First, here’s the rumour doing the rounds of ABC Radio:

Is ABC supremo Mark Scott happy with the answers he’s getting from his own management team about plans to dump the Religion Report from the Radio National schedule?

If what we’re told is true, he has good reason to be at the very least confused but more likely mightily p-ssed off.

You will remember that the Religion Report‘s host, Stephen Crittenden, was suspended from duty after he revealed to his audience that management was taking the axe to his program and a bunch of other specialist weekly reports on RN. The ABC has received a barrage of angry emails over Crittenden’s suspension and Mark Scott faced tough questions about the matter when he appeared at a Senate estimates hearing last week. It was an unwelcome distraction as Scott wanted to use the occasion to make a pitch for more money in the lead up to Canberra’s triennial review of Aunty’s funding.

The word is that when Scott started making his own inquiries about the Radio National brouhaha, he was told by head of Radio Sue Howard that she knew nothing about plans to axe the Religion Report. If she did indeed say that, it would have surprised a lot of people as it would have been highly unusual for her not to have been consulted about such a significant programming decision.

After speaking to Howard, Scott is said to have made further inquiries down the line, and this is where the story gets interesting. We’re told that an executive in Radio National showed Scott documentary evidence of exactly who knew what and when. We don’t know if Scott has since discussed that evidence with Sue Howard but if he has it would have been a gripping experience to be a fly on the wall.

Well that’s the rumour. the truth is probably a little less dramatic.

First it’s interesting to note that Sue Howard has never denied that she knew about the planned cuts and that would make sense because we’re clear that she had long meetings with the Radio National management team back in August to discuss the schedule for 2009 when the cuts were talked about at length. It appears for some inexplicable reason that Howard failed to mention the full extent of the cuts when she had a separate meeting with Scott some time later so that when Crittenden went live to air with the news, Scott had not been informed.

To say that he was p-ssed off would be an understatement. But to suggest that Howard has told a fib to Scott, either before or after the news became public, is wrong.

Are you an ABC Insider? Crikey is keen to hear any mumbles from within the corporation.

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Peter Fray

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