: Warren Truss

Brisbane - Matthew Knott - January 20, 2016

Nationals leader Warren Truss has backed sweeping changes to the charter and board structure of the ABC, while calling for the public broadcaster to be forced to air television news services in regional areas as well as radio broadcasts.

Mr Truss, currently serving as acting prime minister, also said he would push for local content requirements for commercial television networks to be included as part of a forthcoming deregulation of the media sector. Full story [here]

'Media Interests' snapshot

From the ACMA Website - Jan 16, 2016

The Media Interests snapshot below provides an overview of the main interests in major commercial television and radio networks and associated newspapers. 

From this snapshot, you can click through to maps showing the location and details of the relevant media operations. Click [here]

ABC news director Gaven Morris says 'bias' is part of the job

SMH - Karl Quinn - January 8, 2016

Gaven Morris, the ABC's recently appointed director of news, has some sage words for anyone expecting the broadcaster to drop all that lefty "bias" of which it has been accused now he's overseeing things.

"I think the point where politicians or corporations or the powerful stop calling the ABC biased is the point where we're not probably doing our job," he says. "They call it bias but I call it independence. It's the job we were put here to do." Full story [here]

What new boss Michelle Guthrie will need to do to refocus the ABC

SMH - Parnell Palme McGuinness - January 7, 2016

New ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie has been criticised for having no plan for the organisation, but the public broadcaster seems to have no clear sense of its purpose.

New ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie is entering upon one of the nation's most important and influential jobs as an unknown quantity. So far, she has offered a few motherhood statements about the organisation that she will lead and the innovative technologies on which she plans to focus. Full story [here]

How Australian is the ABC? - Media Release

On Australia Day 2016 ABC Friends is preparing for a year of action to return the ABC to the people.

As shareholders of the national public broadcaster it is only fair to ask “How Australian is the ABC”?

Is it the familiar national icon that provides a diversity of services and information to all Australians?

Or has the ABC retreated to its Sydney headquarters nervously assessing the impact of shrinking government funding?

National ABC FRIENDS Spokesperson Margaret Reynolds said “This year it’s time that we all spoke up in support of OUR ABC!”

We must remind all existing and potential Federal parliamentarians that we expect them to guarantee ABC funding, which prioritises Australian content and regional services.

And the ABC Board and Management must listen to Australians’ priorities for THEIR ABC.

The ABC needs to halt its declining focus on Australian program content and responsibility to regional Australia.

It is unacceptable that ABC TV relies on mediocre BBC repeats when it should mainly feature quality Australian made programs.

The Sydney based ABC bureaucracy cannot manage regional Australia unless decision making is returned to state managers who work with local communities.

2016 can be a year of reform for the ABC with new Managing Director Michelle Guthrie taking on the leadership.

But all Australians need to insist that the ABC and Federal Government respond to the community’s priorities.

During 2016 ABC Friends will be working in a variety of ways to ensure that our public broadcaster is able to continue providing services to all Australians.

Margaret Reynolds
ABC Friends National Spokesperson and Tasmanian President

How Australian is the ABC?

On Australia Day this year I checked the choices available on ABC TV.

At prime viewing time 7 to 10pm on ABC1 I could only watch News/7.30 Report/Kangaroo Dundee /Restoration Man/Inside Men and ABC 2 offerings were similarly limited.

This is typical of so much current ABC television programming.

Just how many times must the Australian taxpayer accept endless repeats of BBC programming and why is Stephen Fry such a hero within ABC management?

Where is the celebration of Australian film?

Who is responsible for this regular display of cultural irrelevance?

It is true that ABC Radio is thoroughly embedded in Australian culture with its wide range of local content.

But if the ABC TV cannot even make an effort to showcase Australian programs on Australia Day it is scarcely surprising that so many ABC viewers are turning off and establishing new entertainment viewing options.

As shareholders of the national public broadcaster we need to ask “How Australian is the ABC?”

Who is responsible for monitoring Australian content on television?

Why are so many elderly British chaps constantly appearing for the ABC when we could be watching young talented women and men representative of multicultural Australia?

Australians greatly value our ABC and guard its independence

But we are entitled to question why the ABC’s independence is not evident on television because its programmers constantly rely on British content.

What has been spent on British programs in the past ten years? How much revenue has been returned to the UK from the sale of British content which has overwhelmingly dominated the stock in ABC Shops?

The ABC’s Annual Report does not answer these questions so we are left wondering just how much more Australian content could have been funded instead of these dollars being invested in the British television industry.

Of course the ABC should be much better funded and the savage financial cuts to the ABC made by the former Abbott government has seriously impacted on the ABC's professional staffing capacity. The Federal Government must now face the consequences of its attack on the public broadcaster and start to rebuild and reprioritize what is important for the ABC as it moves into new communications territory.

This is a conversation for all Australians and must not be dictated by either ABC management nor by critics of public broadcasting. The ABC is indeed a national icon which provides vital services and entertainment to many Australians.

It must adapt and change to suit new technological and social demands but it must not become so driven by such change that it loses its essential focus to communicate with the Australian community. This year will be both a challenge and an opportunity for the ABC with a new Managing Director Michelle Guthrie taking on leadership and triennial funding finalized in the next few months. Certainly the ABC must be funded at a level that enables it to fulfil its responsibilities. It needs stronger links with regional Australia and with the Asia Pacific region.

It has been refreshing to hear Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss speak out against the way the ABC’s Sydney centric decision making is alienating regional Australia. Of course fundamental national broadcasting policy must be made centrally but what is the role of State Managers if not to advise and action local priorities?

Sydney based decision makers will never be able to assess and reflect the mood of distant communities which have such different priorities. The recent restructuring of some regional programming, downgrading of state offices and closure of local television production are signs that ABC management is retreating into an urban safe haven. Australian stories must be told by “our ABC “and only a national broadcaster can effectively provide this leadership by decentralizing its decision making and listening to local communities.

As we approach a Federal Election we must remind all current and potential parliamentarians that we expect them to guarantee ABC funding which prioritizes Australian content and regional services.

Margaret Reynolds
ABC Friends National Spoke person and Tasmanian President

ABC Friends National Conference - Adelaide 23-24 June 2015

ABC Friends held a National Conference on June 23-24, where all state branches met to discuss the way forward for Friends nationally, and to plan the National Campaign. We were assisted in our discussions by ABC veteran Quentin Dempster, a recent casualty in the ABC staff cuts, whose comprehensive knowledge of the ABC is always valuable, and Ranald Macdonald, Co-Ordinator of the Friends Action Committee, whose vast experience in journalism and the media was of great assistance in developing strategies in defence of the ABC. The Conference was an important step towards Friends, historically a group of state-based organizations, speaking and acting as one, especially as the National Campaign grows in strength. Minutes and resolutions from the conference may be found [here] 150KB PDF 4pp

End of Sunday Live, and a bleak future for Classic FM

You may have seen the announcement over the past few days of the decision by ABC Management to axe the popular Sunday Live concerts and live broadcasts on Sunday afternoons. These concerts have, over the past 40 years, provided valuable performance opportunities for our outstanding soloists and small ensembles, many of them young, and often performing new music. They were the only concerts mounted on a regular basis by the ABC, were free to audience members, and were broadcast from venues in all capital cities.

