While there are no planned job cuts, ABC Classic FM, like all parts of the public broadcaster, needs to meet a 2% savings and reinvestment target by 2020, station manager Richard Buckham said in an email to staff last week.

The email came in the wake of a meeting with the Community and Public Sector Union, which itself was held in response to an article in classical music mag Limelight that cited expectations of major job cuts at the network. While Buckham said there were no plans for job cuts (mirroring comments he gave Crikey in the wake of that article earlier this month), he said staff would be aware of the “financial pressure the ABC is operating under”:

“We’ve heard the previous Managing Director and the Director of Radio talk to us about the need to meet the ABC’s budgeting challenges. The Radio division is committed to meeting significant savings and reinvestment targets of around 2% of budget by 2020. Like all areas of Radio, ABC Classic FM has to contribute to this, and like our colleagues in TV and News, our investment in serving existing and new audiences needs to come from content budgets.

“It follows that we can’t confirm changes to Radio’s activities before commissioning for 2017 is finalised and budgets are confirmed. However, if any area is subject to significant change, the ABC would be required to make a formal proposal and consult with staff in accordance with the EA provisions.

“The challenge for all of the ABC is to go for audience growth while also freeing up funds for the corporation’s reinvestment strategy. This is a huge task, but it’s also key for our success as a modern public broadcaster.”

The tone of the comments has done little to dissuade staff that something ugly could come down the line.

That Limelight article also relayed fears that ABC Classic FM was moving to automate more of its shows — airing them without presenters. But Buckham told Crikey the station was moving in the other direction: it currently has presenter-less programs overnight but the broadcaster will reintroduce live hosts by the end of the year.

Peter Fray

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