Ex-Radio National boss says sections of ABC ‘wasteful and unaccountable’ as Ultimo HQ put ‘in lockdown’ ahead of cuts announcement

Louise EvansFormer Radio National manager Louise Evans has lashed out at the culture inside the ABC station and said it demonstrated why there need to be cuts to the public broadcaster.

Today managing director Mark Scott will announce where $300m in saving in the next five years will come from after Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed the cuts last week.

Mumbrella understands extra security is being put on at the Ultimo headquarters of the ABC, whilst some staff are being summoned to one-on-one meetings with management aghead of this morning’s announcement.

In an editorial in today’s Fairfax newspapers Evans, who lasted just six months as manager of the station amid rumours of tensions with senior producers and group program director for ABC Radio Michael Mason.

“I was shocked by the culture, waste, duplication and lax work place practices exercised in some pockets of Radio National,” wrote Evans. “I was even more shocked by the failure of the executive to want to do anything about it.”

However, last week’s Media Watch show it was suggested the station would be largely unaffected by the cuts to the budget being passed down by the government.

Ina  statement in response to the editorial Michael Mason, director of ABC radio, said: “We acknowledge some of the views expressed today were the result of a very unhappy period at RN for all involved.”

In the piece Evans, a former managing editor of The Australian, cited the “so called lifers” at the station who had never worked anywhere else as the reason for the culture, describing them as “impervious to change, unaccountable, untouchable and who harboured a deep sense of entitlement”, but said management were too scared to tackle the issue.

She wrote: “They didn’t have a 9-5 mentality. They had a 10-3 mentality. They planned their work day around their afternoon yoga class. They wore thongs and shorts to work, occasionally had a snooze on the couch after lunch and popped out to Paddy’s Market to buy fresh produce for dinner before going home.”

Evans also claimed waste was rife, with taxi dockets kept in unlocked drawers anyone could use “Yet attempts to tighten basic oversight of taxi use and leave, controls that are the norm in the corporate world, were frowned upon by the ABC executive and actively discouraged as ‘not the main game'”.

Evans, who most recently held a post on the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic news service as a supervisor, also blasted the editorial rigour of the station.

“Some producers strongly resisted editorial oversight and locked in segments that lacked editorial rigour and relevance. So the weekly Media Report went to air discussing foreign press freedoms while hundreds of Australian journalists were being made redundant just down the road,” she wrote.

“The same efficiencies and work place practices that are the norm in corporate Australia need to be front and centre at the ABC so that it remains a strong, independent voice that is both editorially robust and reflects who we are – a culturally, geographically and socio-economically diverse nation that doesn’t believe anyone is entitled to a job for life at the tax payer’s expense.

In his response Mason said: “RN undertook an efficiency review in recent years, which reviewed and reset production benchmarks and we believe it represents an outstanding return on investment.

“We are very satisfied with the results and RN staff frequently tell us how we are producing a great deal more content, much more efficiently. One of our most respected presenters Dr Norman Swan recently remarked to me ‘people are unaware of just how much work is being done now with less resources’.

“The drive for efficiency at the ABC has an impact on all divisions and departments, RN included. RN generates an enormous amount of original, agenda setting influential content and staff work as hard in RN as in any part of the ABC.

“We acknowledge some of the views expressed today were the result of a very unhappy period at RN for all involved.”

An ABC spokesman said security levels are “normal for any event held in a public space at the ABC”, but declined to comment on staff being briefed on changes ahead of the full meeting.

Alex Hayes


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