The claim by Classic FM Manager Richard Buckham that “It’s not cost-cutting - it’s more an editorial decision” is patently rubbish - ask anybody in Classic FM! It is clearly in response to the massive cuts in ABC funding by the Abbott government that have just cost 400 ABC jobs (10% of ABC staff). It would seem that Classic FM is being targeted for much more than its share of these cuts, perhaps because its audience does not meet the criteria for ABC management’s desperate search for “a younger demographic.”

There has, since the announcement of funding cuts (with more to come!) been great concern that Classic FM would be closed down completely, but even an ABC management seemingly intent on “dumbing down” the ABC as much as possible would find it difficult to justify such an action without abandoning the ABC’s clear Charter obligations to broadcast Australian cultural events to the Australian public, as well as its responsibility to educate all Australians.

If you have become accustomed to enjoying the Sydney International Piano Competition, the Townsville Chamber Music Festival, other music festivals across the country, and daily live broadcasts and recordings of concerts by all of our state orchestras, Opera Australia, ACO, AYO, Brandenburg etc. etc. at no cost, and from the comfort of your own home, then you need to be aware that such live broadcasts will be cut by 50% in 2015. We await the full 2015 schedule to find out which major musical events will no longer be covered. The annual coverage of National Music Camp, this year from Adelaide, that was broadcast last Saturday night - outstanding performances from our finest young orchestral musicians, may have happened for the last time.

The tragedy in such cultural vandalism on the part of the Abbott government and ABC management is that Classic FM is outstandingly good at what it does - overseas musicians who visit will readily tell you that Classic FM is the best classical music broadcaster anywhere in the world - its coverage of significant musical events across Australia is comprehensive, and it broadcasts these events to the rest of the world, as well as producing many commercial recordings of Australian performers and composers, such as the recent CD set of Tamara-Anna Cislowska performing the complete piano works of Peter Sculthorpe. Presenters on Classic FM are, almost without exception, musicians in their own right - Graham Abbott, Guy Noble, Chris Nicholls, Mairi Nicolson, Damian Beaumont, et al, and guests such as Gerard Willems for the Sydney Piano Competition, who speak with knowledge, authority and passion.

If you share my outrage and my anger at what is happening to Classic FM, then now is the time to act - it will be too late when it is all gone! Please write, encourage others to write, forward this email to all your friends and contacts and urge them to write to ABC Managing Director Mark Scott, and to the responsible minister in the Abbott government, Malcolm Turnbull - contact details are below.

Mal Hewitt
President Collegiate of Specialist Music Educators
President ABC Friends NSW & ACT


Mark Scott AO
ABC Managing Director
GPO Box 994
Sydney NSW 2001

The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP
Minister for Communications
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Reply to Annalisa Koeman's letter to Minister Turnbull

See Letter to Mr Spigelman, Mr Scott and Minister Turnbull

From: "Turnbull, Malcolm (MP)" <>
Date: 5 January 2015 15:08:01 AEDT
To: 'Annalisa Koeman'
Subject: RE: Budget cuts and changes to the ABC

Dear Annalisa,

Thank you for writing to me so candidly. It should be noted that with the right reforms and leadership the ABC and the SBS will emerge from this process much stronger organisations, capable of generating even better value from the money Australians invest in their operation.

Nine months ago I asked the Department of Communications to undertake an Efficiency Study to identify savings that could be made by improving efficiencies in the back of house departments of the ABC, in other words savings that could be made without reducing the resources available for programming.

This was a very deliberate move on my part. The easiest way to cut costs in a television network is simply to cancel programmes - and replace them with cheaper ones. More difficult is to go through the way the business operates, line by line and ask can we do this more efficiently, with fewer people, with fewer fixed assets or other expensive resources.

A commercial broadcaster is always going to look for savings that do not impact on programming quality - because that is the key to its ratings and hence to its revenues. A public broadcaster, which like the ABC does not carry advertising, is not so clearly constrained.

The study was provided to the ABC and SBS in April to assist their boards and management in identifying areas they may not have previously explored in their efforts to improve efficiency. It highlighted outdated business and administrative practices where they could pursue savings without affecting programming or services.

The savings I announced are not of a scale that requires any particular change to programming. All of the savings can be found within operational efficiencies of the kind canvassed in the Lewis Efficiency Study.

There is a temptation for management to blame the Government for some of these programme changes. That would be cowardly.

The ABC management know that they can meet these savings without reducing the resources available to programming - furthermore they know that the Government and their Board know too.

To their credit, I realise that the ABC and SBS are well loved and well trusted - certainly much more so than any political party, minister or furious columnist.  And as I've noted before, the role of the public broadcasters in our national life today is more important than ever, as the business model of the newspapers in particular is under threat and newsrooms dwindle.

With this growing importance comes pressure for both ABC and SBS to uphold even higher standards of balance and integrity in their coverage - and to demonstrate even greater professionalism, transparency and efficiency in their handling of scarce public resources.

I encourage you to read my speech on the future of public broadcasters which can be found here:

I get a lot of emails and letters about the ABC and so we have set out some frequently asked questions (FAQs) and our answers to them:

Yours sincerely,

Malcolm Turnbull


This isn't Play School

The night before the last election, Tony Abbott promised "no cuts to the ABC or the SBS".

But today, 1 in 10 jobs at the ABC were lost because of Tony Abbott's $500 million cut to the ABC and SBS. Five regional stations will be shut down and the state based 7.30 program will be cut.

Malcolm Turnbull has desperately tried to explain that Tony Abbott's pre-election promise not to cut the ABC or SBS was not actually a promise!

This is our national Government attacking our national voice and we are in a fight to support the ABC in every city, every town, and every home.

Over 27,000 people have now signed our petition opposing the $504 million cuts to the ABC and SBS and on the weekend I joined thousands rallying in support of the public broadcasters across the country.

But with today's announcement we must do more to keep the pressure on.

The ABC Fighting Fund is being used to target advertising in Malcolm Turnbull's electorate of Wentworth and bombard his office with calls to make sure he gets the message.

Play School presenter, Rhys Muldoon has agreed to add his voice to the campaign by recording a phone message for the voters of Wentworth this week so everyone in Malcolm's electorate is asked to speak up for the ABC too.

But those calls cost money. Can you join the hundreds of other Australians standing up for the ABC today and donate $7.30 to help make that happen?

Over the years, much has changed in Australian life but the work of our ABC continues to be as important as it has ever been.

The ABC and SBS aren't just broadcasters, they're the home to Australia's stories both past and present. Let's make sure they are around to tell all of our stories in the future too.

Thanks for standing with me on this,

Bill Shorten
Labor Leader

Quentin Dempster's remarks to the 'Save Lateline' Public Rally

ABC Ultimo Centre, Wednesday October 1, 2014.


Thank you for your show of support for ABC journalism and original programming.

I'm going to list what's currently on the public record and what has been indicated to us now from all sections of the ABC from middle management which is preparing for a radical reshaping of the ABC.

They'll be called contingency plans because as chairman Jim Spigelman has made clear the Abbott Cabinet's Expenditure Review Committee has still to set the ABC funding envelope... a decision we expect sometime before Christmas.

In spite of the success of ABC television multi-channelling... ABC TV, ABC 2, ABC 3... the children's channel... and News 24... it appears the board, in consultation with the government, will halve these services (merge ABC 3 with ABC One perhaps and close down ABC 2) to save transmission costs. SBS 2 is also expected to be closed down. The deletion of free to air channels for the Australian people is not back office.

