Change is afoot in the ABC’s network of foreign bureaux: Moscow is out and a second Middle-East position is on the way.
The ABC has scrapped the position of Moscow correspondent after more than two decades reporting from the Russian capital. It will allow Aunty to send another full-time correspondent to the Middle East — a reversal from a controversial 2010 decision to axe one of the broadcaster’s two Mid-East posts on the eve of the Arab Spring uprisings.
Norman Hermant’s three years in the Moscow bureau are up and the naturalised Canuck will not be replaced when he returns to work in Melbourne. Hermant — notable for his strong Canadian accent — followed Monica Attard, Eric Campbell, Emma Griffiths and others in the role. The ABC abolished the position of Moscow cameraman in 2010, leaving Hermant to film many of his own stories on a small digital camera. He has described the abolition of the posting as “sad news” on Twitter.
ABC head of policy Alan Sunderland told Crikey the decision is “not about cost savings” but creating a more flexible network of foreign correspondents able to cover the biggest international stories. “It was fairly straightforward,” he said of the call.
The ABC will retain a producer in Moscow and reporters will be flown into Russia from Europe, the Middle East or Australia when news breaks. The second Middle East correspondent will be based in the ABC’s Jerusalem bureau alongside current reporter Matt Brown. The position will be advertised within weeks. Sunderland says the option of Hermant reporting from Jerusalem was considered, but he is ready to return to Australia.
The ABC has also considered opening another Middle East bureau — apart from Jerusalem — but decided against it because the set-up has worked well in the past.
The ABC opened a Kabul bureau in 2010 but did not replace Sally Sara when she returned home from Afghanistan after a year.