ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie has unveiled one of the biggest shake-ups in the broadcaster’s 85-year history.
From early 2018, staff will be re-organised into teams focused on particular topics instead of working strictly for radio or television. The restructure does not include any job losses or particular programs getting the boot.
The three main teams will include news, analysis and investigations led by Gaven Morris; entertainment and specialist content – including comedy and children’s content – led by ABC television director David Anderson; and regional and local content led by radio director Michael Mason.
The changes will also see a “content ideas lab” created to nurture new programs and ways of telling stories. While addressing staff on Tuesday afternoon, Guthrie said the restructure will ensure the broadcaster reduces duplication, meets its charter requirements and reaches more ns.
“This phase is not about cost cutting, program changes or a reduction in networks,” she said. “Our content teams and managers will need to continually review programming for its effectiveness and distinctiveness. The search for efficiencies will go on, as it should for a taxpayer-funded organisation.
“But this exercise today is about making sure we work collectively in better and smarter ways to serve our audiences. There is no ‘dumbing down’. We will be boosting the capability and output of genre specialist teams. We will [also] be investing more in our people.”
Guthrie used the all-staff announcement to flag additional staff training and a review of the broadcaster’s cadet program. She also said the ABC will fast-track the recruitment of up to 40 additional regional staff under a program first flagged in March.
“We are continuing to expand our coverage and services in regional at a time when some media outlets are scaling back,” she said.
While it is not yet clear how the major shake-up will affect programming in the new year, it is understood The World Today and PM may be reduced to half-hour radio programs to make way for more regional content. There are also plans to make the ABC’s streaming service iView available internationally.
The journalists’ union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, has issued a statement cautiously welcoming Tuesday’s announcement.
“MEAA recognises today’s audiences interact differently with the ABC and the ABC must move to meet these audiences,” the statement read. “However, staff are concerned these changes may make the job of delivering content to ABC audiences more difficult given editorial staff are already overworked.”
The unveiling of the new structure comes a day after the other union responsible for ABC staff claimed employees are suffering from “dangerous” levels of workplace stress. About 70 per cent of employees are experiencing undue stress, according to the Community and Public Sector Union.
Sinddy Ealy, the CPSU’s ABC secretary, said morale was very low at the moment.
“Most organisations only go through one or two restructures in a year,” she said. “This is an organisation that has gone through 12 so far. There’s so much instability.”
There have been more than 80 redundancies at the ABC this year, with the axe also falling on evening news program Lateline.