Our managing director Mark Scott has outlined his strategy which to me looks like taking the opportunity for organisational change without consultation with the public, particular audiences and stakeholders under cover of funding cuts. To secure the ABC's future he says we must reallocate resources from output which 'skews old' to reinvest in content to meet 'explosive' demand for content which 'skews young' - people who access the ABC through mobiles and tablets.

  • He designates networks which 'skew old' as local radio, Classic FM, NewsRadio and Radio National. The following is what can be called 'informed speculation' sourced from our concerned management and staff.
  • Classic FM can expect a reduction in live broadcasts, more presenter-less streaming of playlists of orchestral and other works for which the ABC owns the Copyright.
  • The World Today on ABC Radio to be cut in half. Other impacts on radio current affairs to reduce full time equivalent positions.
  • ABC Radio news bulletins to be cut from 10 minutes to five minutes.
  • Specialist Radio National programs Bush Telegraph, Rear Vision, 360, Hindsight, Encounter and By Design to be discontinued or cut in half.
  • A reduction of foreign bureaux to four hubs: Washington, London, Jakarta and Beijing. Middle East coverage out of Jerusalem and Beirut to be by what's known as VJ - video journalism... no dedicated camera crews - (let me tell you camera crews are vital to international reporting as collaborators in full editorial decision making and more importantly to the physical safety and well being of our people sometimes in very dangerous situations).
  • Foreign Correspondent... already reduced to 30 episodes a year over two seasons to be reduced to 26 episodes.
  • On TV the final destruction of localism in current affairs with the axing of the 7.30 state shows in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory.
  • On TV... I weep for South Australia... if , as information there suggests, it loses all local television production outside TV news.
  • On TV... the axing of Lateline - the late night hybrid news and current affairs program which has been instrumental in the last 25 years in its international analysis, reporting and interviewing and domestically in holding government and this country's institutions to account.
  • Organisationally our separate radio and television divisions are expected to go. In the digital revolution turning the ABC into a digital services provider … radio is just audio, television is just video. Radio and TV are so analogue!
  • I'm sure there's more we don't know about.
  • And I'm not sure about the fate of Ticky Fullerton's excellent late night market analysis program The Business. I wish I could say it will survive.
  • We're seeing the final withering in the ABC of specialist units like science and religion.

What we're doing is stripping out original content which has made the ABC distinctive.

So as a direct consequence we're expecting substantial cuts to ABC channels, programs and services. Channels, programs and services are not back office.

These are not operational savings driven by efficiency. They are cuts to services. Through the digital revolution ABC content makers have enhanced their productivity. Most content creation is now multi-platform... we write and report and make content for ABC Online for pod casting and download... as well as radio and television transmission... at no extra cost to the taxpayer. Without original content the ABC would not have a digital presence.

I wish I could say this torture of not knowing for sure will be over today... but I can't. Its mental health week next week and I've asked the board to stop this cruelty to dedicated program makers immediately.

The ABC has been coerced into this self harm, this hammer blow to our cohesion and momentum by the device of declaring the May budget cut of 1% a 'down payment' and the appointment of a Channel 7 finance executive to review the ABC's cost efficiency. On top of that the ABC has lost $22m through the termination of the Australia Network contract - an act of mindless vandalism to Australia's engagement in the Asia Pacific region. There are an estimated 3.3billion mobile phones in the Asia Pacific and the ABC was cost effectively delivering breaking news, analysis, debate, sport and entertainment to project Australia as a robust liberal democracy. We've lost some of the ABC's most skilled and experienced international correspondents and production staff. For sure broadcasting is about technology - satellites with vast footprints and internet service providers... but most importantly its about people... engagement through reporting, interviewing, fun, satire, documentary, sport and entertainment and interaction.

We're here to physically show our support for ABC journalism and program making - to shout our protest to the ABC Board and the Abbott Government. If we lose original journalism in current affairs television and radio, halve the radio news, drop more live broadcasts on Classic FM, drop specialist programming on Radio National we are doing fundamental damage to what the ABC does at its core.

To News Ltd. which has targeted me and my salary I say this is not about one dispensable ABC individual. Rupert Murdoch would spill more than my salary at luncheon on Rosehearty. If he desisted from using tax havens like the Cayman Islands, Delaware or Bermuda along with hundreds of other corporations, perhaps services like hospitals and schools would be better resourced... there'd be more investment in scientific and medical research... and the narrowing cohort of PAYG taxpayers would not have to shoulder so much of this country's tax burden.

We're all hoping to see blanket coverage by The Daily Telegraph, The Courier Mail, The Herald Sun, the Adelaide Advertiser, the Hobart Mercury, the London Times, the New York Post .. all News Ltd. outlets worldwide including The Australian... which calls itself the heart of the nation, ... of Joe Hockey's commendable efforts to get the G20 meeting in Brisbane to adopt a zero tolerance policy on wholesale avoidance through tax havens.

I can see the headlines now: G20: CRACK DOWN ON THESE TAX HAVEN BLUDGERS.

I'll nominate Chris Mitchell for the Walkley Award for headline writing if he publishes that one.

Friends... thanks for turning out for the ABC for all the reasons we all understand.

We hope the ABC Board comes out fighting for ABC audiences who will be impacted by these cuts to services... but the reality is... it's the government which sets the funding lever.

It's the Prime Minister who is breaking his promise to the Australian people not to cut the ABC and SBS. The Coalition has no mandate from the Australian people to do this.

This will be the doing of Tony Abbott... the Prime Minister of Australia... and his puppet master... Rupert Murdoch, registered office. Delaware, the United States, nominated by The Economist as a tax haven... 60% of US companies are registered there.

If I can just put in a plug for 7.30 NSW... once called Stateline... a program which has consistently and fearlessly exposed political corruption in this state wherever it exists... this program has the endorsement of the highest officials of the Liberal Party .

In 2010 I received this Christmas card... it said Merry Christmas Quentin... Keep up the good work... it was signed by Mark Neeham, state director of the Liberal Party... and the president... Arthur Sinodinis.

Stand By to Defend ‘Your’ ABC

By Tim Bowden (AM) - July 2014

The weasel pre-election words of Tony Abbott that he would not cut the funds of the ABC or the SBS were only a part of similar deceptions of his ‘Government of no surprises’ which of course came up with a raft of very unpleasant surprises indeed. His incessant, carping insistence on Julia Gillard’s reversal of her no carbon tax statement - at least a principled decision - was a monstrous example of hypocrisy which has become a hallmark of his Prime Ministership now that the full list of his own broken promises is a matter of record.

Now we are the laughing stock of the world, about to effectively have no climate change policy at all that is worth a spurt of goat’s piss.

But I wish to dwell on the grave problems facing the ABC, whose budget has been cut, and will be trimmed further under the guise of efficiency reviews and a number of other more sneaky ways to attempt to bend the national broadcaster to the Coalition’s will - like appointments to the ABC Board.

There is now a mechanism (a Kevin Rudd initiative) to use an independent nomination process that was supposed to de-politicise the way board members to the ABC and SBS were selected. The ’independent’ panel considers applications, then offers a shortlist of board candidates to the Minister for Communications and PM. It is presently overseen by Ian Watt, the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The latest atrocities are to appoint ex-Liberal MP Neil Brown to this committee, an ABC-hater of renown who is on record as wanting to break it up, sell it off and more besides, plus Janet Albrechtsen, a Murdoch columnist whose anti-ABC splenetic columns in The Australian have been unrelenting and who was a Board member herself from 2005 to 2010, appointed by the Coalition. At least her membership of the Board stopped her weekly assaults on the national broadcaster in her columns for five years. But since she has been off the Board, she has used her column to call for the present Managing Director Mark Scott to resign! The Sydney Morning Herald reported recently that she had even made the farcical claim that the ABC was run by a ‘Soviet-style workers collective’ for heavens sake.

