ABC axes ABC Life, Comedy and up to 250 jobs as part of five-year plan

The ABC has revealed what measures it will take in order to meet its budget shortfall between 2020 and 2025.

The five-year plan includes discontinuing the ABC Life brand and rehousing it in ABC Local, which will source content from across the ABC, including outer suburban and regional areas.

The ABC said now, more than ever, ‘We are your ABC’

ABC Life launched in 2018 amid a flurry of debate and discussion about whether the national broadcaster should offer a lifestyle platform. Its detractors argued it competed with commercial outfits which were already offering the same style of content, and didn’t assist the ABC in fulfilling its charter.

ABC Life’s editor Bhakthi Puvanenthiran has since revealed on Twitter up to half her team could be let go as part of the change.

Managing director of the ABC, David Anderson, said in today’s announcement there could be up to 250 staff let go across the board.

The proposals announced today ensure the ABC can enhance its value to all Australians now and into the future,” he said. “However, we anticipate we will farewell as many as 250 people through this process, valued colleagues who have made tremendous contributions to the ABC and to our audiences.

“This is a difficult time for us, as it is for the broader economy and community as we all struggle with the events of this year.”

Anderson said the Federal Government’s indexation pause, which effectively cut the ABC’s budget by $84m over three years, with an ongoing reduction of $41m a year from 2022, combined with the $64m in ongoing cuts imposed in 2014 made these kinds of announcements inevitable.

Further cost-saving measures include rebranding ABC Comedy, formerly ABC 2, to “create a home for a range of genres, such as arts, science, education and religion”. The ABC said comedy programs would still be commissioned for its primary TV channel, and will remain a destination on its streaming platform iView.

ABC Comedy is no more

Independent production budgets will also be slashed by $5m per year, predominately from the factual and entertainment slate. The ABC will prioritise drama and children’s programming.

And another victim is the 7:45am radio news bulletin. The ABC said it needs to focus on digital and on-demand news services.

The national broadcaster has also reduced travel budgets by 25% and will review its property portfolio. Spare space in its headquarters in Ultimo in Sydney could be leased out, giving the broadcaster $4m.

75% of content makers will work away from Ultimo by 2025, which the ABC said would ensure greater engagement with local communities.

Despite all the changes, Anderson said the ABC can still deliver.

“The ABC Five-Year Plan 2020-2025 is just the start of this next stage in the ABC’s history,” Anderson said.

“We will uphold the highest editorial values, remaining Australia’s best and most trusted source of news and information and continuing to deliver the best public interest journalism that strengthens our democracy.”

“The ABC Five-Year Plan is a commitment to the ABC tradition of telling Australian stories that are accessible, bold and creative. Our message to the Australian people is clear. Now, more than ever, we are your ABC.”

He and ABC chair Ita Buttrose will continue to lobby the Government to provide five-year funding, to give the ABC more certainty.

Buttrose today endorsed Anderson’s plan.

“The ABC Five-Year Plan is a robust blueprint for the future of the ABC that emphasises the important role the ABC plays in the Australian way of life.”


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