The Asia Pacific News Centre and the ABC’s International Division are likely to contribute most of the 80 redundancies announced to staff this morning, as the ABC grapples with the budget cuts.
Around 80 staff will be made redundant from the ABC, the Commonwealth Public Sector Union and an ABC spokesman have confirmed, however this figure may decrease once redeployment options are explored.
A Radio Australia staff member told Crikey 25 editorial jobs will go, while seven people in operations will also be sacked. Staff have been told that this will include the entire English-language division of Radio Australia, which the CPSU has confirmed. All casuals and contract staff will be dropped. Asked if this number of redundancies would have a large impact on Radio Australia, a staff member told Crikey they amounted to “gutting” the network. It’s understood just 30 staff will be retained in the division, with cuts in content expected. Flagship program The World will be reduced to a half-hour program.
In ABC International, another 46 jobs are going. Staff have been told the Australia Network may stop broadcasting earlier than September.
In a statement, CPSU president Michael Tull said the government had put the ABC in an impossible position, but slammed the forced redundancies he claimed the ABC was forcing on its workers.
“This is an appalling way to treat hardworking staff as they who won’t have a say in whether they get to keep their jobs. We don’t accept the process of forced redundancies and we believe the ABC is in breach of its industrial obligations and we are considering the next step,” he said.
“Worse still there may be more job losses to come which will wreck morale among staff and will be bad news for Australians who expect quality services from the ABC.”
“This is all part of the Abbott Government’s plan to attack and neuter the ABC. Cutting the Australia Network on the basis that it wasn’t providing value for money was always a fig leaf. The first casualties in this Government’s war on the ABC are the staff who have less than a fortnight before they are sacked.”
Earlier, an ABC spokesman told Crikey around 80 jobs were expected to go as a result of the changes to international broadcasting, which follow on from the funding cuts contained in the budget. These jobs are mainly expected to come from the Asia-Pacific News Centre in Melbourne and from ABC International. “The basic point of what is happening now is we had a substantial hit to our budget,” the spokesman said. “We’ve still got a charter obligation to be an international broadcaster — we’re working out how to best spend that money to do that, the details of which will be relayed to staff today.”
It was a message echoed to staff in an email from ABC managing director Mark Scott, who wrote at 2pm today that any decisions on how funding cuts affected staff had “taken longer than expected… because of financial and logistical complications surrounding the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s exist from the [Australia Network] contract.”
Last week, the ABC agreed with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on the conditions surrounding the end of its contract to provide the Australia Network only one year into a 10-year agreement.
“With those matters only just clarified, [News boss Kate Torney] and [ABC International boss Lynley Marshall] and their teams have worked hard to craft a proposed new model for international services. Difficult decisions need to be made, with the funding envelope for international services reduced from $35 million to $15 million,” Scott wrote. “The ABC remains committed to fulfilling its charter by delivering a converged service for overseas audience, but this will inevitably involve changes and reduced staffing levels. Consultations with staff have commenced today regarding the proposed changes. These discussions will ultimately determine the final shape of the new service and the timing of the switch-off of the AN television service.
“It is a very difficult time for those who have been providing services for our international networks and we will provide the best support we can while making the changes required to fulfil our charter with the new, smaller budget.”
Crikey is still uncertain about how the ABC’s charter obligations to be an international broadcaster will be met. The Australia Network will shut down in September, or earlier, and the ABC has prepared an alternate plan to be revealed to staff today on how to cover off its international obligation, believed to involve beefing up the international coverage on ABC News 24.
ABC staff have feared foreign bureaux would suffer as a result of the funding cuts since the budget was announced. The ABC’s budget for foreign coverage has shrunk to $15 million from its previous $35 million after the loss of the $20-million-a-year Australian Network contract. Speaking to Crikey shortly after the budget, ABC managing director Mark Scott said everything was on the table as the network considered how to deliver on its charter obligations with less money to do so.