All positions on the panel expire by April next year, so it’s not difficult to predict that the Abbott government can entirely remake the panel as it sees fit.

Scott has bent over backwards in recent years to set up fairness procedures, complaints handling mechanisms, and making sure that even barking-mad (and anti-ABC) members of Melbourne’s uber-right Institute of Public Affairs crop up regularly on programs like Q & A, as well as the likes of Piers Akerman and Andrew Bolt who had regular exposure on Sunday morning’s Insiders. Former Howard Minister Amanda Vanstone has become one of the asked for ‘right wing Phillip Adams’ on Radio National’s Counterpoint (and in my view runs a very good program). It seemed to me that some of the heat and paranoia about the ABC, it’s alleged left-wing bias and an out of control staff, ‘lunatics running the asylum’ had been at least muted. How wrong I was! The Abbott government is once again on the warpath.

I suppose the first question to ask is, who apart from the strangely obsessed anti-ABC warriors like Gerard Henderson - now corralled in the stable of commentators in the Oz with Chris Kenny, Andrew Bolt, Janet Albrechtsen et al where he belongs - are clamouring for the ABC to be radically changed? (It is a pity Paul Sheehan from the SMH, doesn’t pop over and join them - but I digress.)

There is certainly no public perception that Aunty needs a makeover. Polls consistently show a high level of satisfaction for the services Aunty provides Australians in television, radio and indeed on line.

I first worked as a freelance current affairs reporter for the ABC in 1958, and joined the staff in Launceston in 1963 and was lucky enough to cut my television teeth in Tasmania in the early 1960s, work as a foreign correspondent in South-East Asia and North America until 1969, before returning to Sydney to be the first Executive Producer PM and then work as an associate producer with This Day Tonight, return to radio to make documentaries with the radio Drama and Features Department, founded the Social History Unit in Radio National (happily still going strong), fronted the ABC viewer reaction program BackChat for eight years from 1986, and also made television documentaries in Antarctica in the mid 1990s. I mention all this not to blow my own trumpet, but to indicate that I have been around a bit in the ABC for over 30 years, and in that time have seen many attempts by governments and individuals to muzzle of manipulate the national broadcaster.

As a public service broadcaster I wasn't paid all that much, but I loved the freedom of choosing topics not driven by a commercial imperative, and - with overtime not being an option - worked for as long as I had to, in order to get my programs on air. Most of my colleagues were doing the same thing. There were times when we felt we were poorly served by our managers, but this is the way it is in any large organisation.

I can assure you none of us felt we were running the place. We were running just to keep up with what we had to do.

There were occasions when ABC staff united behind our main union, the ABC Staff Association, to protest against issues we felt strongly about. However ABC staff by no means spoke with a united voice. The ABC News men and women had their union, The Australian Journalists' Association. Middle level managers were represented by their Senior Officers Association. These three groups were seldom unanimous in supporting a particular issue but there were times when this was achieved.

As to the ‘workers collective’ obsession by the ABC’s critics in the 21st century, I cannot recall in my long association with the ABC ever voting to go on strike, or to take other industrial action, on pay and conditions - which is usually why unions get stroppy.

Our concerns were almost always on matters of principle.

Let me give you an example - and this occurred while I was working with This Day Tonight in 1970. Malcolm Fraser's dislike and disdain for the ABC was almost as palpable as John Howard's. On the 13th of May that year the Postmaster General Alan Hulme wrote to the ABC Chairman Sir Robert Madgwick saying that the ABC's budget appropriations for the coming financial year would be reduced by $500,000 and directed that $250,000 of that be applied to current affairs television!

The letter was leaked, and the ABC Staff Association called a mass meeting to protest against this political thuggery and to stiffen ABC management's resolve to resist this utterly improper interference in the way the ABC could spend its budget. No doubt buttressed by press and community outrage and by the mass meeting of ABC staff, the then Chairman, Sir Robert Madgwick, did take a principled stand and Hulme had to pull his head in.

I could quote other examples of staff striking against blatant censorship of current affairs programs - sometimes initiated by ABC management itself. But never about pay and conditions. There was, and still is, a great delight by ABC broadcasters to use the freedoms provided by a public broadcaster to pursue stories and topics that shine a light on our own society, political, social and cultural. And our listeners and viewers seem to like it this way. Believe me there is no sinister agenda. Basically the ABC is quite a conservative organisation.

But not conservative enough for the Coalition. Doubtless John Howard hoped that when he appointed his close friend Donald McDonald as Chairman of the ABC for ten years from 1996 probably hoped that he would reign in the perceived radicals - but McDonald is a civilised and cultured man and while not exactly captured by the culture of the ABC (let’s not forget it was McDonald who unleashed the unspeakable Jonathan Shier briefly as it’s MD) allowed most of its flowers to bloom.

However just before the Coalition came to power in March 1966, Howard’s putative Minister for Communications Senator Alston (his fingers presumably crossed behind his back like Abbott) promised there would be no cuts to the ABC’s budget - then the Howard Government promptly slashed $56 million from the national broadcaster. Alston was undeniably the worst minister the ABC ever had, as he actually hated the organisation that he was functionally responsible for, and to whom the ABC should have been able to turn for some kind of protection from the forces of darkness. Instead Alston waged war on the organisation, and even after he retired to London as Australia’s High Commissioner in the plush apartments of Australia House, he still continued to lob mortar bombs at the ABC from afar!

Most of us alive at the time, can remember where we were when we heard the news that President John Kennedy had been assassinated. I don’t want to over-egg the metaphor, but I can remember exactly where I was - a hotel room in Melbourne - when I heard the news on ABC Radio that the then Minister for Communications Helen Coonan announced the appointment of Janet Albrechtsen to the ABC Board, and stood there in my underpants in stunned disbelief! This followed the appointment of the cultural warrior and fellow of Melbourne’s anti-ABC Institute of Public Affairs, Ron Brunton, per favour of Richard Alston, in May 2003. Then, for good measure, the ABC Board was graced by the revisionist anti-black armband historian Keith Windschuttle in June 2006 by the unblushing Communications Minister Helen Coonan! With friends like these three, who needs enemas?

Now the Coalition has taken board stacking to new heights with this latest ploy, bringing Albrechtsen back into the fray with Neil Brown to nominate the next batch of crazies to be inflicted on to poor old Aunty.

In conclusion, I’d like to make the point that reducing the effectiveness of the ABC to perform the functions it does, and generally appreciated by its large nation-wide audience, it would be unwise to think that all conservative members of parliament would welcome the results of further budget cuts.

Imagine the reaction of the National Party if a shrinking budget threatened the closure of many of the regional radio stations, lightly staffed but dedicated to reflecting the issues pertinent to their local areas throughout Australia for example. The Rural Department of the ABC, traditionally responsible for these regional stations are hardly a bunch of Communists.

Abbott seems to be doing all he can to make sure he is a one-term Prime Minister by cutting benefits to the poor, needy, and disadvantaged and looking after industry and the big end of town.

