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Radio National announces 2013 schedule; slashes jobs, programs

Radio National programs including film review show MovieTime and drama platform Airplay have been axed from the 2013 schedule to save money.

ABC Radio National will lose seven programs and 11 staff in a cost-cutting overhaul designed to save $1 million from the station’s budget.

As foreshadowed by Crikey yesterday, radio drama program Airplay is getting axed. Other programs to get the chop from the draft 2013 schedule are MovieTime, The Book Reading, Sunday Story, Creative Instinct, Lingua Franca and The Night Air.

In an email to all staff sent on Tuesday afternoon, RN manager Michael Mason said, “Radio plays and book readings have, for many years, faced declining audience numbers, while remaining an expensive activity for the network. We continue to believe very strongly that ratings are not the only measure for RN, but the decline in listenership does indicate a lack of engagement in radio plays amongst our audience.”

Mason told Crikey this afternoon that 11 jobs are expected to be made redundant: five from the drama department, three from features, two from operations and one from administration.

He says the station will continue to promote creative audio storytelling, but in more experimental ways than traditional radio dramas.

The controversial changes to this year’s RN schedule — which included the addition of high-profile hosts such as Waleed Aly, Julian Morrow and former Sydney Morning Herald journalist Andrew West — were funded by a one-off top-up of around $1 million from the ABC Radio division. Radio National, with an annual budget of $17 million, traditionally runs just over or just under its budget.

Mason’s email, detailing the recommendations of the six-month long Production Sustainability Project, also outlines changes to make staffing levels more equitable across different programs. Producers for feature programs such as 360Documentaries and Into the Music will be expected to make more programs and to do so in less time. While acknowledging the targets set for feature producers are “contentious”, Mason said: “We simply cannot continue to produce three documentary programs on the current production schedule as budgetary pressures continue to grow.”

MovieTime host Julie Rigg will retire at the end of this year after 24 years as Radio National’s movie critic.

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  • 1
    Paul Wilson
    Posted Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    I hope they put Phillip Adams out to pasture now. OK, well maybe one program a week is fine, but the endless repeats?? And restore the excellent Mark Colvin’s PM to it original length

  • 2
    Ian Holder
    Posted Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    I am very upset to read ‘Lingua Franca’ has been axed; a fantastic show with a great host in Maria Zijlstra who brings a great sense of humour and a down-to-earth approach I personally find lacking in many RN programs compared to the BBC in particular, and PRI, Deutsche Welle and others service… . It is one of the few language podcasts I listen to, and the only Australian one — a big loss for me.

  • 3
    paddy
    Posted Wednesday, 26 September 2012 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Bloody hell, slashing all that RN goodness, so that ABC24 can waste another million $. Such a deeply depressing business.

  • 4
    Demas
    Posted Wednesday, 26 September 2012 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Yes axing fantastic programs and replacing them with more talk rubbish from the likes of Waleed Aly and Julian Morrow. “High-profile” what a joke. Who does the ABC think listens to 3RN, 20 somethings? They had a chance to turn a 3RN- a National network into something grand and they turn it into another station that employs comedians to talk crap. There is enough crap by comedians on 774 but even so ratings are in decline. Wake up ABC. You are losing the audience you have had for decades and you are not going to get the ifone generation to listen to you.

  • 5
    Catherine
    Posted Wednesday, 26 September 2012 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    It’s very sad to lose Airplay as it was an important platform for emerging playwrights and actors in Australia. Airplay programs were world class. RN is in danger of losing its point of difference for those of us who enjoy thoughtful, beautifully made features.

  • 6
    Rodney Topor
    Posted Thursday, 27 September 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    First Ramona Koval, now Julie Rigg. RN’s most intelligent and entertaining Arts critics being made redundant. Very sad for loyal listeners.

  • 7
    DAVID SANDERSON
    Posted Monday, 8 October 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    In a way cuts are always unfortunate but these cuts seem to be the right cuts. Other than MovieTime these programs are not aimed at a broad enough audience. MovieTime is generally pretty insufferable because of Rigg’s tone of immensely pleased with herself smugness and self-satisfaction. Hopefully movie review and discussion will find other slots in the schedule.

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