Dateline supervising producer Allan Hogan yesterday lost his job at the multicultural broadcaster, after penning a piece for Crikey that was fiercely critical of SBS management over their pursuit of a “lighter”, cheaper Dateline and their “shabby” treatment of the program’s staff.

Hogan confirmed his sacking to Crikey yesterday afternoon, which was predicated on a breach of the confidentiality provisions contained in his contract. “I told the truth in the public interest. Apparently that’s a sackable offence at SBS,” he said.

After the story was published on Friday, SBS chief Michael Ebeid told journalists gathered at the broadcaster’s 2015 TV programming launch that Hogan was a “disgruntled ex-employee”. In fact, on Friday afternoon Hogan was still working for Dateline — producing a story for tonight’s program. He had his first inkling that his days at the broadcaster were numbered when he was locked out of his SBS email account over the weekend. He didn’t go into work on Monday and received a letter confirming his sacking yesterday the afternoon.

Ebeid also told journalists that Dateline‘s funding had not been cut. This was news to Dateline‘s staff, who, according to Hogan, had been told there would only be money to produce 10 stories in the first six months of next year — a significant funding cut for the program.

Ebeid did, however, confirm the broad thrust of Hogan’s piece, which was that Dateline would focus on “lighter” content from now on. In Mumbrella, Ebeid was quoted suggesting a major change to the program. “We are returning Dateline with a new format, a new line-up of talent and will have a completely different feel and energy in the sort of stories that it is doing,” he said.

Viewers took to social media to express their displeasure with the change …

Speaking at producer’s conference Screen Forever in Melbourne yesterday, however, Ebeid appeared to back away from this, saying the planned changes weren’t significant.

Dateline is a serious and excellent news and current affairs program. Has been for 30 years. During that 30 years, the show, like all current affairs programs, has to be refreshed, has to be renewed. We do that every year.

“One of the things we’re getting from our audience feedback is that it is a really serious news and current affairs show, and we need to lighten it a little bit. Not saying it won’t be a serious current affairs show — it will, but needs a bit of light and shade.

“[But] we’re not talking about a big change.”

Over the weekend, Dateline host Anjali Rao announced she had resigned from the program and SBS. “I’ve loved every minute working with the best in the [business],” she wrote on Twitter. “The staff at Dateline are unsurpassed in my book.”

Rao told Crikey this morning her resignation, after nearly two years with Dateline, was always planned at the end of this season and had nothing to do with the recent changes to the show.

“It’s been a fantastic two years — I’ve loved all of it. A show like Dateline — at the absolute forefront of current affairs in this country, and I’ve no doubt it’s got the best journalists in Australia working for it — it’s been a true honour and a privilege, but I needed a new challenge.” Rao’s last appearance on the show, already pre-recorded, airs tonight.

Peter Fray

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