Bashing the ABC, or attempting to muzzle its freedoms, is actually not electorally sensible. In my view, most Australians would take an extremely dim view of that perception. At the moment, the ABC and indeed SBS (which should never be amalgamated with the ABC) needs all the friends it can get. This time, my friends, this may be game on for public broadcasting as we know it and want it.

The Emasculation Agenda for the ABC

By Dr Richard Gates - July 2014

On the eve of the Federal election Tony Abbott made a number of now infamous commitments to us, the people of Australia: “No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.” [emphasis mine]. [View the video]

These promises were shredded a few months later on the confected grounds that Australia faced some kind of budget crisis. Most of us know it’s complete nonsense, a predictable, ‘cry wolf’ crisis. Those with a bit of age and many election campaigns tucked away in memory have heard this old chestnut many times before.

Yes, there’s always room for improvement. Sophisticated and legalised rorts and rip-offs, vote-buying tactics and money-squandering from successive governments need to be reined in, but the deserving poor must not be sacrificed.

Sadly the Abbott government’s glued to its obsessive-compulsive mantra of ‘budget crisis’ in the hope if they say it often enough, people will believe. But most see through this ruse. We’re not that stupid.

Even if no-one comes to believe the mantra, the government will continue to use this travesty to justify a compulsory financial castration of the ABC and SBS. It goes something like this: ‘We are all in this together. We all, with the exception of our mates, have to do some ‘heavy lifting’, the ABC included. So suck it up. Tighten your belts’. Sound familiar? You know the drill!

Of course the breaking of promises goes to the very heart of the credibility of a government. With such blatant breaches why should we believe anything fed to ‘us chooks’.

The government prepared the ABC for public emasculation through the ideologically-biased Commission of Audit, a house-of-cards edifice which does not stand robust scrutiny.

And then went in with the Lewis Efficiency Review to try and finish the job. The success of this ‘operation’ remains to be seen. But strategies based on failed 1990’s stranded management philosophies and kindergarten human psychology while unlikely to convince anyone with more than a room temperature IQ, can do a lot of difficult-to- reverse damage.

It’s important to be clear here about what’s really going on. The reason for the cuts to the ABC is not to save money. There will be inevitable savings and they will be used to justify the government’s action.

The real reason is to curtail what the ABC does by cutting its blood supply, its funds and through such means create fear, anxiety, angst, whatever you want to call it, to silence it as a genuine, independent critic of what the government’s doing to the nation’s social fabric.

In this era of contracts, which can be terminated easily in the name of flexibility, Machiavellian fear induces silence. And that’s just what the government wants, silence or some benign regurgitation of spin-doctored media releases to make them appear respectable.

The government appointed Mr Peter Lewis to oversee the Federal Government’s ABC and SBS Efficiency Study. His work was done in conjunction with the Department of Communications and at least one other commercial firm with concrete connections to the international commercial media sector. God only knows what that additional commercial firm was brought in to do and what it did do. Nope, secret. We are not allowed to know.

Lewis came from a commercial media background before the review and went back to commercial media as CFO of Southern Cross Media’s Austereo, effective 16 June 2014.

The appointment of Lewis to a commercial media group, so soon after completion of his efficiency review on the ABC/SBS raises some interesting questions.

Lewis was privy to wads of detailed information about both public broadcasters. He takes that knowledge with him to his new role.

He may have signed a ‘confidentiality agreement’ to not reveal the privileged information to anyone but did he empty his head of that information? When it comes to making decisions in his new profit-making role, will that information not figure in his thinking? Sadly there is no ‘Delete’ button in the brains of consultants.

That information may have included material about competitors, pricing and other marketing information and strategies, forthcoming deals and strategic thinking. Such knowledge has potential to bring considerable advantage to his new commercial shareholders and disadvantage to both public broadcasters.

A confidentiality agreement is no safeguard to protect the public interest. It just prevents Lewis from talking with us about what he did but offers no other protection. He can’t tell us what Aunty looks like with her clothes off but he also can’t erase his intimate knowledge of the body corporate.

The public needs to know if there was any overlap between the production of the Lewis Efficiency Study and negotiation for his new appointment in commercial media because there is potential for a ‘conflict-of-interest’. Not only could the potential job cloud judgment about the nature of the review process but could put the ABC at considerable disadvantage.

This problem is not dissimilar to the difficulty of government ministers and senior public servants becoming lobbyists very soon after leaving government.

There would be no problem if Lewis took up a commercial position as CFO in another industry but not the same industry.

The government must deal with this problem if the Lewis Efficiency Study is to have any credibility.

The government is not helping itself by keeping the Lewis Study secret with the weary excuse of ‘commercial-in-confidence’.

Commercial media and the sycophant Murdoch press seem to all know about the Lewis review judging by the extensive media incontinence. So why shouldn’t the public see it?

We paid for it!

The Lewis’ Efficiency Study has been on the back foot from the very beginning. ‘Terms of reference’ pearls such as ‘benchmarking’ and ‘best practice’ gave the game away.

These discredited concepts demonstrate out-of-date management thinking.

The Federal Government’s Commission of Audit set the Lewis agenda by recommending that “future funding decisions about the ABC and SBS “should be informed by the outcome of the benchmarking exercise”.

Benchmarks from a shareholder-driven organisation, where profit motive is queen, is not an appropriate metric to use on a national broadcaster where profit is not the ‘raison d'etre’. It’s just plain dumb unless you have financial castration in mind. The type of tools you use determine the type of outcomes you get. Tool selection can be made to suit a particular political agenda.

As long as the Lewis Efficiency Study is kept secret we can never know if the benchmarking exercise was truly independent and appropriate.

There was no independent public representation on the Efficiency Study for the ABC and SBS. And no one with a public broadcasting background provided independent assessment.

Senior Management of the ABC is now caught up in the exercise bringing some knowledge to the occasion but this is hardly independent. They have too much ‘skin in the game’ and often are vulnerable because of their contracted positions.

A final comment on benchmarking. Organisations which are exceptional do not look like benchmarks. Benchmarks have a way of creating mediocrity, the very antithesis of what our ABC should be.

So what are the benchmarks for public broadcasting? Perhaps Minister Turnbull might like to let us in on the secret. It is his call after all and it would be nice to know what his thoughts and principles are. No more Pontius Pilate thank you.

Apart from the Commission of Audit and the Lewis Efficiency Study the ABC now has the added burden of two anti-ABC ideologue appointments to make selection recommendations for the ABC Board.

This is yet another major conflict of interest. One of these political appointees works for a commercial media organisation with competing interests. So who is that person’s boss and whose interests are being served? Resignation should be forthcoming, pronto.

These political appointments are just further evidence that the Abbott government is out to nobble the ABC/SBS and it will do ‘whatever it takes’ to silence robust analysis and commentary, a hallmark of a vibrant democracy.

Minister Turnbull also needs to step up to the mark and release the Lewis Efficiency Study for public scrutiny. Failure to do so will confirm what many of us think: He is part of the problem.

Dr Richard Gates
Northern Rivers Branch

Richard has a background in neurosciences and psychology and was a former Director of a Master of Business Administration and Professional Practice Development programs at an Australian University. He’s consulted widely to business and government, run his own business and been an invited and sometimes uninvited guest at live autopsies of failing organisations. Apparently he’s retired. 

We Must Never Get Tired

By Quentin Dempster - Elder Statesman of ABC Journalists, former Staff-elected Director - July 2014

The appointment of Murdoch Press columnist Janet Albrechtsen and the Liberal Party’s Neil Brown to a Federal Government merit selection panel for ABC and SBS board appointments is contemptuous and provocative.

