Saturday, 27 May 2017

ABC redundancy round targeting 120 staff has started, Michelle Guthrie says

Extract from The Guardian

Managing director tells Senate estimates ‘redundancies, while regrettable, are a necessary part of funding this work’

The Managing Director of the ABC, Michelle Guthrie, at the Senate estimates.
The managing director of the ABC, Michelle Guthrie, at the Senate estimates. Photograph: Mike Bowers for the Guardian

Another round of redundancies targeting 120 ABC staff has begun this week, the ABC’s managing director, Michelle Guthrie, has told Senate estimates.
In an opening statement on Wednesday night, Guthrie said the job losses she had signalled in March were well under way and this round would involve senior and middle management roles based in Sydney.
“Redundancies, while regrettable, are a necessary part of funding this work,” Guthrie said. “In March, I signalled that that 150 to 200 positions would be made redundant. This includes the efficiency initiatives in television and news, which resulted in a reduction of approximately 70 employees.
“Consultations have begun with affected employees in some divisions and more will begin over the next few days.”
Guthrie also defended the ABC’s digital presence, in an apparent reference to criticism from Fairfax Media’s chief executive, Greg Hywood, at the Senate inquiry into public interest journalism last week.
“I need to make it clear that the public expect the ABC to make its full breadth of content, including the extraordinary journalism displayed on Four Corners, available to them on all platforms, including digital,” Guthrie said. “The national broadcaster should not be used as a scapegoat for the problems that confront others in the digital media landscape.”
Hywood had accused the ABC of stealing Fairfax traffic by “aggressively expanding” from television and radio into digital news and then paying Google “taxpayers’ money” to put ABC websites at the top of the search engine.
“The ABC is creating additional pressure on commercial media by aggressively competing for the same audience that commercial media rely on by providing online content for free, undermining our ability to create a sustainable model.”
ABC staff are bracing for job cuts on Thursday. Staff have been called into meetings with management on Thursday and the cuts are expected to hit Radio National hard.
In the first round of job cuts in March, up to 85 technical staff on television programs including 7.30 and Foreign Correspondent were tapped for redundancy despite Guthrie characterising the cuts as streamlining middle management.
“At a time of major disruption in the media sector, its remit to inform, educate and entertain the nation cannot be understated,” Guthrie told estimates. “A vibrant, productive, effective ABC is more important than ever.
“As a public broadcaster, the ABC must work within a fixed funding envelope. The ABC Act requires the corporation to be both efficient and effective in discharging its responsibilities.”
Guthrie referred to the impending cuts as “addressing duplication in some content areas”.
An additional $2.9m would be available to to cover arts, science and education and an extra $2m to new programming as part of a dedicated cross-platform education strategy.
“We are streamlining our structure and reducing layers of management with the proceeds to be translated into a tangible lasting return for ABC stakeholders,” Guthrie said. “All that money saved will be invested in new audience-facing activities – telling compelling Australian stories.”

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