Media union demands answers from ABC about job cuts

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) has called upon the ABC to explain how its recently announced restructure, which will include up to 200 job losses, will affect the broadcaster’s news services.

Michelle Guthrie, ABC’s managing director, announced the restructure, which will see management reduced by 20%, on Tuesday. Support areas are set to absorb a higher percentage of the cuts.

Guthrie said the changes were essential to the long-term health of the organisation and resulted from the need for the broadcaster to adapt to wider changes within the media sector.

She said the ABC would work with unions and staff, but MEAA media director Katelin McInerney already has questions.

McInerney said within hours of the announcement, production staff were being “tapped on the shoulder for redundancy”, which contradicted the message the ABC had been putting to market.

“These cuts to cameras, editing and other production support areas fly in the face of assurances made to staff at lunchtime yesterday that the redundancies would be concentrated in back office management,” she said.

“The restructure was spun as good news, with $80 million to be allocated to a new content fund, including new positions in regional Australia. But now it seems Ms Guthrie is robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

Noting that since 2014, the ABC has been subject to over $250 million in budget reductions, McInerney said news and current affairs staff at the ABC were already overworked and had generated considerable efficiency gains. She called on the ABC to explain how the job cuts would not inevitably lead to a reduction in the quality of the national broadcaster’s news and current affairs platforms and programming.

“While management say no editorial positions will be affected, these cuts to production and operations staff cannot avoid having an impact on the delivery of quality news and current affairs to the Australian public,” she said.

The union placed a large portion of the blame on the Coalition government and its funding cuts to the ABC, but McInerney said Guthrie needed to take a stronger stance against Canberra.

“It was very disappointing to hear Michelle Guthrie refuse to stand up for ABC funding during last week’s Estimates hearing in Canberra,” she said.

“If the managing director of the ABC won’t champion the public broadcaster to government, who will?”

The savings achieved in the reduction in management roles will go towards a $50m content fund, according to the ABC, which will be open to all employees to source new ideas for content.

Guthrie said: “The Fund enables us to respond with flexibility and speed to shifting audience trends and to extend our reach and engagement, especially with audiences who are infrequent ABC users.”

The public broadcaster will also be investing $15m per year in regional jobs, creating 80 new rural and regional roles.


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