After years of public debate about the patronage practices of both the Labor and Liberal parties to stack the boards with partisans, reforms to the appointment process were meant to depoliticise governance and restore public confidence.

The arms-length merit selection process (after the placement of ads seeking expressions of interest from appropriately qualified applicants) is to be used to fill current vacancies on the ABC and SBS boards.

It was derived from the United Kingdom ‘Nolan rules’ imposed after controversy in Britain about ‘jobs for the boys’ - political patronage in government appointments - which undermined public confidence in the integrity of many government boards and agencies.

The idea first gained traction in Australia in 2000 after the then politically stacked ABC board disastrously appointed one Jonathan Shier as managing director. A Senate inquiry Above Board arising from the Shier experience first canvassed legislative change to try to bring board stacking and the overt political interference which came with it, to an end.

To its credit the Rudd Government moved on the idea through amendments to the ABC and SBS acts to establish the first merit-selection process.

The spirit of these amendments obviously was to depoliticise the boards and to professionalise the governance of the ABC and SBS. By the appointment of the provocateurs Albrechtsen and Brown, two high profile figures hostile to public broadcasting, the Abbott Government has indicated its contempt for merit selection.

The ABC and SBS deserve and need dynamic, quality directors, not Murdoch-approved party political hacks and ideologues.

These institutions are not the playthings of influence peddling politicians pursuing their usual adversarial games.

The issue is highly sensitive currently because of the budget haircuts now being imposed on both broadcasters which will force their boards and managements to reshape their role and functions.

In the ABC’s case a ‘reshaping’ is expected to turn the broadcaster into a ‘digital content services provider’ to ride the digital revolution through consumer uptake of tablets and mobile devices. Broadcasters are waiting to be consulted to see exactly where the reshaping enhances or diminishes/destroys many of the ABC’s charter functions across the accepted genres - news and current affairs, documentary, education, comedy and satire, drama, natural history, children’s programming, entertainment and information.

So far neither the ABC nor the SBS boards, seemingly besieged by a hostile federal government applying budget cuts, show any sign of wanting to actively engage the taxpaying public in their reshaping discussions.

An ‘efficiency review’ conducted by a commercial network financial controller, Peter Lewis, has not been publicly released. It is said to recommend the outsourcing of program making to the maximum extent possible.

This idea ignores the most recent debates about production costs. It is now well established that it is more cost effective to have the broadcasters retain internal production skills at critical mass with the added advantage of exploiting and retaining copyrighted intellectual property. Outsourcing is invariably more expensive. Some commercial television networks in Australia prefer in house production because of the editorial control, skills development and program sales advantages.

The budget cuts applied by the federal government in May 2014 now represent a major challenge to the independence of the ABC and SBS boards. Faced with gratuitous advice from Mr Lewis and what looks like coercion from the federal government to apply his ‘efficiency’ nostrums, the boards now have to decide how they can sustain the operations of both institutions to keep faith with their legislated Charters.

A hostile federal government has always had the whip hand in the form of the quantum of funding to be allocated.

The loss of the Australia Network contract, the 1% ‘down payment’ on budget savings, the loss of $30million of ABC special purpose funding from 2016 impose destructive pressure.

The ABC and SBS boards will have full public support in their reshaping decisions if they clearly set out their survival strategies to taxpayers.

SBS has no chairman at the moment. We await the merit-selection of this appointee and directors to fill other current vacancies.

It is now over to Albrechtsen and Brown.

Whatever happens it appears we must fight for the independence and capacity of the ABC and SBS in Australia’s media landscape.

We must never get tired.

Appointment of ABC/SBS Efficiency Review Chair to Commercial Post May Disadvantage the Public Broadcasters

Mr Peter Lewis, Chair of the Federal Government’s ABC and SBS Efficiency Study has been appointed Chief Financial Officer of Southern Cross Media’s Austereo, effective 16 June 2014.
The Lewis Report, yet to be made public, has been delivered to the Minister for Communications.  

Dr Richard Gates, President of the Friends of the ABC Northern Rivers Branch expressed concern today about the appointment of Mr Lewis to a commercial media group so soon after completion of the report on the ABC and SBS. 

“No doubt Mr Lewis would have been privy to commercial and other information about both public broadcasters and would take that information with him to his new role at Southern Cross Media.” 

“That information may include material about competitors, marketing information and strategies, forthcoming deals and strategic thinking.  Such knowledge has the potential to bring considerable advantage to Southern Cross Media and disadvantage to both public broadcasters but whether it will or not may never be clear.”

“What safeguards are in place to protect the public interest?”  said Dr Gates.

“But more than that the public needs to know if there was any overlap between the production of the Efficiency Study for the government under Lewis and negotiation for his new appointment because of the potential for a conflict of interest.”
Dr Gates said that this kind of problem is not dissimilar to the difficulty of government ministers and senior public servants becoming lobbyists very soon after leaving government. 

Dr Gates said that he would have no problem with Mr Lewis taking up a commercial position as CFO in another industry but not in the same industry.   

The government must deal with these problem if its Efficiency Study is to have credibility. 
“The Efficiency Study is already on the back foot because its ‘terms of reference’ engage problematic management terms such as “benchmarking” and “best practice”.  Use of such loaded and frequently discredited concepts demonstrate out of date management thinking. 

The release today of the five reports of the Federal Government’s Commission of Audit creates a further problem for The Lewis Report as it clearly recommends benchmarking of the ABC and SBS against commercial broadcasters.  It also recommends that “future funding decisions” about the ABC and SBS “should be informed by the outcome of the benchmarking exercise”. 
Dr Gates said that these recommendations were not dissimilar from the Efficiency Study lead by Lewis.

“If Lewis was negotiating a position with Southern Cross Media or was contemplating a return to commercial media while engaged in a benchmarking exercise we can never be sure that the benchmarking exercise was truly independent” said Dr Gates.

The problem is made worse by the fact that there was no independent public representation on the Efficiency Study for the ABC and SBS and there does not seem to be anyone with a public broadcasting background.   

The public was also excluded from making submissions unlike the Commission of Audit.
The ABC/SBS Efficiency Study is shaping up to be stillborn.

Dr Richard Gates
Northern Rivers Branch
Friends of the ABC (NSW) Inc.
Tel 02 6682 5161

Editorial audit: ABC calls in outsiders for news bias probe


Matthew Knott - Crikey media editor

The ABC has moved to tackle concerns of bias in its news and current affairs programs by calling in external auditors to review coverage of contentious topics such as asylum seekers. The broadcaster will also commission detailed polling to ensure it is covering the stories, such as electricity price rises, that ordinary Australians are interested in.

In his most significant speech since being appointed ABC chairman last year, James Spigelman told the National Press Club today:

"Since my appointment I have naturally been concerned with the frequency of allegations of a lack of impartiality. I do not accept that it is systematic, but I do accept that it sometimes occurs ... We are not always as good as our most ardent supporters suggest, nor as bad as our most vocal critics assert."

As a response to the allegations, Spigelman announced the ABC board has adopted a new initiative:

"The ABC will produce and publish a series of editorial audits on particular program topics, by persons of relevant experience who are not employed by the ABC."

