Crikey reporter Sophie Black writes:


Insiders at ABC radio have told Crikey that management is planning to
slash jobs from radio news and current affairs, with a plan to axe
studio producers from the department that produces flagship programs like AM, PM and The World Today.
Staff at RNews and RCAFF are very concerned because the
“editorial impact is potentially huge.” Management also plans to put
each of the programs’ technical producers (TPs) into a pool working
with news’s TPs.

These moves would essentially mean “removing two staff from each
current affairs program, whilst not really guaranteeing their
replacement except on a ‘needs be’ basis,” our insider told Crikey.
A studio producer keeps the
show on air and
keeps “constant track of timings,” explained our source, which frees up the executive producer to
focus on the “editorial ebb and flow,” keep talking to the presenter
about changes, liaise with reporters and be able to judge which way to
go on breaking stories.

If the EP also has to “hold a stop watch and worry about micro-managing
the program” much of that focus will be lost and so too, the capacity of programs like
AM, PM and The World Today to “stay live with breaking news.” And the loss of
the TP makes all that worse because they’re the intake producer for
stories that “come in after the program is on air – and there are
lots.”

In a November 11 letter addressed to head of ABC Workplace relations
Don Smith, representatives from the Community and Public Sector
Union
and Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance wrote on behalf of the RNews/RCAFF joint house committee:

We provide live
and rolling coverage daily. We are able to do that because of the resources we
currently have. We are perplexed by the notion that extra resources will be
provided as and when required. Where will these extra resources come from? Is
there a pool of journalists/producers waiting in the wings for a breaking
story? The way we covered the London bombings must be
seen as a template for any emergency coverage. The story broke during the 1810
program. Because a studio producer was able to keep the program rolling, the EP
was able to focus on the breaking story, chase new talent and audition CNN/BBC
coverage as the program went to air, immediately throwing new elements on air
as soon as possible. The fact the EP could leave the studio to focus on
editorial issues was vital to the success of the broadcast. If there had not
been a studio producer, the program would have been unable to respond to, and
cover the story in a timely manner, depriving our largest audience in the
eastern states of our coverage of the event.

….Management still hasn’t
adequately explained how quality will not be compromised by these measures.
Experienced and senior staff have repeatedly said that editorial oversight,
immediacy and quality of output would inevitably be compromised if reporters
end up doing the job of studio producers as well as other editorial functions.

The letter also says, “the timetable of
the proposed implementation is totally unworkable. The summer period
is not the time to be experimenting with new formats. The people who will be
running the programs during the year … will be on
leave.”

Insiders tell us that “industrial action is brewing” over the issue,
and that foreign correspondents will be giving full support to their
colleagues because they are “utterly pissed off with management” and
contemplating action themselves.

Foreign correspondents are disgruntled
with what they see as an out of touch management, with one insider telling us, “ComCover and ABC
management conspired to secretly slash” their general
insurance entitlements and life insurance. An insider told us, management’s response “to the issue was ‘well, reporters should
stop going to dangerous places.’ Guess what, he’s an accountant. These
f*ckers are killing the ABC.”