The ABC has formally bid farewell to veteran ABC broadcaster John Cleary, who since 2001 has anchored the Sunday Nights program on ABC Local. Cleary was the ABC’s staff-elected board director from 1988-1992, and will see out the rest of the year on the show. In its announcement, ABC Radio declared Cleary one of “Australia’s most credible and knowledgable specialist communicators on religion and ethics”.

Filling the gap in religious coverage will be God Forbid, a new Sunday program to air first at 6am, hosted by James Carlton and a rotating panel of religious experts.

Clearly joins a handful of other staffers potentially leaving the network. The ABC has flagged seven positions “potentially impacted” at Radio National and another role to be transferred to Double J. It says four new roles will be created, some as part of the newly created Indigenous Unit, which will be headed by Stan Grant. One of those joining the network is Chris Bath, formerly of Channel Seven, who be hosting the Evenings show in Sydney.

From next year Radio National will not air any CD-based or live music shows, leaving it to focus on spoken content. RN music programs including Inside Sleeve, The Live Set, Daily Planet and The Rhythm Divine are being decommissioned.

The announcement today flagged “a new era” for ABC Classic FM, with Margaret Throsby — currently the host of Midday — moving to a weekend show.

One surprise appointment in 2017 is former News Corp and Foxtel chief Kim Williams, who will present a seasonal weekly interview show on what keeps Australians up at night. Williams is a composer and skilled clarinetist — it seems something of a waste not to put him on ABC Classic, though maybe that’s to come.

Williams is the second centre-right figure to be given a new ABC show this round, the first being the IPA’s Tom Switzer, as reported yesterday. Gerard Henderson is not pacified by the appointments, telling the Oz they do little to change the ABC’s percieved left-wing slant. “The ABC doesn’t have one conservative presenter, producer or reporter on any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets,” he said. “Putting Tom Switzer on Sunday Extra, in my view, doesn’t change that.”

Included in yesteday’s announcement was an apology from radio head Michael Mason for allowing some presenters to find out their shows had been axed from The Guardian, which revealed several doomed shows the morning before staff could be briefed. “Clearly, when change happens it’s our intention and our responsibility to inform staff ahead of the media,” Mason wrote. “I am deeply sorry that the leak meant that some staff whose positions may be affected read about the changes in the paper before we could tell them in person.” — Myriam Robin

Peter Fray

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