The first audit -- already underway -- will probe the impartiality of all interviews on ABC Radio of Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd during the recent election campaign. That audit is being prepared by former BBC journalist Andrea Wills. The second audit will focus on the ABC's treatment of the asylum seeker debate. Spigelman did not speculate on further areas for review in his speech, but the ABC's coverage of climate change is a possibility. So is the recent partnership between the ABC and The Guardian on a recent story about Australian spying in Indonesia.

It will be fascinating to see whether ABC critics, including commentator Andrew Bolt and Liberal Party Senator Cory Bernardi, welcome the initiative or seize upon its existence as evidence of bias.

In Spigelman's speech, the former judge also called on journalists to connect with the concerns of the general public rather those of an educated elite:

"The allegations of bias are, I believe, more often a function of the topics chosen for reporting, than of the content. Journalists -- all of you, not just those at the ABC -- tend to have a social and educational background, perhaps particularly in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, that may make them more interested in, say, gay marriage than, say, electricity prices. As a public broadcaster we must endeavour to engage with those sections of our community who are concerned with the latter."

To do this the ABC will work with a leading research team to provide systematic briefings to staff on the issues important to Australians. Spigelman also took aim at conservative commentators who are calling for the ABC to be privatised:

"I am bemused when I notice that some of the critics who wish to tear down this long-lived institution call themselves 'conservative' ... In the case of a 'privatised' ABC, the services would be unrecognisable. To use the word 'privatise' is an Orwellian corruption of language. A commercial mono-culture in the media will either not deliver the broad range of content that public broadcasters have traditionally delivered, or will not deliver such content to the whole community."

The Fight for the ABC is ON

Mike Carlton (SMH November 30, 2013) writes:

“Soon, my friends, we will have to gather in defence of the ABC. With the Tories in power, the assault on the national broadcaster grows more vicious by the day. Unsurprisingly, the campaign is spearheaded by the Murdoch press. Rupert himself loathes publicly funded broadcasting because it attracts an audience which he believes is rightly his to make money from. The platoons of toadies on his payroll troop obediently into line, along with the rest of the right-wing commentariat.”

On Wednesday 4th December, community activist group GetUp sent out the following message:

THE ATTACK IS ON AGAIN. Today, members of the government, including Cory Bernardi, Bronwyn Bishop and Ian Macdonald, agitated to defund Australia’s public broadcaster. Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi called our ABC a “taxpayer-funded behemoth,” and suggested that we could “perhaps cut the ABC budget and allow the commercial media operators to compete.”

This is the Coalition throwing out a test balloon, so they can see how the public responds to their long-held desire to slash the ABC. Pulled straight from the Christmas wishlist of Rupert Murdoch and the right-wing think-tank the IPA, defunding or commercialising the ABC would ruin a rare, educational and uniquely Australian public resource.

We like our ABC free of ads, free for all, free to remain fair and balanced. Will you make sure Tony Abbott knows to keep it that way?

The petition attached to this statement had, at the time of Update going to print and over 5 days, attracted 200,000 signatures from ordinary Australians determined to defend their ABC – an extraordinary response.

Senator Bernardi’s comments are covered fully in this edition of Update, including the rather surprising assertion that the commercial media need to be protected from the inroads made, very successfully, by the ABC into digital platforms.

Mike Carlton continues:
“Two events have whipped up a heightened frenzy: the ABC’s reporting of the Indonesia crisis, and the disclosure of the salaries of some top broadcasters and executives. The Australian has been in one of its fits of hysterics about this for a fortnight. Cries of treason ring out, with demands for the arrest and imprisonment of ABC managing director, Mark Scott. The corporation and its leftist conspirators must be brought to heel.

How bizarre. In a London courtroom, the stinking underbelly of the Murdoch empire is being eviscerated in the phone hacking trial. Here, the empire strikes back with even more shrill editorials about journalistic ethics and practice. The mind reels.

But make no mistake. The fight for the ABC is on.”

ABC Managing Director Mark Scott responded to both the Indonesian security matter and the issue of ABC salaries in an interview to ABC News 24, covered in this Update. However, for commentators on the Murdoch payroll, rational argument and presentation of facts matters little. As Mike Carlton has pointed out, the Murdoch agenda is to maximise the potential profit to be made across all of the media, and a highly respected public broadcaster like the ABC is getting in the way. In

Murdochland there is little interest in quality journalism, balance or the truth, as we saw so clearly demonstrated in the News Ltd. coverage of the recent Federal election, where the Murdoch press was little more than a cheer squad for the Coalition.
Murdoch power and money combined with the ideological objections to a publicly funded broadcaster from the far right of his party (unless that broadcaster is simply a mouthpiece for the government) will be very difficult for Prime Minister Abbott to resist. And following the number of “about faces” on the Gonski education reforms, it is fanciful to imagine that his pre-election reassurances on the future of the ABC are worth anything at all.

As Mike Carlton says, the fight for the ABC is on.

Mal Hewitt
President, NSW Friends of the ABC

Bring back Backchat...

By Tim Bowden

Tim Bowden, former host of Backchat on ABC TV, writes on the restructured Radio National, and the Terrible Tweets on ABC TV’s Q&A

I miss BackChat – it used to comment on radio matters as well as telly, and I have a beef about both.

First Radio National – yes I know, the sainted RN without which Australia would be a cultural wasteland. I also know that things can’t stay the same all the time. (Mind you John Cargher had to die before RN bosses had the courage to drop Singers of Renown after three decades and more… not that there was much alternative as it happened.)

Every now and then the powers-that-be can’t wait to get their hands on the shiny levers of change, and pull them about. This isn’t all bad. The shake up at the beginning of this year did bring back The Media Report, which never should have been axed, so past mistakes CAN be remedied. Also God lost Her stranglehold on RN’s Sunday mornings to some extent from 7 am, which I thought was a good move. In general the RN network did get a spring clean, which livened the old girl up a bit.

BUT – the scrapping of the half-hour specialist programs on Monday to Friday at 8.30am was a disaster. Now I never hear them at 5.30 pm, unless I think to pod them later.

The reason for this was to give Fran Kelly and the Breakfast team an extra half hour till 9am. Why? Look, Fran runs a great show and I am hooked on it. But it starts at 6am, and after two-and-a-half crackling hours, I for one need a change of pace, and Fran at the team probably need a break. On would come Norman Swan with the Health Report on Monday, and the rest of the varied offerings through the week at 8.30am. I am told that the ratings for most of these dropped sharply, but this is admittedly hearsay.

However when you look at what had to happen to accommodate the shifting of this particular shiny-handled organisational lever, the story gets worse and in my view bizarre. To make room for the specialist programs, the current affairs icon PM (OK, declaration of interest, I was it’s first Executive Producer back in 1969 when it started) had to be shortened to half an hour! Talk about put the clock back, we only had half an hour back in 1969, but in later years the program was expanded to include 10 minutes of news and 50 minutes of current affairs. This is still the case on the Metropolitan networks.

So what are RN regulars supposed to do if they want their full dose of PM in the evening? Wait till 6pm and change to another network? What kind of decision-making is that? Why would you encourage your listeners to go to another network to get a service you were no longer providing? Crazy is too kind a word to describe this change.

Apart from my own historical connection with PM,I think this is loopy. I have been writing and emailing (to Mark Scott and the Chairman of the ABC Board Jim Spigelman among others). These emails have been batted back to RN supremo Michael Mason, who countered with unapologetic blandishments – and how about this for a laugh – justifying the change by saying that poor Mark Colvin (after battling through the week doing a truncated PM for Radio National and then a full version from 6-7 pm for the Metropolitans) had been given an extended show of his own at 10 pm on Friday nights!!! Until recently he’d been doing all this while on dialysis for his failed kidneys. He’d have been better off with an early night. But willing horse that he is, I bet he never complained. I am complaining though at this weak excuse by Mason to justify slashing PM in the first place.

