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Redundancies at ABC Radio will be a ‘win for audiences’: Michael Mason

Despite announcing nine redundancies across ABC Radio National yesterday, the director of ABC Radio is confident the change is “a win for audiences”.

Speaking with Mumbrella, Michael Mason said while changes which involve job losses are”particularly hard and difficult to deal with”, the reduction in management roles and a simplified structure are positive changes for ABC audiences.

Changes “a win for audiences”

“Change is always difficult and changes like this, particularly when it impacts on individuals, is particularly hard and difficult to deal with, and that’s been our focus today.

“We believe the changes we are putting in place that reduce management and management structures and support our audiences, with money flowing back to content, is a win for audiences,” Mason said.

“We will be talking to staff in individual groups around how we will be managing work flows, but I believe it will give our genre teams, particularly in science, religion, arts and big ideas and factual, greater accountability and greater agility, to be making the sort of content decisions they need to make to ensure that we are doing content that’s not only relevant to audiences, that also engages audiences to think differently,” he said.

While there were nine redundancies announced yesterday, Mason said there could be more, dependent on projects.

“That’s the main announcement for today, we have other projects on the go that may have some impacts on management roles down the track, but we haven’t completed all those projects yet,” he said.

Asked how much money had been saved as a result, Mason said: “It’s enough of a saving for us to build towards a $50m content reinvestment fund, not just for radio but across the ABC.”

The comments follow several announcements by the ABC, indicating the redundancies would take place as part of Michelle Guthrie’s management restructure plan, with Radio National editor roles absorbing content director roles.

Along with the redundancies, the ABC announced the creation of ABC Audio Studios, which will see the long-form radio features and the podcast content creation teams form a “combined unit.”

Kellie Riordan: ABC Audio Studios’ new manager

ABC Audio Studios and ABC RN will share a commissioning process for podcasts but will grow the ABC’s genre offering, to target key audience gaps.

Kellie Riordan, presentation and content co-ordinator, content and digital at ABC Radio will move into the new role of manager, ABC Audio Studios.

“We will be focusing on creating new digital audio content, and we are also wanting to target some of those key audience gaps and focusing on delivering long-form audio storytelling to the linear schedule but also increasingly on platforms, because we know that’s where the audience is and they’re hungry for that quality, distinctive Australian content,” she said.

“Already our podcast content creation team was looking at some genres and doing work on some genres that the as an organisation hadn’t really been focusing on.”

The ABC Audio Studios will focus on content for “working families”, “busy people”, “lifestyle content” and build on RN’s current offering, and will aim to build the broadcaster’s local and international audiences.

“Audio Studios will look to leverage on the success of some of our current podcasts and look to expand and grow and build our audience both in the Australian and international market.

“I unashamedly want to get our content in front of as many Australians as possible and while we have so many dedicated and wonderful listeners for our schedule and our current podcast, there are also particular communities in Australia that maybe don’t listen to the ABC,” she said.

“Like all media organisations, digital transformation has been something we have had to think about and adapt to but this is such an opportunity – more places for more people to access top-quality, first choice, audio and whether that’s in news and current affairs, storytelling, genres, we are thinking about how we deliver that differently.

“Podcasting is the perfect vehicle for that.”

Riordan said the ABC could not ignore the realities of the changing media landscape

“I don’t think you can deny the facts which are linear audiences are declining, and the linear schedule is still very important to us, and in Australia we are still very committed to that with ABC radio but equally we want to also be in the digital space,” she said.

“We want to make sure that we distribute, promote, market the best audio that we have on third-party platforms so that it’s in people’s pockets, anywhere, anytime.

“It’s an exciting time for audio, the things made radio my favourite medium, the fact it’s a conversation real people telling real stories, those things still hold true in the digital space,” she said.

“Audio is the new black.”

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