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ABC News boss Gaven Morris warns there is no more fat left to cut in wake of Budget cuts

ABC head of news Gaven Morris has warned there “is no more fat left to cut” at the national broadcaster as funding has been effectively cut by half over the past 30 years.

“Back in 1987, your ABC famously cost each Australian eight cents a day. In 1987-dollar terms we now cost each Australian just four cents a day,” Morris said.

Morris: “We’ve learnt to do a lot with our few cents a day.”

“In other words, since the 1980s our per capita funding has halved in real terms.

“We’ve learnt to do a lot with our few cents a day.”

Morris’ speech at the Melbourne Press Club follows Tuesday’s Budget where Treasurer Scott Morrison announced a freeze in funding which will effectively see $84m slashed from the ABC’s budget over the next three years.

 

Morris pointed out his news division only spends 4% of its budget on overheads.

“In ABC News, almost 96% of our annual budget of $202.4m is spent on journalism and production.

“Make no mistake, there is no more fat to cut in ABC News. From this point on, we’re cutting into muscle.

“Since the mid-1980s, however, our funding has actually declined by 28% in real terms, while over the same period we have increased the number of services on which we serve Australians, including creating the ABC News TV channel and iView entirely from internal savings.”

Morris spent part of his speech outlining the recently announced restructure to the ABC’s metro newsrooms, saying it will give regional journalists more scope to report stories.

“The next step is to ensure state and territory audiences are just as well served by distinctive journalism, and last week we outlined the Local Journalism Initiative.

“The proposal reshapes our eight capital city newsrooms to enable us to deliver more in-depth coverage and faster breaking news to local audiences across TV, radio, web and mobile.

“The newsrooms have not been reshaped for years and, while our teams have worked hard to adapt to changing audience needs, they’re often still organised around traditional broadcast output. We want them to be led and structured to meet the lifestyles of Australians today and to pursue a stronger, bolder brand of reporting.

“We anticipate around 20 redundancies. Of course, this is difficult. But the aim is to bring in new senior roles equipped with the skills to meet different audience demands. We’ll have no fewer editorial roles and no cost cuts.

“Some local newsrooms, such as Darwin, will end up with more journalists than they have now, and most of our newsrooms will have more resources to invest in coverage.

“We are asking our local journalists to do fewer stories but to increase the value and quality of those we do. Less commodity news, more journalism that local audiences are increasingly getting less of elsewhere.”

In concluding his speech, Morris observed how Australians’ trust in institutions such as AMP, governments and the church had been shaken and it was the ABC’s role to provide a trusted voice.

“The best way to make our case? To maintain our absolute commitment to Australians to provide the most valuable in-depth and investigative storytelling, accurate analysis and context, and reliable breaking news coverage.

“And to make sure it is fully available to everyone across all our programs, platforms and channels.”

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