As I said to Mason in earlier correspondence, it’s not too late to change this. We don’t even have to wait till 2014. Just do it. End RN Breakfast at 8.30am, bring back the specialist programs to their old slot, and restore PM to its full time. Mistakes can be made. They can also be reversed. As my old father used to say, I have been ‘farting against thunder’ with the ABC on this one. I would welcome some input from ABC RN listeners to indicate that I am not just one voice crying from the wilderness.

And in particular Q & A hosted by Tony Jones, a great show but marred by the inane Twittering across the bottom of the screen that is distracting and irrelevant.

I know that it is trendy to involve social media but in reality it simply detracts from the debate and cheapens an otherwise admirable program.

This is why. A good proportion of the tweets are just smartarse comments to get on screen. Even when Twitterers get around to commenting on debate itself, it has invariably moved on and the points being made are no longer relevant.

I am not anti social media and use it myself. But in this case it is an abomination. Sometimes I hold up my arm to try and mask off the bottom of the screen to avoid seeing those distracting messages.

On two occasions I have emailed Tony Jones directly to point out the asinine effect of these pesky Tweets, but he has chosen not to reply. So I am taking this occasion to try again. Get rid of them Tony. They don’t work. Be brave. Let the egocentric Twitterers complain all they like about the loss of their little wanks. They will not be missed by your wider audience, free at last to concentrate on what the panellists are actually saying.

It may be possible to market little curtains with Velcro tabs to mask the bottom of the telly screens while Q & A is on to obliterate the inanity. I tell you, I am seriously considering working on a production model, first for me, and then for Q & A viewers.  

That’s all for the moment. Ah – I feel much better now getting that off my chest. But I will be more gratified if RN gets its act together about returning the specialist half-hours to their former spots, and restoring PM to its full length on its home network. And get rid of those bloody Tweets Tony, they are not worth a spurt of goats piss.


Upcoming changes to Radio National

On 25 September, the ABC’s Manager of Radio National, Michael Mason, circulated to “All Staff” a memo announcing “proposed changes to a number of areas of Radio National”. He said:” These changes stem largely from the findings and recommendations of the RN Production Sustainability Project (PSP) but also from editorial considerations relating to the 2015 schedule”. Read Michael Mason's 10 page memo [here].

In response, Dr Peter Pockley from Science Communication ® writes " I make eight major points, though more can be said.

1.         Million dollar cut: Unsurprisingly, this memo received wide circulation outside the confines of ABC RN staff and became the basis of critical comment FABC braches and print media. Mason said, somewhat ominously: “We are proposing very significant changes that will affect many of you. The PSP is a once in a generation opportunity for change, and it is critical that you understand the reasons behind the changes we’re proposing”. We are dealing here with a “plan” that is replete with “management-speak”; e.g. the feel-good term “sustainability” really means “our budget has been cut and this is what is left for us to survive on”. Concomitantly, the report is light on real substance. Seriously, too, the “proposals” are, in effect, decisions that have already been made and the ink is only waiting to dry.

2.         Details needed: Particularly disappointing for not only RN staff but equally for RN’s many supporters in radioland is that the report meekly accepts the cuts which have been handed down and shows no sign that RN “management” debated the financial consequences with those higher up the management chain, first stop being the national Director of Radio, Kate Dundas, and finally the Managing Director, Mark Scott. FABC would do a public service by asking for details of the cuts to RN and equivalent statements for any budget changes – up or down – for 2013 in other main divisions like TV, News, and Web/Online. Who has really been driving the shrinking of RN?

3.         Senior responses needed: This is a time, not for descent into micromanagement “solutions” for dealing with budget cuts (as described in Mason’s memo to staff), but for framing strong and convincing arguments for retention of the specialist units and producers who give RN its special character with its unique contributions of fact and independent analysis to national affairs. Most unfortunately, this report on RN is devoid of such context, primarily, in ABC as a whole, and, secondly, as a major division in ABC Radio. This is why substantive responses need to come from the Director of Radio and the Managing Director.

3.         Some issues addressed, but: The report makes useful comments on some areas of production and there is an overdue recognition of “succession” issues as prominent staff move towards retirement. Also, the proposed Creative Audio Unit sounds interesting but it is only vaguely defined and does not have an obvious, committed champion from within RN staff to establish and lead it. Overall, I cannot perceive anything proposed from these items that will be noticeable to listeners. They certainly notice those programs which are being shut down, like drama, or shrunk.

5.         Online to pay RN for supplies? The relative resources available to RN and ABC Online have never been revealed and it’s time to have some clarity on the current budgets and trends planned into the near future. A particular concern in recent years has been the support being transferred from on-air output to online/web services. RN programs, especially the stand-out specialist programs on RN contribute strongly to the content and quality of the online/web services and it has long been suspected that there has been a steady drain of support (i.e. budgets, staffing and resources) away from on-air. This review of RN should have made a strong argument for, or at least acknowledged, an internal re-balancing of resources accordingly, but there is no hint of detailed costings, direct and indirect, involved in internal balances and transfers. For internal fairness and measure of relative support, the ABC budgeting should provide for internal costs of RN’s contributions to web/online to be repaid back to RN’s budget.

6.         RN key feed for ABC Online: In another huge hole in the report, I can find no reference of any nature to the audience(s) for RN programs and their reactions. One or two programs are mentioned as having strong followings, but this seems to have been judged by such indirect measures as requests for transcripts (essentially, an online/web area which should be costed there, not out of RN’s diminishing budget). There is no mention of downloads of podcasts which indicate “popularity” of certain content and presenters. Philip Adams, for one, maintains a huge national and international audience for Late Night Live from this online service. It is grossly inadequate for a review like this to avoid any mention of feedback, let alone some kind of analysis of this and how it is handled. This must be of particular concern to FABC followers who, too frequently get the brush-off from our comments which may be critical at times but are always constructive in support of an improved ABC.

7.         Audiences not consulted: I wouldn’t want to get stuck on simplistic measures of audience “ratings” as these are not especially applicable to RN as a whole or any of its component programs, but it is extraordinary that this report is constructed entirely internally and the writers didn’t have the good sense to engage in some external consultation. FABC Vic has direct experience of this in the way their painstaking and constructive survey of dedicated ABC followers was dismissed out of hand with a “form” letter.

8.         Program quality: Apart from the closure of a few programs, there is no indication that RN “management” gives any leadership in critically assessing program and presenter quality. Of the much-vaunted changes in the 2012 schedule there are some duds which cry out for corrective action or major change. Sunday Extra is one such case. This “flow” program stands in sharp contrast to its companions Saturday Extra and RN Drive which are sharp, inventive and invariably good listening. Much of the difference lies in the regular presenters with Geraldine Doogue and Fran Kelly carrying their audiences with them in natural, relaxed style, whereas for Sunday Extra Jonathan Green is limp or mannered (unnatural upward inflections on most words in scripted intros) and frankly irritating in practically all aspects of his presentation. A firm producer of his style and an editor of his scripted pieces in advance of delivery are badly needed; pre-recording him in place of “live” delivery would allow for such improvements, if he has this within him. But this review does not open the door to any firm action on such failures".

Peter Pockley
8 December 2012