ABC staff seething over job cuts for ‘digital transformation’

The communications minister is seeking a briefing from the ABC over proposed job cuts.

The communications minister is seeking a briefing from the ABC over proposed job cuts. Photo: Getty

Well over 100 jobs will be lost, the ABC announced last week, as part of a “range of savings measures and reinvestment initiatives” as it becomes a digital-first organisation.

By 2028, the majority of audience engagement will be on the ABC’s digital platforms and we will have a digital-first approach to commissioning, producing, and distributing content,” managing director David Anderson said.

“We will enhance our primary digital products – ABC iview, ABC listen and ABC News – to provide personalised services that enable audiences to more easily discover the journalism and content that is relevant to them.”

Mr Anderson said the ABC, like other media organisations in Australia and abroad, was operating “in an environment that is subject to inflationary pressures”.

He stressed the need to increase investment in the digital transformation to improve efficiency while also meeting the needs of its audience.

A woman walks past Australia's public broadcaster ABC's head office building in Sydney on September 27, 2018.

The ABC unveiled its five-year plan to staff amid the news of job cuts.

Five-year plan

ABC staff were sent a five-year plan for the organisation on Thursday, which outlined the move from traditional channels and a shift to two divisions, news and content.

The structure for ABC commissioning editors will change and there will be fewer executives involved in the commissioning and production process. Additionally the broadcaster will adopt a digital-first approach to commissioning and choosing content.

This will free up funds for investment in “high-quality distinctive Australian content”. 

The ABC proposed the launch of the Current Affairs Digital Transformation Project. The project would ensure the best investigative programs on the ABC are able to meet audience’s demand for long-form, on-demand video and digital content.

A new national bulletin, ABC News Sunday, will also be introduced and will feature stories from around Australia and the world.

Stateline will return in a digital-first format and will feature local stories through long-form journalism, in-depth interviews and explainers.

A dedicated climate, environment and energy reporting team will hone in on issues that concern Australia’s future, with the ABC recognising climate-related issues are of particular concern to younger people.

To drive uptake, ABC iview, ABC News and ABC listen will be enhanced and digital output will be promoted, leading to new roles being established.

Who was axed?

Last week, it was confirmed the ABC’s political editor Andrew Probyn was made redundant.

The veteran journalist told The Guardian he was “flabbergasted” by the decision, and said he was called into a meeting where he was told his job was no longer needed.

“I’ve been informed that the national broadcaster no longer needs a political editor and that they want to reinvest the money into social and digital reporting roles,” he said.

Along with Probyn, there are about 120 jobs in jeopardy. Other cuts include the digital arts editor and the managing editor of arts.

About 40 positions across the news division are expected to become redundant, including journalists, editors, camera and sound operators on 7.30, Australian Story, Four Corners and the investigations team.

To make the most of the digital transformation, the ABC would need to “better align” its resources and invest in new skills, which cannot be created through retaining [staff], Mr Anderson said.

“Achieving these outcomes requires some difficult decisions. While we have targets for savings in support areas, including travel and consulting costs, unfortunately there is an unavoidable impact on some roles,” he said.

“These changes are important to secure the long-term success of the organisation, but we acknowledge it is never easy, particularly for individuals who are directly impacted by these proposals.”

Fury over job cuts

People were outraged by the changes and especially furious at the job cuts.

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) issued two statements regarding the changes.

The job cuts will result in “gaping holes” in the ABC’s news around Australia and will “inevitably weaken its ability to deliver quality journalism to the Australian public”.

In response to axing the ABC’s arts team, the MEAA said the decision “sends a poor signal” regarding where the arts fall on the broadcaster’s priorities.

“Arts coverage has been a fundamental role of the ABC from its earliest days so we struggle to see how this decision fulfils its charter obligations to ‘encourage and promote the musical, dramatic and other performing arts in Australia’,” MEAA chief executive Erin Madeley said.

Many journalists were shocked that Andrew Probyn had lost his job. The New Daily columnist Paul Bongiorno described Probyn as “hard working, competent and credible”.

“I am still recovering from the shock announcement,” he said on Twitter. “It’s like saying a kitchen doesn’t need a cook.”

Australian Financial Review political editor Phil Coorey described Probyn as “the hardest-working ABC journalist I know and the broadcaster’s best and most constant news breaker”.

“They’ve sacked him because they suddenly don’t need a political editor,” Coorey said.

“What a disgrace from an organisation full of middle-management time servers.”

Online, ABC staff described the redundancies as a bloodbath and said they were furious.

-with AAP

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.