Jobs, programs set to go as Radio National chases $1m
Crikey media journalist
ABC Radio National staffers are bracing for job losses and program cuts as the highbrow station seeks to make $1 million in savings over the next year.
Details of the long-awaited overhaul — known as the Production Sustainability Project (PSP) — will be released tomorrow alongside a draft schedule of programs for 2013.
While the final PSP recommendations are a closely guarded secret, a senior Radio National source told Crikey this morning that voluntary redundancies are expected and around five programs are set to go. The drama unit — which produces Airplay, a weekly hour-long program of radio plays — is expected to be among the hardest hit.
The RN insider says shows to go will be those that are “most expensive to make and have the smallest audiences”.
Sinddy Ealy, public broadcasting lead organiser with the Community and Public Sector Union, said: “Staff are really worried about what’s coming down the line. People in RN are sick to their stomachs about the threat of job cuts and program cuts.”
Ealy says the union is considering taking the ABC to Fair Work Australia over claims it has not adequately consulted with staff prior to making significant changes.
“The word on the ground is that the proposal is going to be nasty and we are not likely to be happy.
“We do not want to see redundancies or job losses in the RN network. The real concern among staff is they’re positioning to make RN less content rich and more like a local radio station,” she said.
The CPSU is already at loggerheads with ABC management after discovering on Friday that five Classic FM staff are set to be made redundant. The union is convinced the belt-tightening is driven by a lack of funding for the ABC’s continuous news service, including the 24-hour news channel.
Radio National, with an annual budget of $20 million, traditionally runs just over or just under its budget.
The controversial changes to this year’s RN schedule — which included the addition of high-profile hosts such as Waleed Aly, Julian Morrow and former Sydney Morning Herald journalist Andrew West — were funded by a one-off top-up of around $1 million from the ABC Radio division.
As well as slashing staffing costs, RN management is examining how to scrimp on spending through a better pooling of resources such as handsets and laptops.
ABC RN manager Michael Mason told Crikey this morning he couldn’t comment on the final Production Sustainability Project recommendations. In an April email sent to staff e said:
“Network production styles and standards have largely developed organically over time, with programs often being built around the needs or skills of a particular individual, rather than in a planned, structured way to reflect the needs of a program. This has led to significant differences in resourcing, including staffing levels (in terms of numbers and Band levels), between similar programs be they daily, weekly or built. The PSP is reviewing staffing levels within and between program categories, with a view to setting reasonable and equitable levels across programs according to the needs of programs.”