Following news in yesterday’s budget that the ABC would lose more than $5 million a year from its news budget, new managing director Michelle Guthrie has told staff to brace for “changes to staffing and programming”.
In the 2013-13 budget the Rudd-Gillard government committed to $20 million a year for three years for “enhanced newsgathering”. It went towards employing the ABC’s national reporting team, ABC Fact Check and more journalists for regional Australia. But the Turnbull government has cut more than $5 million a year out of that funding, promising $13.7 million this year, $13.8 million in 2017-18 and $14.1 million in 2018-19.
In an internal memo to staff, seen by Crikey, Guthrie hinted at what that blow might mean for the public broadcaster:
“I have been working closely with the Chief Operating Officer, David Pendleton and the Director of ABC News, Gaven Morris, on the budget implications. ABC News will seek to maintain as many of the Enhanced Newsgathering initiatives as possible, with storytelling from regional and outer-suburban areas a priority. >However, there will necessarily be some changes to staffing and programming in line with the reduced allocation of funds.”
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Morris also sent an email to staff, and he was more explicit that there would likely be some jobs lost as a result of the funding reduction:
“Our budget situation has now changed, and as a result we will need to find savings. Inevitably, this will impact on production and jobs. Now we know exactly what we’re dealing with, we will develop a proposal on which to consult with staff and unions as soon as possible.
We always knew the additional funding was a three-year proposition but the prospect of losing good people and quality services is still extremely difficult. We are determined to minimise the impact on our staff whilst also ensuring we are able to re-invest in our digital future and continue our commitment to regional and local newsgathering.”