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ABC cuts Liberals

The ABC’s major internal restructure announcement yesterday has been met with confusion by staff, who are yet to be told how it will be implemented. The restructure, which will abandon the old divisions of TV, news and radio for genre-based teams, comes at the end of a year of significant change, including a restructure in March that cut 200 jobs.

Managing director Michelle Guthrie’s address to staff yesterday was short on specifics — she said the new structure would be rolled out early next year, announced the heads of the three new divisions (or “teams”), and said the changes would help the ABC serve audiences better and where they are. But there was no plan or blueprint for what it would actually look like on the ground, and no guarantee that more jobs won’t go.

ABC staff Crikey has spoken to since the announcement are, for the most part, confused about what the changes will actually mean, and still feel bruised and vulnerable from significant job cuts over the past few years, especially to senior and experienced staff. 

The news division is likely to be the least-affected, replaced by a team called news, analysis and investigations. A mega-team for regional and local will include all local radio, capital city and regional productions, weather, live events. The “entertainment and specialisation” division will be everything else, including all the genre teams (such as arts and science), children’s content and factual.

The announcement comes at a time when morale is already low at the public broadcaster. A survey by the Community and Public Sector Union, which represents non-journalist employees at the ABC, found that workplace stress was extraordinary ahead of the announcement, and following years of cuts and changes.

CPSU ABC section secretary Sinddy Ealy said the lack of specifics added to the stress staff were feeling.

“What everyone wants to know is how is this going to happen, and there’s no detail yet. And that’s not going to alleviate the concern and stress. And people aren’t buying for a second there’s no job cuts,” she said.

The CPSU had urgent talks with the ABC earlier this week about the workplace health and safety concerns about stress levels at the broadcaster.

The journalists’ union, the MEAA, has also said it’s concerned that the changes could mean more senior, experienced staff could be made redundant, and employees would be expected to do more with less.

An ABC spokesman said the new structure would likely be rolled out in the first few months of next year:

“We will not be implementing the proposed structure until we have consulted with employees and the unions, taken on board their ideas and suggestions, and a final decision has been made. As we have quite clearly stated, there are no redundancies or job cuts as a result of this restructure,” he said.

Peter Fray

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